In demand from the commercial sector

The PLA’s hydrographic team draws on a wide range of survey technologies to deliver detailed surveys and reports for commercial clients

 Survey vessel Maplin on the Thames  in central London.
Survey vessel Maplin on the Thames in central London.

Roughly 50% of the hydrographic team’s work is focused on maritime safety. But their talents are also in demand from the commercial sector.

Over the past few years, the team has taken on a whole range of projects for terminal and jetty operators and many others, covering geophysical, geotechnical, asset management and high-resolution multibeam echo sounder (MBES) surveying. The work has ranged from an intake study for a nuclear power station to a bathymetric survey for a cargo jetty carried out by an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV/ drone).

“We use multiple new technologies to deliver first-class reports and assessments to our customers,” says John Dillon-Leetch. “We can deliver a truly bespoke service by focusing on consistent and appropriate products for what our customers need.”

The Thames still contains quite a volume of unexploded ordnance left behind from the Second World War – and it goes without saying that this could pose a danger to shipping and to development work in the river. The hydrographic team uses 3DChirp to check for unexploded ordnance, in support of planned infrastructure projects. “We have been working really hard to support these projects, on the clearance of ordnance and the designation of areas to be cleared,” says John Dillon-Leetch.

Other surveys help developers with baselining, so that comparisons can be made later on any scouring, silting or other changes; checking the integrity of underwater pipelines and structures; and inspecting bridge structures and foundations. Surveys can be delivered in a GIS environment, enabling engineers to review data at their desk.

“We have expanded our capability further to deliver really integrated solutions,” he says. “We can deliver surveys of the river bed and below the river bed, and we have also used ASVs to survey shallower, more difficult-to-access areas. Being able to deliver the whole range of products early in a customer’s development plans is crucial. Because of our position as stakeholder and statutory authority on the river, we have a really good understanding of what is required to make a project work – one of the PLA’s objectives is to support ports and their development, and hydrographic is well placed to do this.”

A survey of Shell’s S-Jetty on the Thames was carried out to show the integrity of the structure and provide a baseline from which to monitor any future changes to structure and/or the surrounding river bed. The primary data was captured using high-resolution multibeam, terrestrial and vessel-based laser scanning; the data sets were then combined to produce high-resolution visualisations.

Among other projects supported...

Navigator Terminals, Thames Oil Port, CEMEX and Tarmac, to ensure their facilities are safely and accurately surveyed.

Supporting DP World, with surveys and development plans for London Gateway.

Inter Terminals’ jetty extension and dredging project.

The CdMR berth development at Purfleet.

All of these, of course, are the ‘highlights’ – the team carries out regular survey work for customers year-round. “Every year we survey all of the riverside berths in the Port of Tilbury; we survey the dock entrances every month and we survey the whole dock area once a year,” says John Dillon-Leetch.

Being able to deliver the whole range of products early in a customer’s development plan is crucial

 Survey vessel Maplin on the Thames  in central London.
Latest addition to the fleet – survey vessel, Thame