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The Civil Hydrography Programme

Part of our contribution to Government protecting the seas around our coasts.

This systematic survey of the UK’s coastal waters is administered by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA). Under the programme, the MCA has issued a number of long-term commercial contracts to ensure accurate hydrographic information is gathered for updating the nation's nautical charts and publications.

Routine re-surveys are undertaken in areas where the seabed itself is highly mobile. We analyse these surveys to identify changes that have occurred and apply updates to charts if necessary. We also assess whether the limits and survey frequency should be revised.








How to propose a hydrographic survey

Survey areas are prioritised using a risk analysis methodology but the MCA also welcomes recommendations for areas needing assessment. Send your suggestions to: navigationsafety@mcga.gov.uk

Typical indications of an area requiring a new survey

  • Old underlying survey data (check using the source data diagram on the latest chart)
  • A change in traffic patterns (eg, increases in cruise ship visits)
  • An accident occurring due to inaccurate or incomplete survey data
  • Changes to the seabed due to sand-wave movement / channel migration

Admiralty surveys of the UK (Q6090)

The 'limited use' chart Q6090 shows the limits and standards of Admiralty surveys, including contract surveys to Admiralty specifications around the United Kingdom. Not all of these surveys are available in digital format. For more detail on the availability of surveys try our INSPIRE page.


If you are involved in producing hydrographic surveys, whatever their primary purpose, they may also be useful to our work. If possible, we would like to use them in the compilation of a new nautical chart. If so, we would really appreciate a copy of your survey to help improve the safety of mariners, but please read this first.

You don’t need to carry out your survey to full charting standards for it to be of use. Even without a full search for dangers, a modern survey can increase our knowledge of the seabed.

To help us get the best out of your survey please follow the advice below. Even if you’re unsure about these requirements, we’d still like to receive a copy of your survey. It may reveal changes that should be shown on the chart as a ‘less water reported’ legend. It may even prompt us to carry out a full survey.

Our Bathymetric Data Centre (BDC) is always happy to give help and advice on the requirements for gathering hydrographic data. Often minor changes to how your data is gathered and presented can make it much more useful for charting action.

[+] The absolute basic information that we need


  • A copy of your final survey drawing and / or final digital dataset. The digital data may be in a simple ASCII ‘xyz’ (latitude, longitude, depth OR grid E, grid N, depth) format. The drawing can be in hard copy, but we would prefer a CAD (.dwg) file if possible
  • If the data has been passed through a gridding or binning process to produce the final drawing or dataset, then a copy of the pre-gridding dataset would be beneficial. Gridding and some binning techniques may cause the shoal depths to be lost
  • A note of the horizontal datum to which the positions are referred (or the grid, if appropriate)
  • A note of the tidal datum to which the depths have been reduced
  • The soundings should preferably be reduced using observed tides (not predicted tides from tide tables)

This basic level of information will enable us to accurately position the data and adjust the depths as necessary to chart datum. We can render surveys to this standard from scientific, environmental, engineering and similar projects without adding significantly to the cost of the work.

[+] Please remove spurious data from the dataset


Noise typically generates false shoal depths. The surveyor is in the best position to determine which apparently shoal features are real and which are not. Simple surveys carried out by hydrographic survey companies using single-beam echo-sounders are normally rendered to a standard of this type. It can be misleading to pass false shoal depths through to the final chart – in order to avoid such a feature, a vessel may have to follow a course that is more dangerous than necessary. A clean dataset will remove a lot of uncertainty when it is processed, but see below for retaining soundings.

[+] What we would really like


Please try to achieve as much as possible of the following:
  • All data should be in digital form, ideally in one of these formats:
    • Caris HDCS directory (i.e. ‘HIPS’)
    • Simrad PROC directory
    • Generic Sensor Format
    • Fledermaus PFM
    • Simple ASCII ‘xyz’ is acceptable if the other formats are not available.
  • If a hard copy plot and / or .dwg drawing is available please also supply this, as it helps us to check that the digital data is complete. Drawings may also include useful non-bathymetric detail, such as coastline and details of construction projects. Please record any differences between the digital data and the drawing, especially if depths on the drawing have been edited but the edits have not been applied to the digital data.
  • Cleaned digital data should have rejected soundings included, but flagged as deleted. The method used in any data-cleaning (eg, shoal- or median-biased) should be clearly stated
  • Digital data should be full density ((ie,, prior to any gridding, binning or thinning being applied).

Ideally, the accuracy of both the depth and position of soundings should meet IHO S44 Order 1 requirements. Ideally too, the density of the data should be such that the minimum target sizes stated in IHO S44 Order 1 are always detected. A report should describe how the data was gathered and processed.

It is particularly useful if the report can include:

  • A list of the equipment and software you used, and the personnel involved
  • How you set up and used the positioning equipment
  • How you set up and levelled the echo-sounder transducer (are depths to the waterline or to the transducer?)
  • How you measured tides, levelled the tide pole or tide gauge and reduced depths to chart datum. NB: A levelling diagram is a useful method of confirming that datum adjustments have been carried out correctly.

[+] What would be ideal


  • Reports written in the Royal Navy ‘Electronic Report of Survey’ Microsoft Word template (available on request)
  • Data that fully complies with all aspects of IHO S44 Order 1.

More about supplying swathe bathymetry surveys >

Need help making your data available for charting use?
Contact the BDC at: BDCCentreofExpertise@UKHO.gov.uk


Please notify us if you discover or suspect:

  • New dangers to navigation
  • Changes in aids to navigation
  • Errors in any navigational publication.

The Mariner's Handbook (NP 100) Chapter 8 contains details of the information you’ll need to send. If practicable you should also contact the originating hydrographic office when navigating on IMO-approved non-UKHO nautical charts. Please also comply with national and international law when forwarding such reports.

If giving the information on paper please use either the version below or that included in NP100. NP100 will be updated with these later versions at the next edition.

Download forms

Choose the form and accompanying instructions from the window on the right of this page.

Supporting information

Chart images and photographs - sent either with the hard copy or as attachments to the electronic copy - will help us to clarify your report.

Any format is acceptable. Those most commonly used are Word, Excel, JPEG, TIF, and AutoCAD. File sizes of the hydrographic notes range from approximately 61Kb to 70Kb; however the size of a returned email would depend on any additional attachments that have been made.

Email your completed form to: sdr@ukho.gov.uk or fax it to: +44 (0)1823 352561. For urgent information fax to +44 (0)1823 322352 or send by email.

Once we’ve received and processed your data, we’ll acknowledge receipt of it by post or email.


Download Hydrographic Notes

Download forms

Choose the form and accompanying instructions for the type of information you want to send. Please see the 'Hydrographic Notes' tab on the left for more information.

H102 - Hydrographic Note (with instructions) for General Information

H102A - Hydrographic Note (with instructions) for Port Information

H102B - Hydrographic Note (with instructions) for GPS observations against corresponding chart positions

If a dialogue box appears, asking 'Do you want to Open or Save this file?'

Open the file if you want to enter the data on the screen and send it to us as an attachment using the e-mail link below. Remember to save the document before you send it.

Alternatively you can print it out, complete it by hand and then send it by fax or mail.

Email your completed form to: sdr@ukho.gov.uk or fax it to: +44 (0)1823 352561. For urgent information fax to +44 (0)1823 322352 or send by email.