Survey vessel

A survey vessel is any type of ship or boat that is used for mapping. It is a type of research vessel.

Echo Sounding USN
An illustration depicting underwater mapping capability of USNU Bowditch (T-AGS 62)


The task of survey vessels is to map the bottom, benthic zone, full water column, and surface for the purpose of:

Survey equipment

Typically, modern survey vessels are equipped with one or more of the following equipment:

Bay-class frigate

The Bay class was a class of 26 anti-aircraft (A/A) frigates built for the Royal Navy under the 1943 War Emergency Programme during World War II (one of which was cancelled and six completed as despatch vessels or survey ships). They were based on the hulls of incomplete Loch class anti-submarine (A/S) frigates.

In 1959 and 1961, four frigates of the class (Bigbury Bay, Burghead Bay, Morecambe Bay and Mounts Bay) were transferred to the Portuguese Navy. Between 1966 and 1968, based in Mozambique, these ships were part of the Portuguese naval deterrent force against the Royal Navy Beira Patrol. In 1966 the Portuguese Navy also bought the survey vessel Dalrymple which served until 1983.

Bulldog-class survey vessel

The Bulldog class was a four ship class of survey vessels in service with the Royal Navy from the late 1960s until the start of the 21st century. Initially designed with service overseas in mind, they spent most of their careers off the British coast. A fifth ship was subsequently built to a modified design to support them in their activities. Decommissioned and sold off at the end of the 20th and start of the 21st centuries, they have continued in service as civilian vessels, with some being converted to private yachts and others entering other commercial sectors.

CCGS Hudson

CCGS Hudson is an offshore oceanographic and hydrographic survey vessel operated by the Canadian Coast Guard. The ship entered service in 1963 with the Canadian Oceanographic Service, stationed at the Bedford Institute of Oceanography, called CSS Hudson. The ship made several significant scientific voyages, among them the first circumnavigation of the Americas in 1970. The ship was transferred to the Canadian Coast Guard in 1996 and remains in service.

CCGS Vector

CCGS Vector is a hydrographic survey vessel in the Canadian Coast Guard. The ship was constructed in Canada and entered service in 1967 as a coastal research vessel on the West Coast. The ship is currently in service, based at Canadian Coast Guard Base Patricia Bay in Sidney, British Columbia.

GRSE-class survey vessel

The GRSE-class survey vessels are a series of four survey vessels planned to be built by Garden Reach Shipbuilders and Engineers (GRSE), Kolkata for the Indian Navy. The first vessel is expected to be commissioned by 2021. The primary role of the vessels would be to conduct coastal and deep-water hydro-graphic survey of ports, navigational channels, Economic Exclusive Zones and collection of oceanographic data for defence. Their secondary role would be to perform search & rescue, ocean research and function as hospital ships for casualties.

HMS Actaeon (1831)

HMS Actaeon was a 26-gun sixth-rate frigate of the Royal Navy.

HMS Investigator

Nine ships of the Royal Navy have borne the name HMS Investigator. Another was planned, but renamed before being launched. The name Investigator passed on to the Royal Indian Navy and after India's Independence, to its successor the Indian Navy where the lineage of naming survey ships Investigator continues unbroken.

HMS Investigator (1801) was the mercantile Fram, launched in 1795, that the Royal Navy purchased in 1798 and renamed HMS Xenophon, and then in 1801 converted to a survey ship under the name HMS Investigator. In 1802, under the command of Matthew Flinders, she was the first ship to circumnavigate Australia. The Navy sold her in 1810 and she returned to mercantile service under the name Xenophon. She was probably broken up c.1872.

HMS Investigator (1811) was a 16-gun survey brig launched in 1811. She was used as a police ship from 1837 and was broken up in 1857.

HMS Investigator (1823) was a survey sloop purchased in 1823. Her fate is unknown.

HMS Investigator (1848) was a discovery vessel purchased in 1848 to search for Sir John Franklin's lost expedition, and abandoned in the Arctic in 1853.

HMS Investigator (1861) was a wooden paddle survey vessel launched in 1861 and sold in 1869.

HMS Investigator (1881) was a wooden paddle survey vessel launched in 1881 and sold in 1906.

HMS Investigator was to have been a paddle survey vessel. She was renamed HMS Research in 1887, before being launched in 1888.

HMS Investigator (1903) was a survey vessel purchased in 1903. She was renamed HMS Sealark in 1904 and was sold in mercantile service in 1919.

HMS Investigator (1907) was a survey vessel launched in 1907 and sold in 1934.

HMIS Investigator (1932) was a survey vessel of the Royal Indian Navy and later the Indian Navy purchased in 1932 and sold in 1951.

HMS Powderham (M2720)

HMS Powderham was one of 93 ships of the Ham class of inshore minesweepers.

Their names were all chosen from villages ending in -ham. The minesweeper was named after Powderham in Devon.

In 1960 she was selected to be converted to an inshore survey vessel and was renamed HMS Waterwitch. For a while she was manned by civilian Port Auxiliary Service personnel and was named PAS Waterwitch.

In December 1998 she was operated by a voluntary, non profit making group of ex Royal Navy and Merchant Navy personnel, who with the co-operation of participating local authorities and other interested organisations offered a shipboard training facility for disadvantaged young people.

