US Navy FST Begins Survey Operations in Costa Rica

Research & Development


An eight-member U.S. Navy Fleet Survey Team (FST) began survey operations in Puerto Limon and Puerto Moin, Costa Rica Oct. 21, to collect data to update nautical charts that are more than 25 years old.

These areas were last charted in the 1980s, and there was an earthquake since that time,” said Ian Fergusson, lead hydrographer in charge of the FST survey project. “We’ll investigate how the sea floor has changed in and around these ports over the years by collecting lots of data, which will then be used to produce new nautical charts.”

For Sailors, the reliability of nautical charts is critical to driving ships into and out of port.
FST members will spend each day on a nine-meter boat equipped with the latest in hydrographic gear, to get the best data possible.

We’re using state of the art equipment, so our accuracy and coverage will be much better than it was in 1984,” said Fergusson.

In many ports, time and cost prohibits frequent hydrographic data collection to update old, and sometimes, obsolete charts. But with permission from the Costa Rican port authorities and coast guard, the FST can coordinate its surveys with hydrographers from the country’s Ministry of Public Works and Transportation, and provide copies of the completed hydrographic surveys so that they can produce their own nautical charts.

“We expect that they’ll take the chart data and translate it into Spanish to make it easier for their countrymen to use while navigating their waters,” said Fergusson.

The FST, part of the Naval Oceanographic Office (NAVOCEANO), conducts about 14 surveys a year around the world. The team uses the Chief of Naval Operations’ priority Oceanographic, Hydrographic and Bathymetric (OHB) list, and requests from component commanders like U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command (USNAVSO) to determine where and when they will conduct their surveys. The surveys aid in the safe navigation of U.S. forces and civilian vessels traversing the area.

NAVOCEANO, part of the Naval Meteorology and Oceanography Command, collects and analyzes global ocean and littoral data to provide specialized, operationally significant products and services for military and civilian, national and international customers.

U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command and U.S. 4th Fleet (COMUSNAVSO/C4F) supports U.S. Southern Command joint and combined full-spectrum military operations by providing principally sea-based, forward presence to ensure freedom of maneuver in the maritime domain, to foster and sustain cooperative relationships with international partners and to fully exploit the sea as maneuver space in order to enhance regional security and promote peace, stability, and prosperity in the Caribbean, Central and South American regions.

Source: navy, October 25, 2011;