North-South Project Charts the Deep

Joint Irish Bathymetric Survey Project

In April 2007, the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA), UK was awarded approval to undertake the Joint Irish Bathymetric Survey Project (JIBS) under the INTERREG IIIA Programme of work, with a grant aid of up to €2,133,508 under Priority 2 Measure 2. 

The MCA is lead partner for the project and is collaborating with the Marine Institute as project partner.  The objective of the JIBS Project is to promote joint action to survey the seabed in such a way as to satisfy the needs of many organisations.  Rob Spillard, Hydrography Manager at the MCA said “This project has a strong cross-border co-operation element to it and we are delighted to be working in partnership with the Marine Institute of Ireland.”

The JIBS project commenced on 10 April 2007 and will be completed by 30 June 2008.  In consultation with stakeholders and the steering group set up to oversee the work, the objectives of the project have been defined and will: 

Provide, for the first time, comprehensive and seamless multibeam bathymetry data within the 3nm coastal strip westward from Fair Head, around Rathlin Island and extending to Inishtrahull Island off Donegal, excluding the harbour sections of Lough Foyle.  
The survey will be conducted to IHO “Order 1” standard and a total of 140 vessel days are expected.  Survey work will be carried out by MCA-appointed, OSAE contractors and the Marine Institute R.V. Celtic Voyager will carry out the hydrographic survey. 
The existing charts of most of the coastline of Northern Ireland are Victorian in vintage and compiled from leadline soundings with sextant positioning, and are now severely outdated and are unsuitable for efficient marine stewardship.  A comprehensive multibeam survey will provide an extremely detailed foundation map that, in addition to fulfilling the National SOLAS requirements, will underpin all forms of marine data, including habitat and environmental data; permitting oceanographic modelling and marine spatial planning.  The key products arising from this programme will include digital data and maps illustrating:

  • 100% coverage of seabed bathymetry as an aid to navigation;
  • 100% coverage of acoustic backscatter identifying seabed bottom type;
  • Currents, tides, temperature and salinity measurements in the water.

The data will be provided to the United Kingdom Hydrographic Office for the updating of nautical charts and publications in Northern Irish and Irish waters, improving safety for mariners.  The multibeam bathymetry and backscatter data will also be served on the web as “Generic Sensor Format” and xyz files.

The Marine Institute’s R.V. Celtic Voyager will mobilise in Galway on the 1st November and depart on the night tide (c. 20h00) for the first 30 days of the JIBS project.  She will initially work in the area eastward of Malin Head, weather permitting.

The Maritime and Coastguard Agency’s contract vessel, the M.V. Jetstream will also mobilise later the same month and will conduct surveys extending between Lough Foyle and Rathlin Island.