The postgraduate course Hydrography B has a duration of minimum one year, depending on previous qualifications and/or work experience. This year equals a total of 60 credits. The academic year is divided into two semesters. Throughout the year students will participate in classes during four theoretical modules. These are alternated with periods of fieldwork in a hydrographic company or institute of choice, to obtain specialised skills in a real work environment. At the end of each semester there are examinations of the finished courses. In May an integrated fieldwork period allows the students to participate in workshops, seminars and company visits.
The fieldwork is evaluated by means of a Training Record Book and permanent evaluation. This facilitates monitoring the progress of the candidates and offering assistance when necessary.
After successful completion of the theoretical courses and sufficient fieldwork practice, the candidate qualifies as hydrographic surveyor – level B. The evaluation of the fieldwork takes place in September and January of each academic year. The theoretical courses are held at the Antwerp Maritime Academy and at Ghent University. The courses are based on the IHO S-5 Standards and Competences.
In the past hydrography was a purely naval concern (e.g. Admiralty Hydrographic Office UK) but since the 1950’s hydrography has been used in the offshore and dredging industry. Nowadays hydrographic knowledge is also used ashore, e.g. investigation of the underwater structure of reservoirs and dams. This specialised work is carried out by a hydrographic surveyor. He will not only be involved during preparatory activities but also during execution and follow up actions.
Currently Belgium has over 300 hydrographic surveyors.They are employed by both governmental organisations (Flemish Hydrographic Office, Economic Affairs, Flanders Hydraulic Research, the Port Authorities) and the industry (offshore, dredging, underwater project development etc.). Recent research has shown that about 35 new hydrographic surveyors are needed annually in Belgium if the industry is to keep pace with demand. On a global scale the shortage of hydrographic surveyors is even greater.
With a Cat. B certificate the hydrographer can independently execute parts of the process and specialise in a certain discipline such as multi beam echo sounder or data processing.