Naval Oceanographic Office Fleet Survey Team Completes Mission in Colombia

Naval Oceanographic Office Fleet Survey Team Completes Mission in Colombia

The Naval Oceanographic Office (NAVOCEANO) Fleet Survey Team (FST) completed survey operations in the coastal waters of Cartagena, Colombia Feb. 23.

The FST surveys of Cartagena Bay was part of Oceanographic-Southern Partnership Station 2012 (O-SPS 12) and provided an opportunity to assist Colombia in surveying the area including the Magdalena River in Barranquilla.

“The Colombian Navy requested our assistance to map their coastal waters as their survey vessel had been undergoing extensive repairs,” said Lt. Keith Plavnick, FST officer in charge. “The hydrographers of the Colombian Navy’s Centro de Investigaciones Oceanograpficas e Hidrograficas (CIOH) were very enthusiastic and helpful in our survey operations. We had at least two Colombian Naval Hydrographers on board each day participating as equal partners during the daily subject matter expert exchanges (SMEE) by operating our systems and deploying our sensors from aboard our vessel.”

Every aspect of survey missions serve as a form of SMEE, where host nations are encouraged to participate in the mission by working alongside the FST and assisting with handling sensitive equipment and collecting data.

In Colombia’s case, the survey team provided a group of expeditionary surveyors with Expeditionary Survey Vessels (ESV) for the express purpose of a SMEE event during O-SPS 12,” said Plavnick. “At the conclusion of the FST surveys, we provide a copy of all the collected data to the host nation and we discuss not only our techniques, but theirs as well during daily operations.”

The FST utilized a 10 meter SeaArk survey boat that was transported to Colombia on a U.S. Navy C-130 cargo aircraft. The vessel is equipped with multiple types of depth sounding equipment, to include a Reson 7125 Multi-beam SONAR, ODOM CV200 Single-beam SONAR, Klein 3000 Side Scan SONAR, and an Edgetech 4125 Side Scan SONAR. Additionally, four Insitu Level Troll 700 Tide gauges were installed to measure the tides while conducting the survey operations.

“It is very important to use the correct equipment for our surveys,” said Plavnick. “We conduct two main types of surveys; a safety of navigation survey, and an expeditionary survey. The equipment we use during the navigation surveys ensures accurate data is used for updating nautical charts of the survey areas, while the expeditionary surveys are used in identifying obstructions in a channel or harbor after a natural disaster, such as an earthquake.”

Once collected, the data is processed at the Stennis Space Center, which is then sent to the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency to update the nautical charts for the areas just surveyed. The host nations receive a copy of the final dataset, which allows them to include the updated information in their charts.

The FST has a diverse workforce maintaining four boat divisions, capable in both safety of navigation and expeditionary surveying. In addition, they maintain emergency fly-away kits for Humanitarian Assistance Disaster Response (HADR) purposes both within the U.S. and internationally, when needed.

“Our safety of navigation survey team during the Colombian survey consisted of three enlisted, two officers and three civilians,” said Plavnick. “The expeditionary survey SMEE team consisted of three enlisted and one officer. Our surveys within the theaters of operations not only help the host nations and keep our skills fresh, but it also helps prepare the theaters on how to use our capabilities easily when disaster hits.”

The FST 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 military 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.

Southern Partnership Station is an annual deployment of U.S. Navy ships to the U.S. Southern Command (USSOUTHCOM) area of responsibility in the Caribbean, Central and South America. The mission’s primary goal is information sharing with partner nation service members and civilians in the region.

U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command and U.S. 4th Fleet (COMUSNAVSO/C4F) supports USSOUTHCOM 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.

Naval Today Staff , February 27, 2012; Image: navy