PD Ports Uses GIS in New Ways for Hydrographic Surveys

February 11, 2015  - By


PD Ports is streamlining the way it shares hydrographic data by using GIS software from British software developer Cadcorp. PD Ports is a port, shipping and logistics company headquartered in Middlesbrough, UK, where it owns and operates Teesport — a major deep-water complex and one of the largest container ports in the North of England.

Teesport is a major deep-water complex and one of the largest container ports in the North of England, handling around 40 metric tons of cargo per year, according to Captain Jerry Drewitt, Harbor Master for Teesport and Hartlepool. “Our first priority is to ensure the safe movement of the considerable amount of river traffic handling this cargo. We rely a lot on hydrographic survey charts which provide an up-to-date record of the depth of the river in berths, approaches, and channels.

“Until recently, our survey department not only carried out hydrographic surveys, but also produced the associated charts. This is changing as we have come to recognize that having surveyors spend time on creating cartography was an unnecessary step in the sharing of hydrographic data, and was actually delaying data publication.“

Drewitt continues, “Hydrographic charts don’t only depict depth data. They also show topography and contextual data about features and boundaries along the river. The position of these features and their attributes, tend to be relatively stable — certainly when compared to the constantly changing topography of the riverbed. We wanted the survey department to concentrate on recording this more dynamic hydrographic data.”

PDPorts-hydrographic-GIS-2“The less dynamic data — topography, assets, boundaries, Admiralty Charts, Ordnance Survey MasterMap, and aerial photography — can be managed as separate overlays in our GIS, Cadcorp SIS Map Modeller,” Drewitt said.

“We now create composite hydrographic charts by displaying the hydrographic data the surveyors capture, against whatever reference layers are appropriate for a task in hand,” Drewitt said. “This is done in the knowledge that all features will be represented in their true location. We now take XYZ soundings directly from the survey department; drag and drop this data into the Cadcorp GIS, and pass it through a simple filter to indicate three categories of depth zones. Red indicates where the river is too shallow, blue where it is OK, and white where it too deep. “

The outcome of these changes allows the harbor master to share information with the Vessel Traffic Service and pilots much more quickly than before. For example, whenever there is suspected slippage in the river bed, the survey department can be alerted to make a new survey of the affected area. The outcome of their echo-soundings will exported as XYZ files to Map Modeller. The GIS is used to delineate any areas which are deemed to be out of bounds. It is then a simple matter to insert a map into a Word document as a “Shoaling Notice” that can be distributed by email.

Drewitt hopes his deputy harbor masters and pilots eventually will be able to accept map data from Teesport directly in digital form and in real time. However, for the moment, GIS is playing a transitional role somewhere between a map creator and a map viewer. This can be seen in current project where Captain Drewitt is using GIS to match vessels to available berths. He uses the GIS to create and display templates of vessels originally designed as DWG files in AutoCAD. By superimposing these templates, along with tugs and towlines, over maps and charts, it becomes possible to assess the maximum size of vessels that can be accommodated in different berths.

“It is easy to generate a family of templates, and a simple matter to superimpose them against maps,” Drewitt said. “While I can’t yet share them online, I can take map representations to meetings, where the serve an important evidential role.”

“GIS applications don’t have to be complex to deliver real business benefit,” said Mike O’Neil, CEO of Cadcorp. “Teesport have shown this. Their use of GIS isn’t about intricate analysis and modelling. On the contrary, it is about the value you get by bringing together different data sets, quickly and easily. The combined value of these different data sets is often much greater than the sum of its parts.”

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About the Author: Tracy Cozzens

Senior Editor Tracy Cozzens joined GPS World magazine in 2006. She also is editor of GPS World’s newsletters and the sister website Geospatial Solutions. She has worked in government, for non-profits, and in corporate communications, editing a variety of publications for audiences ranging from federal government contractors to teachers.