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John Dillon-Leetch receives the 2024 Alexander Dalrymple Award

Yesterday, the UK Hydrographic Office (UKHO) awarded John Dillon-Leetch, Port Hydrographer at the Port of London Authority (PLA), with the prestigious Alexander Dalrymple Award for 2024. The accolade recognises his significant contributions to hydrography.

Mr. Dillon-Leetch was presented the award on World Hydrography Day during a ceremony organised by UKHO at the International Maritime Organization’s headquarters in London. The event was hosted by the UK’s National Hydrographer, Rear Admiral Angus Essenhigh OBE, and was attended by representatives from the maritime sector.

The Alexander Dalrymple Award committee recognised Mr. Dillon-Leetch for his crucial role in advancing the PLA’s commitment to navigational safety, conservation, and sustainability. During his time as Port Hydrographer, Mr. Dillon-Leetch has enabled the PLA to develop one of the most proficient hydrographic departments in the UK.

Mr. Dillon-Leetch has also significantly contributed to the UK’s wider hydrographic community, playing a key role in the relaunch of University College London’s Master’s Programme in Hydrographic Surveying, which is supported by the PLA. This program, accredited by FIG/IHO/ICA as a Category A course, is pivotal in increasing the number of trained surveyors dedicated to the essential task of seabed mapping.

Commenting on the award, Rear Admiral Angus Essenhigh, UK National Hydrographer, UKHO, said:

We take great pride in presenting this award to John for his significant and lasting contributions to hydrography. We recognise his outstanding impact on the Port of London Authority through his leadership as Port Hydrographer and his pivotal role in advancing hydrographic education. He joins a distinguished lineage of the world’s most influential hydrographers, and it is an honour to acknowledge his remarkable achievements.

 John Dillon-Leetch, Port Hydrographer at the PLA, added: 

I am delighted and honoured to be the recipient of this prestigious award. Steve Richie, who was the first recipient of the Alexander Dalrymple Award, wrote a book entitled ‘No Day Too Long – An Hydrographer’s Tale’ which first drew me to the profession. Thirty years later, to be counted amongst its alumni is the highlight of my career. 

I see the award as recognition of the Port of London Authority’s consistent support and the value it places in the positive impact that hydrography brings to improving safety, efficiency and sustainability on the Thames, as well as the wider ports and shipping industry.

Under Mr. Dillon-Leetch’s guidance, the PLA has become one of the first ports to sign a Strategic MoU with the UKHO. This partnership has unlocked significant innovations and efficiencies for both the UKHO and the PLA, marking a new era of collaboration and progress in hydrographic practices.

John Dillon-Leetch continued:

Our relationship with the UKHO has been strengthened through our strategic Memorandum of Understanding, which focuses on the collaborative development, production, and delivery of digital charting products, processes, and data services. This will enable significant improvement in safety of navigation in our waters for all mariners. 

The UKHO has annually presented the Alexander Dalrymple Award since 2006. The accolade is named in honour of the first Hydrographer of the British Admiralty and recognises outstanding contributions to the field of hydrography. The UKHO’s Executive Committee selects recipients based on their commitment to advancing hydrography, cartography, and navigation standards globally.

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