Since the arrival of seamen in the Bight of Benin, continuous survey and sounding of the bars rivers and ports of Nigeria have been carried pt by master mariners, shipping agents, the Royal Navy, oil companies, dredging companies and the Nigerian Ports Authority. The Ports Authority is responsible for surveying the approaches and the ports proper, and also for the production of charts.
With the discovery of oil in the mid-1950s, it became necessary to establish facilities for the export of crude oil. Since the early discovery was mainly in mainly in the riverine area, the need to maintain a routine but efficient hydrographic survey department became even more significant.
Prior to the establishment of various schools, training in hydrography was either an overseas programme or an ‘on-the-job’ process for a long time, and until quite recently, the apprenticeship system was combined with formal training. The Nigerian Navy only recently came into existence, and hence formal training in hydrography could not commence until very late. Prior to the establishment of the sea school, most companies, and the Nigerian Port Authority, participated in short training courses for hydropraphic surveyors, mainly in the United Kingdom. Those who benefit from this type of training were graduates in physics, mathematics or geography who had worked in a marine environment for some time. They were mostly land surveyors who then became hydrographic surveyors.
Independence brought with it an awareness of our position and the need to catch up in every aspect of development, including maritime activities. The acquisition of more ships and the improvement and building of new ports were added incentives for the training of hydrographic surveyors. The crisis of 1966, though it affected the country's of maritime power and the necessity for channel surveillance. The advent of larger ships and supertankers has made great demands on port management since such vessels require deeper and wider channels which, in order to reduce downtime, must be accessible throughout the day and night, irrespective of tidal conditions. As a consequence, following an investigation carried out by NEDECCO in 1957, new ports were created, especially in the oil mining areas of the country, while old ports had to undertake major dredging of critical navigation areas.
Moreover, the dredging of ports and river channels increased so dramatically in the later 1960s and early 1970s that hydrographic surveying for dredging control formed a substantial part of the outlay on development both for the Nigerian Ports Authority and for the oil companies.
Hydrographic surveying assistants are trained through either the apprenticeship system on board merchant ships or through graduate courses of training in naval school.
According to the general requirements for the qualification of hydrographic surveyors (NP135), an assistant is defined as having a 3rd class Assistant Surveyor or lower qualification, while courses for technologists who may take charge terminate with the award of 1st class certificate. Full details are given in (GIHS), section 2.
Because of the vast investment involved, it became mandatory for the Ports Authority.