The United Kingdom Hydrographic Office (UKHO) collects and supplies hydrographic and geospatial data for the Royal Navy and merchant shipping, in order to protect lives at sea. Now supplying data to over 70 countries world-wide, the UKHO recently announced its detailed plans to upgrade and modernise its offices in Taunton.

What is the UKHO?

The UKHO works with other national hydrographic offices, and helps to set and raise global standards of hydrography, cartography and navigation.

It is a trading fund of the Ministry of Defence (MOD) and employs circa 950 people based in Taunton, Somerset. In the tax year 2015 to 2016 their paper and digital products and services generated a turnover of £139.6 million, enabling it to pay a £49 million dividend to MOD.

The UKHO grants six different licences, according to the use of the product. Whilst it generally allows use for non-navigational, non-commercial or low value purposes free of charge (over 80% of licences), where licensing is for use in a commercial product, a licence fee is charged.

Wider group includes:

HM Nautical Almanac Office (HMNAO)

International Centre for Electronic Navigational Charts (IC-ENC)

The market-leading portfolio of ADMIRALTY Maritime Products & Services is found on over 90% of the world’s ships trading internationally. The range includes charts and publications in both paper and digital format, offering the widest official coverage of the world’s busiest international shipping routes and ports.

UKHO vision is to be a world-leading marine geospatial information agency and hydrographic office.


UKHO is responsible for:

  • Operational support to the Royal Navy and other defence customers by providing hydrographic services
  • Servicing wider government by supporting the Maritime and Coastguard Agency’s (MCA) obligations to the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) Treaty by ensuring marine data of the UK coastal waters is accurate and kept up to date
  • Developing valued business streams through the supply of maritime products and services
  • Advising the government, the MCA and the public, as well as representing the government worldwide for expert advice on hydrography
  • Providing information that serves small craft and leisure mariners
  • Offering a range of specialist consultancy services

UKHO priorities

Its priorities are to:

  • Be the world’s most modern and progressive hydrographic office, maintaining our leading position
  • Support the global mission of our national security forces
  • Support and improve safety of life at sea for all mariners
  • Be recognised as a proactive leading nation in the international hydrographic community

Development Plans in Taunton

Plans have been lodged for a new Taunton UKHO headquarters as well as a residential development on the existing site. A planning application for the site has now been submitted to Taunton Deane Borough Council. If this is approved UKHO is expected to move into the new offices in 2019.

Land at the front of the current Admiralty Way site will also be sold for redevelopment and outline planning permission is also being sought for a residential scheme. The costs associated with the new office will be met by the UKHO from business receipts as a self-funding agency. The move is expected to provide financial benefits as well as an up-to-date technology infrastructure and working conditions to enable UKHO to sustain its long-term future.

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