Inside the AHO

SHips & Units

The Australian Hydrographic Office (AHO)


Headquarters of the Australian Hydrographic Service, the Australian Hydrographic Office (AHO) is located in Wollongong, NSW, and has a staff of 120 civilian and Naval personnel. The facility was purpose-built, and opened in 1994.

Specialist staff in this office receive hydrographic data from a variety of sources from which they produce the paper and electronic navigational products for mariners.AHO

The AHS employs civilian staff in a range of disciplines including cartography, GIS, information technology, financial management, records management and librarianship, human resource management, product control and distribution, quality control, nautical data assessment and tidal analysis.


Hydrographic Survey Vessels

The Australian Hydrographic Service operates six specialist surveying vessels Havilland DASH 8and one Laser Airborne Depth Sounder (LADS II) fitted in a de Havilland DASH 8 aircraft. All units are based in Cairns, North Queensland.

The two hydrographic ships (AGS) LEEUWIN and MELVILLE entered service in the year 2000 as replacements for MORESBY and FLINDERS. These ships are fitted with the latest multi-beam and single beam echo sounders plus towed and forward-looking sonars. Satellite and terrestrial position fixing equipment has been integrated into a complex survey system suite in these ships.

The four Survey Motor Launches (AGSC) PALUMA, MERMAID, SHEPPARTON and BENALLA are small and minimally manned. Their efforts are concentrated in inshore areas. Due to their size they operate in pairs. LADS and the ships undertake surveys around the Australian coastline. The ships also undertake surveys in PNG waters, fulfilling a memorandum of understanding between Australia and PNG on the subject of charting assistance.

In addition, the Australian Hydrographic Office has a Deployable Geospatial Support Team (DGST) that conducts operations around the Australian coast. On an opportunity basis, DGST will also deploy to Antarctica during the summer season in support of the Australian Antarctic Division?s survey and science program.

Hydrographic Ships

HMA Ships LEEUWIN & MELVILLEThe Hydrographic Ships LEEUWIN and MELVILLE were commissioned in 2000 to replace the already decommissioned vessels HMA Ships MORESBY and FLINDERS. Both ships take their names from prominent points on the Australian coast. LEEUWIN is named after Cape Leeuwin, on the SW tip of Western Australia. MELVILLE is named after Melville Island, just to the north of Darwin. LEEUWIN was launched midway through 1997 and MELVILLE was launched midway through 1998. The ships were built by NQEA in Cairns, North Queensland.

LEEUWIN and MELVILLE enable the Australian Hydrographic Service to gather high quality hydrographic information at a much greater rate than the ships they replace. The ships are 71 metres in length, with a beam of 15 metres, and a draught of 4.3 metres. Each ship displaces 2,550 tonnes and is manned by a crew of 56 officers and sailors. A state of the art Hydrographic Survey System (HSS) developed by STN Atlas will integrate accurate position information with data from a multi-beam echo sounder, towed side-scan sonar, single beam echo sounder and a forward-looking sonar. The ships are capable of carrying three fully equipped 9 metre Survey Motor Boats for surveys in waters not suitable for the ships themselves. Both ships are capable of carrying a helicopter to assist in survey operations.

The ships are based at Cairns and operate under a multi-crewing concept that enables more surveying days to be spent at sea per year than hitherto. Three crews have been established that rotate through the two ships, allowing leave and training for personnel, whilst keeping the ships operational and at sea.

For further information on Survey Ships contact:

Staff Officer Hydrographic Plans (SOHP)

Survey Motor LaunchesSML


The RAN built four 36m PALUMA Class survey catamarans in 1988/1989. These vessels have proven to be solid and reliable platforms for the RAN Hydrographic Service. Due to their design they are ideally suited for coastal and shallow water survey which forms a major component of the Australian national charting requirement.

These vessels are fitted with high resolution multi-beam systems. The ships are based in Cairns and operated in pairs to maximise on specialist skills.