This is one of several articles Andrew wrote for CHS' magazine, Contour, when covering an international conference for Canadian Hydrographic Service in Halifax in 1997.
An International Meeting of the Minds
International representation at CHC '96 far exceeded the expectations of Co-Chairs Steve Grant and Betty Rumley. A veteran of international hydrographic conferences, Rear Admiral Chris Andreason remarked that there was "better attendance from foreign countries than I've ever seen at a North American conference." The President of the Directing Committee of the International Hydrographic Bureau in Monaco added that the conference did as good a job as he's seen in bringing together members of the world's hydrographic community and vendors of specialized survey equipment and services.
Pointing out that Canada is a world leader in the field of computer cartography, he singled out Universal Systems Ltd.'s CARIS software for special mention. "They're helping a lot of countries around the world. It's not a high-end system, so a country can create a workstation and system from Canada and get going on its own, with training from Canadians at the same time."
Florian Motz is another international delegate who came to the conference primarily to learn from Canadians, who he says are world leaders in the area of electronic chart systems. A researcher in the Ergonomics Department of FGAN-FFM Research Institute for Electronics and Mathematics in Watchberg, Germany (near Bonn), Motz is studying the design of the man-machine interface with ECDIS, to include input, output, and display functions. His research, which is being conducted for the German Department of Transportation, places particular emphasis on safety and ease of use.
Motz reports that ECDIS, which has yet to be introduced in Germany, "will be used in the future" when standards and regulations permit.
"The conference was valuable because it gave me the chance to exchange information with other researchers and scientists who are working in this field," he said. Motz praised the ECDIS workshop which immediately followed the conference, adding that he would be keen to attend a similar workshop at the next conference.
He was particularly pleased to have had the opportunity to meet Lee Alexander of the US Coast Guard Research and Development Center, who is currently a Visiting Scientist at CHS's Electronic Charts Division, as well as representatives from Offshore Systems Limited of North Vancouver. After the conference, Motz accompanied Alexander on a Canada Steamship Lines ship to see how ECDIS is actually being used on the open ocean.
Canadian-born John Serink, an engineer with Trimble Navigation Singapore Ltd., came to Halifax because a paper was being presented on a DGPS universal reference station which he had installed in Hong Kong. Like Motz, he said the conference's main value was in finding out what others in his field are doing. He was primarily interested in seeing how GPS is changing the way ports manage navigational aids worldwide.
"I'm most interested in the Canadian Coast Guard," he said. "They have several beacon stations that are being installed, and some have been completed. I wanted to see how they did theirs and I was curious about their antenna installations."
Serink added that many of the hydrographic offices and port authorities in Southeast Asia keep an eye on the St. Lawrence Seaway and model themselves after the way it is managed. He explains that "two countries have to run it, it's a river, so it's shallow, high and low tide influence how high you can load the ships, and it's one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world." Serink was particularly interested in finding out how reliability is defined and implemented on the Seaway.
After the conference, he took advantage of his first trip to Nova Scotia by visiting Nautel Limited in Hacketts Cove, which he says is the largest manufacturer of non-directional beacons (NDBS) in the world. Having installed one of their NDBSs in Sarawak, Malaysia, he was delighted to have had a chance to visit their factory and meet some of the Nautel staff.
Also making the trip from exactly half-way around the world were Renato Feir, Director of the National Mapping and Resource Authority in the Philippines and his colleague Commander Domingo Galacgac. They came as a result of an invitation that Galo Carrera extended when he was in the Philippines earlier this year on business. Carrera is President of Geometrix Geodetic and Hydrographic Research Inc. of Dartmouth, and he is also Consul of Mexico in Nova Scotia.
"Their reaction to the conference was very positive," reports Carrera. "They acquired information about the status of new developments in hydrography particularly, Canadian hydrographyand they ended up sending one representative to the multibeam course that followed at the University of New Brunswick. They were very happy to have had someone there."
Similarly, Carrera invited First Admiral Mohandrasip Hassan from Malaysia to come to CHC '96 when he was in Kuala Lumpur earlier this year, and the representative from the Hydrographic Department of Malaysia attended. "He renewed contacts with CHS, educational institutions, the University of New Brunswick, and a number of companies," observes Carrera, who adds that due to cost and time factors, this may be one of the few events the Department will attend in North America this year.
Carrera stresses the importance of Philippine and Malaysian representation at CHC '96. "The countries in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations are involved in massive purchases of hydrographic equipment, so participation of someone from that region is extremely valuable, in a strategic sense. They can provide information (to others in the region) and redirect sales of products and/or services to Canada."
As in any conference, quality contacts are the ultimate measure of its long-term value. Robert Balloch, Sales and Marketing Manager for TSS (UK) Ltd. of Oxfordshire, is one of many exhibitors who are still in the process of following up on leads."The quality of people attending the show was very high," he said. "It ranged from a variety of users to the Canadian Hydrographic Service, to the Swedish and Danish hydrographers. There were people at the conference whom we didn't expect."
Consistent with the spirit of downsizing within the US federal government, the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is no longer developing in-house systems to upgrade its hydrographic capabilities. Because of this, Commander Jim Gardner of NOAA Corps in Silver Springs, Maryland was particularly interested to see a wide range of commercial multibeam products including acquisition systems, motion sensors, sound velocity systems, and positioning systems.
"I also had a chance to meet my counterparts in other agenciesCanadians in some cases, some people from the US who are doing the same thing in private companies, and others in other parts of the government whom I don't get to meet in any other kind of forum."
Gardner presented a paper on an upgrade to multibeam that had been completed on one of NOAA's survey ships. He says that talking to hydrographers from other countries provided him with a big-picture view. "Government and certain organizations get a mind set in one general direction, because they're too close to the problem to see different approaches. By talking to people from other countries, they can help you solve your problem in another way."
He found that listening to the papers broadened his perspective. "It gave me a feeling for how we're developing in relation to other countries. We're not as far behind as we thought we were. Everybody is encountering the same problems."