Postcard from Genova

I am writing this on a busy train from Genova to Milan, at the end of an interesting week in an interesting city. For those who haven’t been there, Genova (Genoa to many English speakers) has a rich maritime history and a mix of new and old, with some of the old buildings beautifully restored with elegant friezes, statues, and mosaics. It’s the home of the Istituto Idrografico della Marina (Italian hydrographic office) who were our hosts for the week.

Three of us represented ISO/TC 211: John-Morten Klingsheim and Njål Tengs-Hagir from Norway who are engaged in our JWG 11 Intelligent Transport Systems, and myself. The week has been a complex but harmonious interweaving of three meetings:

As one of the chairs put it, the UN-GGIM group proposes why something should be done; IHO defines what, and OGC works out how. Of course that’s an oversimplification, and there is a large overlap of people – hence they have established the practice of meeting together one per year. 

The UN-GGIM rapporteur, who did an excellent job keeping track of the meetings, reminded us that the UN Secretary General has said that “we must rescue the Agenda 2030” Sustainable Development Goals especially the climate ones “we must go into emergency mode against the climate crisis … we are far off-track”1, and went on to note that “the availability of high-quality data is also critical, helping decision makers to understand where investments can have the greatest impact” – and the geo community is essential to the “where”.

The UN-GGIM group was reminded that ECOSOC considers their scope to cover inland waterways and water bodies. They considered how the hydrographic office data can be better made usable to the more science-oriented communities and initiatives such as the UN DiTTO – Digital Twins of the Ocean. That community has a largely different standards base. They progressed IGIF-H, the marine flavour of the UN Integrated Geospatial Reference Framework which they intend to present to UN-GGIM for approval in August. It has already been accepted as an “action” in the IOC/UNESCO Decade of Ocean Science (IGIF-Hydro – Ocean Decade). Several countries reported how it is already proving useful in the planning and design of their data infrastructure.

The IHO group’s main business was hearing how nations are doing with their Marine SDIs, and how those relate to national SDIs, and then feeding this into an update of IHO C-17 Spatial Data Infrastructures: “The Marine Dimension” - Guidance for Hydrographic Offices. IHO has spent the past twenty years re-basing their standards for ship navigation on the ISO/TC 211-OGC baseline: things like ISO 19123/WMS, ISO 19142/WFS, ISO 19136/GML and ISO 19115 metadata. They are now better able to provide their data into geo portals and the like, easing harmonisation with land data.

The OGC group saw interesting outputs of innovation activities such as a browsable and web-friendly catalogue of navigational charts and related information implemented using OGC API Features (ISO 19168) and OGC API Records2. The OGC innovation focuses for this year, in the marine space, are on Arctic coastal inundation and Singapore. All these are part of OGC’s Federated Marine SDI project.

We presented our progress on ISO 19152 Land Administration Domain Model, especially Part 3 Marine Georegulation and our desire to work on land/sea integrated transport. ISO 19152-3 is based on IHO S-121 Maritime Limits & Boundaries and will influence revision of IHO S-122 Marine Protected Areas. The IHO specifications define what should arrive at a ship’s bridge and how the equipment there should handle it. The ISO standard will also support other uses of the same data, such as in the IHO MSDI. For Maritime ITS, Njål presented the challenge of integrating navigational data, land geography data, and the business data involved in logistics – getting a ship into harbour and loaded with goods handled seamlessly between the transport mechanisms. Jean-Martin’s presentation on Norwegian safe coastal routes highlighted the many standards bodies involved even just in navigating a ship, and asked who should standardise a route description which currently uses part of an equipment performance standard from the IEC whilst also being an IHO advisory specification.

There were many common topics of discussion: real world problems such as flooding and trade, more abstract data concerns such as the FAIR principles, authoritative and crowdsourced data, and technical questions like the transition to newer IT standards and the world of digital twins.

This has turned out to be a long “post card”. There was plenty to think about and I also enjoyed the company of a few people I remember; my introduction to international standards was in the IHO from 20 to 15 years ago. I will provide a liaison report and the presentations to both AG 2 Strategy and AG 11 support to UN.

Peter Parslow, 4th February 2023
Chair, ISO/TC 211


Published 2023-02-04

Secretary-General's remarks to the General Assembly on his Priorities for 2022 | United Nations Secretary-General

2 Try searching for “electronic chart netherlands S-57” to see how this approach works well with search engines