Since the Era of Sail Ships to the cutting edge high speed steel ships; man’s endeavors at sea have grown exponentially. Hydrography; branch of science dealing with study of ocean, its physical features and environment, has played a vital role in this growth. Today, development and modernization in Hydrography both in fields of equipment and techniques has transformed oceans from meager trade routes in to the life line of humanity. At the time of its inception, Pakistan had limited capability to undertake hydrographic research and surveys in Pakistani Waters. However, acquisition of Survey Vessel (SV) BEHR PAlMA from Japan in 1982 served as the benchmark for a new era in the history of Pakistan Navy Hydrographic Department (PNHD). Since then PNHD has undertaken hydrographic surveys covering entire coast of Pakistan. However, due to growing vintage of SV BEHR PAlMA and expansion of Pakistan EEZ till 350 Nautical Miles from Pakistan Coast i.e. Extended Continental Shelf; there was dire need to acquire modern state of the art survey vessel in order to extend reach of PNHD from coastal waters to extended depth of Murray Ridge in the heart of North Arabian Sea.
Notwithstanding, the dream came true on 29 May 2017 when the contract of new PN Survey Vessel PNS BEHR MASAH was signed between Director General Munitions Productions (DGMP) & Mis Jiangsu Daijin Heavy Industry Company Ltd, China. It was envisioned that the vessel being all weather would be able to afford effective Hydrographic/ Geophysical/ Oceanographic surveys with installation of modern equipment. The ship however, was launched on 10 Dec 18. After undergoing various stages of constructions followed by rigorous sea trials; ship left China on its maiden voyage to Pakistan on 8 Oct 19 paving its way through mighty Pacific Ocean to the Indian Ocean and finally reached Pakistan on 26 Oct 19 without being refueled.
PNS BEHR MASAH is capable of undertaking various types of surveys and is also equipped with 02 state of the art Survey Motor Boats. This enables it to undertake systematic and detailed mapping of shallow waters. Adept in taking multiple roles, PNS BEHR MASAH is also effectively carrying out Hydrographic surveys of Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and extended continental shelf together with mapping of ocean floor and subsurface for production of nautical products, charts and Electronic Navigation Chart (ENCs). It also helps support the Marine scientific research and geo-resource mapping surveys which included Oceanographic cruises, sea trips and deployments. The state of art vessel aids in facilitating the establishment of reliable scientific data inventory (bathymetry, oceanography, subsoil, tide, current, Met etc.) of Pakistan offshore region. Moreover the vessel will strengthen Pakistan’s marine scientific research capability while providing flexibility to carry out underwater search and localization operations.
Besides maintaining the safety of navigation at sea, PNS BEHR MASAH also augments the promotion of Resource Exploitation in Pakistan EEZ, Environmental Protection & Management through providing information about bathymetry and sea floor characteristics, Maritime Boundary Delimitation and Enhancement of Maritime Defence & Security through establishment of pattern of life at sea. It further reinforces the development of maritime infrastructure through compilation of data regarding tides and waves besides providing Tsunami Flood & Inundation Modeling. It is noteworthy to mention that the Hydrographic data is a critical asset for any activity at sea and in coastal areas, with bathymetry being perhaps the most relevant contribution by Hydrography to the marine community; hydrographic data feeds nautical charts and every single maritime project. PNS BEHR MASAH is a state of the art survey ship which will help Pakistan in promoting and supporting all these areas as Hydrography is linked with every activity in sea.
In a nutshell, despite meager resources and difficult survey environments Pakistan navy still holds a strong tradition in hydrography. Pakistan Navy’s Hydrographic Department is already contributing efficiently towards the national economy, trade, marine research, maritime security, conflict resolution with neighboring countries and awareness of policy makers and stakeholders towards the maritime issues. The newly launched vessel BAHR MASAH thenceforth with its extended endurance and advance survey equipment is expected to enhance the country’s already momentous oceanographic survey capabilities.