About the IHO

International Hydrographic Organization

The International Hydrographic Organization is an intergovernmental consultative and technical organization that was established in 1921 to support safety of navigation and the protection of the marine environment.

The object of the Organization is to bring about:

  • The coordination of the activities of national hydrographic offices
  • The greatest possible uniformity in nautical charts and documents
  • The adoption of reliable and efficient methods of carrying out and exploiting hydrographic surveys
  • The development of the sciences in the field of hydrography and the techniques employed in descriptive oceanography

The official representative of each Member Government within the IHO is normally the national Hydrographer, or Director of Hydrography, who, together with their technical staff, meet at 5-yearly intervals in Monaco for an International Hydrographic Conference. The Conference reviews the progress achieved by the Organization through its committees, sub committees and working groups, and adopts the programmes to be pursued during the ensuing 5-year period. A Directing Committee of three senior hydrographers is elected to administer the work of the Organization during that time.

The Directing Committee, together with a small international staff of technical experts in hydrography and nautical cartography, makes up the International Hydrographic Bureau in Monaco. The IHB is the secretariat of the IHO, coordinating and promoting the IHO's programmes and providing advice and assistance to Member States and others.

Why coastal States should be members of the IHO

A paper on why coastal States should be members of the IHO is available here in English, French and Spanish, together with a briefing paper on the benefits of being an IHO Member State.

Albert 1er


Formation of the International Hydrographic Bureau.
International cooperation in the field of hydrography began with the first International Maritime Conference held in Washington in 1889, followed by two others in Saint Petersburg, in 1908 and 1912. In 1919, twenty-four nations met in London for a Hydrographic Conference, during which it was decided that a permanent body should be created. The resulting International Hydrographic Bureau began its activity in 1921 with eighteen Member States (including the British Empire then composed of the United Kingdom and Australia). At the invitation of H.S.H. Prince Albert I of Monaco, a noted marine scientist, the Bureau was provided with headquarters in the Principality of Monaco. The Organization has remained in Monaco ever since, thanks to the continuing and very generous support of the Prince's successors.

The IHB changes its status to an international organization.
In 1970, an intergovernmental Convention entered into force which changed the Organization's name and legal status, creating the International Hydrographic Organization (IHO), with its headquarters (the IHB) permanently established in Monaco. The Organization currently has a membership of eighty-five maritime States, with several others in the process of becoming Members.



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