The Royal Navy's first Hydrographic Survey Ship was HMS Merlin (1666 - 1698), the story arguably starts back in 1681, when Captain Grenville Collins was ordered to produce the first comprehensive survey of the British coast for Charles II. His command, the Royal Yacht Merlin, can, in the words of the late Lt. Cdr. Geoffery B Mason, RN (Rtd.) "be regarded as the first British warship dedicated to marine survey work as opposed to exploration" And thus began the Royal Navy's long and distinguished hydrographic history'

                        Since then many ships have been converted from other hulls, or more recently, purpose built for worldwide Surveying.




Let us not forget the Ships Taken Up From Trade (STUFT), a series of Motor Vessels and Trawlers converted for the job. The Naval Parties conducted surveys as part of the Civil Hydrographic Programme.

The surveys were conducted by the MOD (ie the RN) on behalf of the Maritime Coastguard Agency (MCA), (and it is thought in consultation with the UKHO). It was pressure from the MCA to cut costs that resulted in the naval parties being disbanded and the surveys given to civilian companies.


NP 1008 (Offshore Surveys)                                       NP 1016 (Inshore Surveys)

Trawler Sperus April 1983                                           MV Proud Seahorse Aug. 1985 - 2000

MV Bon Esprit 1983 - 1986                                         MV Confidante  2001 - end of contract.

British Enterprise IV 1990 - 1991

Marine Explorer 1993 - 1995


Thanks are due to Ian Austin &  Steve Hawes for the information regarding STUFT.


If anyone has any photographs of these ships they would be gratefully received in website HQ.



Present commisioned Survey ships of Royal Navy:

Antarctic Patrol Vessel

HMS  Protector (A173)


Ocean Survey Vessel

HMS Scott (H131)


Echo Class

HMS Echo (H87)

HMS Enterprise (H88)


Survey Motor Launch 

HMS Magpie having completed shakedown/trials and FOST training period has now joined the fleet and is carrying out her duties where so ever required.


HMSML Gleaner decommissioned at Devonport Naval Base recently after 35 years service.