The 2nd session of the Assembly of the International Hydrographic Organization (IHO) was held from 16 to 18 November. Under specific circumstances of the pandemic, the meeting was held through video conference. A total of 170 delegates represented 63 members out of 90 IHO full members. The Republic of Croatia, represented by Director Vinka Kolić and Assistant Director Željko Bradarić, also participated in the meeting as a full member. About twenty more representatives of other international organizations and bodies participated as observers.
The International Hydrographic Organization is an intergovernmental technical and consultative organization which contributes through its activities to coordinated action of national hydrographic offices with principal aim to ensure safe navigation of ships.
According to the Protocol of Amendments to the IHO Convention that entered into force in 2016, the IHO has undergone significant organizational changes. Instead of the IHO Conference, the supreme body is now the Assembly which consists of representatives of all member states. Instead of every five years, sessions of the Assembly are held every three years. Besides the Assembly, the Council is established as a subsidiary body, and instead of the IHO Bureau, the IHO Secretariat is introduced, headed by General Secretary, two directors, and several assistant directors, as well as other staff (currently 20 in total) with the task to manage the IHO Secretariat, implement work programmes adopted at the IHO Assembly, and carry out other administrative and technical tasks (production and distribution of IHO documents and circular letters, about a hundred per year on average).
At the 2nd session of the IHO Assembly, according to a predetermined schedule and agenda, reports on the implementation of the work programme (2017–2020), financial reports, 17 official assembly proposals were discussed, and a new three-year work programme and financial plan for the period 2021–2023 were adopted. One of the most important items on the agenda was the proposal to adopt a revised and by the IHO Council supported Strategic Plan of the IHO. Recognizing the importance of this issue for the work of the IHO, Croatia made a more specific contribution to the final proposal of amendments to the Strategic Plan by participating in the work of a special working group formed only for that purpose, as well as by submitting a broader comment at the 3rd IHO Council held in 2019. By a separate decision of the IHO Assembly, a new Strategic Plan was adopted, according to which the IHO work programmes should be harmonized in the coming period, as well as the rules of procedure of two standing committees and about twenty IHO working groups. Special attention and discussion was aroused by another strategic issue related to the implementation of the new IHO standard referred to as S-100. It is a new framework technical standard for hydrographic data, products and services under the auspices of the IHO, and under the responsibility of national hydrographic offices (NHOs) as for the production and provision of products and services. In connection with this a separate decision of the Assembly, the plan for implementation of the S-100 standard in the coming decade was approved. By the same decision, the IHO Council is in charge for the annual update of the S-100 implementation plan. It is curious that the previously planned timing already had to be revised due to a slowdown of the planned activities caused by the current pandemic. Therefore, the NHOs are expected to start distributing ENCs according to the new S-101 standard on 1 January 2025 instead of 1 January 2024.
Discussion on other agenda items ended by the conclusions and decisions. A total of 52 official assembly decisions were adopted.
After the end of the three-day meeting of the 2nd session of the IHO Assembly, the next day, according to the previous announcement, the 4th session of the IHO Council was held, which was also attended by Director Vinka Kolić and Assistant Director Željko Bradarić. According to the adopted agenda, the decisions from the 2nd session of the IHO were discussed, as well as the manner of their implementation by the Council and two standing committees of the IHO: the Inter-Regional Coordination Committee and the Hydrographic Standards and Services Committee.