No dull day for marine surveyors
The chance of receiving an occasional phone call in the early hours of the morning to attend to a marine emergency is just another part of Pang Mei-ho's responsibility as a surveyor of the seas.
"If there is a marine accident where a vessel sinks or containers are lost overboard along the marine fairway leading to the container port, I can be called out anytime," says Pang, the Civil Engineering and Development Department (CEDD) survey division's first female senior survey officer for engineering.
Pang says when containers are lost overboard, she needs to find out how many have been lost, where they are located and, with the Marine Department, determine if they pose a danger to shipping. "Even in difficult weather conditions, we need to work quickly and effectively," says Pang.
As part of her responsibilities, Pang does marine surveying inspections to support dredging and reclamation projects. For instance, she has done comprehensive underwater survey studies around the new Kai Tak Cruise Terminal. "I spend a lot of time on the water. The surveying challenges are different to working on land."
Instead of using a theodolite or laser equipment to take measurements, Pang and her colleagues use sophisticated scanning devices and high-tech hydrographic tools.
"The equipment we use literally allows us to see underwater and produce accurate maps and pictures," says Pang.
These are used to determine filling or dredging quantities, outline seabed terrain and sub-seabed profiles, locate underwater objects, and ensure under-keel clearance of fairways to make shipping routes safe for navigation. Pang also uses underwater survey tools to check the integrity and performance of coastal infrastructure such as breakwaters and seawalls.
"We used to work with divers who would operate in almost zero visibility and feel for cracks in seawall, but now, because of the availability of new technology, our work is far more accurate, although we still need to spend a lot of time on boats," says Pang, who joined the CEDD after completing Form Five, continuing her studies at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University.
"When I joined the survey division straight from school, the division provided the initial training, but these days, job candidates are expected to have completed their degree studies before applying to join," says Pang.
In common with other surveying professionals, Pang enjoys the mix of office and outdoors. She says the views of Hong Kong from a boat in different weather conditions are always inspiring. There is also the satisfaction of helping to keep Hong Kong's shipping lanes safe, and of involvement in the Kai Tak Cruise Terminal project, which adds a new chapter to the city's maritime history.