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Independent marine data management and GIS specialists, OceanWise, and the United Kingdom Hydrographic Office (UKHO) hosted an Open Forum on Marine Spatial Data Infrastructure (MSDI) followed by the 6th International Hydrographic Organisation’s MSDI Working Group (IHO MSDIWG) meeting at the Holiday Inn Express Hotel, Terminal 5 near Heathrow Airport, London from 3rd-6th March. The theme of the Open Forum was “Building a Maritime Spatial Data Infrastructure – are the principles at odds with strategies for delivery?”

This annual event, held in the UK for the first time, brought together practitioners and decision makers from all over the world, including as far afield as Canada and Japan, all with a common interest in developing and delivering data management best practice across the hydrographic and oceanographic communities. Topics covered by the Open Forum and subsequent Working Group meeting included the four ‘pillars’ of SDI, namely: policy and governance; data and metadata; information systems and standards.

The Open Forum was attended by invited guests from government, commerce and the third sector. Presentations included: the requirement for MSDI as an enabler for e-navigation; ‘open data’ and the economic stimulus for making data more accessible, the benefits of ‘linked data’; the role of the EU’s INSPIRE Directive in supporting marine geospatial activities; using vertical reference frames to geodetically enable harmonised land-sea topography and the imperative to use consistent and robust standards. How ports and harbours and the UK military are benefiting from enterprise level MSDI was described and examples how the marine and maritime sectors are contributing to National SDIs in Norway, Canada and Germany were presented. All of these case studies showed the clear value and benefits to be accrued from making data more accessible through harmonisation and organisational interoperability.

Debate during the day supported the fact that the ability of many Hydrographic Offices, as data and information providers, to deliver what is increasingly being required by government driven strategies and policies, continues to be hampered by a lack of knowledge as to how they might respond. This in part is due to the organisational and governance structure in which many of them operate but also a lack of communication with other mainstream geospatial providers and stakeholders in national SDI programmes.

The Open Forum was followed by the 6th Working Group meeting. Task groups addressed specific technical and governance challenges facing the hydrographic community to enable it to better meet the growing wider use of hydrographic data. Doing so will contribute to greater socio-economic and economic benefits across the world, often referred to as the ‘Blue Economy’, and prove that ‘hydrography is not just for charting’.

About OceanWise
OceanWise Ltd is UK based company operating world-wide provides the Secretariat for the IHO MSDIWG. It specialises in all aspects of marine environmental data acquisition, data and knowledge management and GIS across the World. In addition to the Capacity Building, Training and Mentoring it provides to the IHO and its Member States, it also offers:
 Environmental Data Sharing and Publishing (Ocean Database and
 Raster Charts, Marine Themes and Marine Themes DEM Digital intelligent Marine Mapping products and services
 Enterprise GIS and Productivity Tools (Maritime Toolbar and Workflow Extensions)
 Data Policy, Strategy and Management Systems Advice

About the UKHO
The UK Hydrographic Office (UKHO) is an executive agency, sponsored by the Ministry of Defence and produces nautical publications and services for the Royal Navy and merchant shipping, to protect lives at sea. It is responsible for providing operational support to the Royal Navy and other defence customers in the provision of hydrographic services; servicing wider government by ensuring marine data of the UK coastal waters is kept up to date and thereby supporting the Maritime and Coastguard Agency’s (MCA) obligations to the Safety of Life at Sea Treaty and advising government, the MCA and the public, as well as representing the government worldwide for expert advice on hydrography
For more information about the IHO MSDI WG or OceanWise’s data management and MSDI advice and training courses, please contact Mr John Pepper, Marketing Director, at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or visit the website at

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