HMS Scott (H131)

HMS Scott is an ocean survey vessel of the Royal Navy, and the only vessel of her class. She is the third Royal Navy ship to carry the name, and the second to be named after the Antarctic explorer, Robert Falcon Scott. She was ordered to replace the survey ship HMS Hecla.

HMS Waterwitch (1892)

HMS Waterwitch was a British hydrographic survey vessel active in eastern Asian waters from 1894 to 1912. She was a wooden vessel, purchased from a private owner specifically for survey work. She was lost in a collision in Singapore harbour in 1912.

HMS Yaxham (M2780)

HMS Yaxham was one of 93 ships of the Ham-class of inshore minesweepers.

Their names were all chosen from villages ending in -ham. The minesweeper was named after Yaxham in Norfolk.

Became survey vessel HMS Woodlark, 1964. Her final years were as the Southampton University Royal Naval Unit's training vessel. This unit now has HMS Blazer (P279), a P2000 Archer class patrol vessel.

Hecla-class survey vessel

The Hecla class formed the backbone of the Royal Navy's ocean survey fleet from the mid-1960s.

Italian ship Ammiraglio Magnaghi (A 5303)

Ammiraglio Magnaghi (A 5303) is a hydrographic survey vessel in service with Italian Navy.

It's the first survey vessel ever to be designed and built completely in Italy for the Marina Militare.

It has been regularly modernized and constantly upgraded (with MLU works, in 1990 and 2014/2016 years).

Italian ship UIOM

UIOM is a planned ocean-going Hydrographic survey vessel of the Marina Militare to be replace Italian ship Ammiraglio Magnaghi (A5303) from 2020

Leeuwin-class survey vessel

The Leeuwin class is a two-ship class of hydrographic survey vessels operated by the Royal Australian Navy (RAN). Leeuwin and Melville were ordered from NQEA Australia in 1996, and were commissioned in 2000. The ships are capable of charting waters up to 6,000 metres (20,000 ft) deep, carry three Fantome class survey boats, and can operate an AS 350B Squirrel helicopter. In addition to surveying duties, since 2001 both vessels have been used to supplement the RAN patrol force. Leeuwin and Melville are based at HMAS Cairns, and are active as of 2019.

List of active Royal Navy ships

The Royal Navy is the principal naval warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces. As of November 2018, there are 74 commissioned ships in the Royal Navy. Of the commissioned vessels, twenty two are major surface combatants (six guided missile destroyers, thirteen frigates, two Landing Platform Docks and one aircraft carrier), and ten are nuclear-powered submarines (four ballistic missile submarines and six fleet submarines). In addition the Navy possesses two amphibious transport docks, thirteen mine countermeasures vessels, twenty-two patrol vessels, four survey vessels, one icebreaker and two historic warships, Victory and Bristol, although Bristol is not commissioned so is not in the ship count.

The Royal Navy operates three bases where commissioned ships are based; HMNB Portsmouth, HMNB Devonport and HMNB Clyde. In addition, a number of commissioned vessels belonging to the University Royal Naval Units (URNU) are stationed at various locations around the United Kingdom. The total displacement of the Royal Navy is approximately 407,000 tonnes (641,000 tonnes including the Royal Fleet Auxiliary and Royal Marines).

Besides the Royal Navy, the Royal Fleet Auxiliary and the Royal Marines operate their own flotillas of naval vessels which complement the assets of the Royal Navy, however they are not included in this list or the above figures. In addition, the naval training vessels Brecon and Cromer can be found based at the Royal Navy shore establishment HMS Raleigh and the Britannia Royal Naval College, respectively, along with a number of P1000's and Motor Whalers. As a supporting contingent of Her Majesty's Naval Service, the civilian Marine Services operate a large number of auxiliary ships (including coastal logistics, tugs and research vessels) in support of Royal Navy and Royal Fleet Auxiliary operations.All ships and submarines currently in commission with the Royal Navy were built in the United Kingdom, with the exceptions of icebreaker Protector which was built in Norway and survey vessel Magpie which was substantially built in Ireland. All vessels of the Royal Navy bear the ship prefix "HMS", for Her Majesty's Ship.

LÉ Ferdia (A16)

LÉ Ferdia (A16) was an auxiliary ship in the Irish Naval Service. She was named after Ferdia (Ferdiad), a mythical hero of the Ulster Cycle. She served as a patrol boat. Originally a Danish ship, the MFV Helen Basse, she was leased by the INS in 1977–78 and was later a seismic survey vessel.

Research vessel

A research vessel (RV or R/V) is a ship or boat designed, modified, or equipped to carry out research at sea. Research vessels carry out a number of roles. Some of these roles can be combined into a single vessel but others require a dedicated vessel. Due to the demanding nature of the work, research vessels are often constructed around an icebreaker hull, allowing them to operate in polar waters.

SAS Protea

SAS Protea is a survey vessel of the South African Navy, part of the Hecla-class survey vessels built for the British Royal Navy. Protea was the fifth Hecla-class vessel and was commissioned on 23 May 1972As of 2014, Protea remains in service.


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