United Nations
Provide Fundamental Mapping of the Seas and Oceans
by International Hydrographic Organization (Intergovernmental organization)
Every human activity in, on or under the sea is influenced by the depth and shape of the seafloor.

80% of the world's sea and ocean area is unmapped, unobserved and unexplored. 50% of the worlds coastal waters are unsurveyed. We have significantly higher resolution maps of the Moon and Mars than most of the seas and oceans. An aspiration of the IHO is to locate every object on the seafloor larger than 100m by 2030.

The IHO, as indicated in its most recent Resolution on Improving the Availability of Bathymetric Data Worldwide, is pursuing several initiatives to dramatically improve mankind's currently very poor knowledge of the nature and shape of the seafloor and to continue to make the data publicly available as open-data.

The coverage of data available through the General Bathymetric Chart of the Oceans (GEBCO) dataset will be increased and improved through several initiatives, and in particular:

- improving the IHO Data Centre for Digital Bathymetry (IHO-DCDB)to enable better data searching, uploading and downloading capabilities;
- encouraging IHO Member States and the scientific and the commercial sectors engaged in maritime activities to provide access to depth data previously obtained for purposes other than the improvement of navigation charts, but as yet, not made publicly available;
- the further development and use of satellite derived bathymetry to obtain depth measurements in shallow coastal waters, particularly in those areas
where no data currently exists;
- the use of crowd-sourcing by seafarers using existing ships equipment;
- the inclusion of the measurement of depth as a normal part of MetOcean observing programmes.

This commitment will support safety of navigation, safety of life at sea, the protection of the marine environment, significant improvement in tsunami and storm surge coastal inundation modelling, coastal zone management and the better management, exploitation and governance of the seas and oceans and its resources.

This commitment will also increase the economic benefits available to Small Island Developing States and least developed countries through sustainable management of such things as fisheries, aquaculture and tourism.
Progress reports
By 2030, improve the resolution of the GEBCO depth data grid from 1km to 100m
In-kind contribution
Commercial and recreational vessel operators already keen to supporting crowd-sourcing programmes wherever national restrictions do not apply
In-kind contribution
Global scientific and commercial hydrographic community is increasingly providing open-access to data at an appropriate resolution
Staff / Technical expertise
IHO Member States, Observer Organizations and Expert Contributors providing input for the development and maintenance of supporting standards and guidelines, the maintenance of the IHO-DCDB and the promotion of access to data through spatial data infrastr
In-kind contribution
USA-NOAA host and manage the IHO Data Centre for Digital Bathymetry on behalf of the IHO
Basic information
Time-frame: ongoing - ongoing
IHO (IGO); 87 IHO Member States (Governments); IOC (IGO); USA-NOAA (Government)
Ocean Basins
  • Global
Beneficiary countries
Other beneficaries
All maritime stakeholders
Contact information
Robert Ward, Secretary-General, sg@iho.int, +377 93 10 81 01
Other SDGs
United Nations