Helping the UK government to support safe, secure and thriving oceans
As our dependency on the world’s oceans increases, the UK has set ambitious plans to improve the way we utilise and protect our marine environment. Whether reducing our carbon emissions to net zero or enhancing seaborne trade as part of Maritime 2050, a better understanding of our marine environment is key to achieving these ambitions. To help shape this understanding, we work with partners across government to collect, analyse and share data that can support safe, secure and thriving oceans.
As an executive agency of the Ministry of Defence, this starts with providing products and services that enable safe maritime navigation in UK waters, as well as data and expertise that supports the UK's National Security Strategy.
Our experts also work with Overseas Territories and Commonwealth states to help them gather information that supports the development of sustainable marine economies. And here in the UK, we’re supporting innovation that’s helping to improve livelihoods and provide jobs in new and existing sectors – from renewable energy to international aid.
Find out more about this work below, as well as other initiatives we carry out alongside our partners across government.
International aid and development
For many developing coastal nations, the collection of marine geospatial data is vital to supporting sustainable economic growth and protecting communities from the effects of climate change. And as we enter the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development, bringing together this data and building new partnerships to make the most of it has never been more important.
To support these efforts, our teams work with communities around the world to not only improve marine data collection but also build their understanding of the marine environment. This enables authorities to build their marine economies, protect vital ecosystems, and combat the threat of coastal inundation.
Defence and maritime security
Central to our public task is supporting the UK’s national security – whether under, on or above sea. To do so, we provide navigational information to ships and submarines, as well as sharing specialist expertise to inform military operations and humanitarian work.
Working with partners around the world, we also help the maritime industry to anticipate and respond to evolving security threats, support the resilience of our critical national infrastructure, and ensure freedom of navigation for global shipping routes. This work involves providing safety-critical information to help navigators plan safe passages through areas of high risk (in collaboration with NATO), as well as bespoke training to help combat the threat of piracy in busy shipping lanes.
The blue economy is a vast and almost completely untapped well of economic and social potential, estimated to grow to a value of £3.2 trillion by 2030. Working with government and commercial organisations, we’re helping to support this growth by unlocking access to marine geospatial data. This work includes initiatives such as our ADMIRALTY Marine Innovation Programme which is helping companies develop new solutions for the maritime community across areas including offshore renewable energy, marine insurance, ecosystem services and more.
Our world-class Data Science team are also using innovative technologies to transform the way we handle, process and assimilate data so we can find new ways to support better use of the marine environment.
Maritime transport plays a critical role within the UK economy by supporting the import and export of goods, energy, and food supplies. In fact, maritime trade accounts for 95% of physical goods that reach our shores.
The UKHO carries out vital work with partners across government to ensure the UK remains a leading figure in this industry and we are continuing to support the evolving needs of mariners. This includes collaboration with international partners on the creation of data standards that will enhance navigational products; the development of bespoke data sets that will enable the navigation of autonomous vessels; and the provision of products that support the safe navigation of over 90% of ships trading around the world.
Policy and strategy
Never before has the protection and use of our world’s oceans featured so strongly in our national priorities. As the government’s lead marine geospatial agency, the UKHO plays a key role in the development of maritime evidence papers, strategy, and policy documents that will shape the UK’s relationship with the oceans for years to come.
This includes contributing to the development of Foresight Future of the Sea; working with the Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office to develop G7 commitments that support a more sustainable future for our oceans; and partnering with the Geospatial Commission to help unlock the significant economic, social and environmental opportunities offered by location data.
With expertise across oceanography, hydrography and data, our teams support government across a range of additional areas including:
- Astronomical and celestial navigation data provided by HM Nautical Almanac Office
- Advice and guidance relating to Law of the Sea, including technical aspects of maritime baselines, limits, zones and boundaries
- Information from the UKHO Archive, which maintains one of the most complete maritime collections in the world
If you would like to find out more about any of our products and services provided to government, please contact our team using the links below.
Meet our Government Relations team
Our Government Relations team are responsible for managing our relationships with partners across central government departments. Read more about key contacts below.
As Interim Head of Secretariat and Government Relations, Elinor leads the UKHO’s engagement with the UK’s central government departments and arms-length bodies. This includes supporting the creation and delivery of government policy and initiatives that develop the UK’s maritime economy, drive commercial innovation, and support emergency response efforts.