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Surveying the seas: thirty-plus year career acknowledged by industry

Greg Cox’s decades-long career charting seas, surveying rivers and dams, monitoring erosion and mapping underwater habitats was acknowledged by international peers at the Australasian Hydrographic Society’s HYDRO18 Conference, held last week in Sydney.

The Mount Maunganui hydrographic survey expert and director of Discovery Marine Limited received the Award of Merit for Career Achievement in Hydrography from the Australasian Hydrographic Society. The award is presented to those who have made significant contributions to the hydrographic industry and related sciences.

Cox says while it was “very humbling” to receive the award, he also sees it as a reflection of the outstanding work his team does.

“We have a great team at Discovery Marine so I really see this award as acknowledgement of the work they do and the teamwork we bring to each of our projects,” he says.

Hydrographic surveying is the science of measuring and describing marine features to provide information to an end-user – typically those involved with marine navigation, coastal engineering, construction, and monitoring. It usually involves surveying the sea bed, lakes, rivers, shorelines, tides, currents, and submerged objects.

Cox started Discovery Marine in 1998 after 13 years in the Royal New Zealand Navy where he was Assistant Hydrographer Navy and achieved the rank of Lieutenant Commander. Twenty years later, he’s built the company from a start-up of one employee to a team of 12 full-time staff and additional seasonal contractors.

Cox and his team work on a variety of hydrographic survey projects throughout Australasia and the Pacific Islands with a diverse client base that includes central government, regional councils, engineers, coastal scientists, public utilities, infrastructure and port authorities.

Discovery Marine is also one of only two panel suppliers to Land Information New Zealand, New Zealand’s nautical charting authority. Cox and his team’s work in collecting bathymetry (the measurement of water depth) and other related data is used to ensure safe ship operations in New Zealand waters as well as assisting with coastal erosion monitoring, tsunami modelling, marine construction projects and port operations.

Cox attributes the growth of the company to the skill of his team and a culture where learning and professional development is encouraged.

“The technology in this industry is always evolving, and with that we are constantly evolving and learning too,” he says. “I’ve been doing this work for more than 30 years and I can still say I don’t know everything there is to know about hydrographic surveying – this definitely isn’t a job where you stay static.”

Ongoing professional development is a priority for Cox, and he’s passionate about helping the next generation of hydrographic specialists come through the ranks.

“We work in a relatively small and niche industry so one of our goals has always been about growing the skills of our staff so they’re equipped to take on whatever the job throws at them,” he says.

While there is a big technical component to their work, Cox says soft skills are just as important.

“You’re out on the water dealing with the elements so you need a certain amount of adaptability and the ability to make decisions on your feet and that’s something we really encourage from our team.”

Some recent projects for Discovery Marine include surveying the East Cape of New Zealand, including areas around White Island, for navigational safety purposes. In the past couple of years they have collaborated with NIWA in the delivery of New Zealand’s first multidisciplinary survey of Queen Charlotte Sound, and in 2017 worked with navigation solutions provider iXBlue to survey the entire Kaikoura coast post-earthquake.

Annual surveys of the Port of Tauranga and local marinas continue to keep Cox and his team busy, and they’re also considering options for a survey project of Pelorus Sound, in the Marlborough Sounds, in 2019.

The future-proofing approach seems to have worked well for Discovery Marine, with the team recognised by their industry as a leading provider of hydrographic surveying throughout Australasia.

“We started off as a one-man band, using borrowed gear and going from job to job. Since then we’ve grown our skills and service offerings to the full scope of hydrographic surveying for a wide variety of clients,” he says.

Cox appears to have no signs of slowing down either.

“We’re in a unique position in New Zealand – there are more private companies that use our services where in some countries overseas the type of work we do is constrained to government departments.

“There’s a lot of opportunity for us and I’m looking forward to seeing what that looks like in the years to come.”

Greg Cox, Director DML

Greg Cox, Director DML