Free Our Data: the blog

A Guardian Technology campaign for free public access to data about the UK and its citizens


UKHo selling off its SeaZone subsidiary: but why?

The UK Hydrographic Office is selling off SeaZone Solutions – but hurry, hurry, the bids must be in by midday Friday.

What’s SeaZone?

SeaZone Solutions Limited (“SeaZone”) specialises in the market for Marine GIS data, software and services, and is the world leader in the provision of Marine datasets. The business supports numerous public and private sector organisations across a range of planning, regulatory, engineering and asset management activities. The business is primarily focused on the UK Marine GIS market, has turnover of c.£1.0m and employs approximately 20 people.

And why the sale?

Acting for the Secretary of State in his capacity as sole shareholder in Admiralty Holdings Limited (“AHL”), SeaZone’s parent, the UKHO invites applications from innovative organisations to develop opportunities in the Marine GIS market through the SeaZone business and brand. The UKHO is seeking a strategic partner which can provide commercial expertise, product development, market & sales channel capabilities and investment to capitalise on the market opportunities in the Marine GIS sector.

This will move through to a shortlist of proposals by September 21, with a plan to complete the transaction by October 2009.

You can also get the SeaZone financial statements for 2007 and 2008 (PDF).

Amidst all the talk of UKHO privatisation, it’s intriguing to see this happening. Why sell SeaZone? What can’t UKHO do with it?

It is expected that increased development activity in the energy sector and marine legislation will continue to drive the market for Marine GIS and provide the business with significant future opportunities in the UK and overseas.

Possibly it’s that “overseas” angle that UKHO doesn’t quite want to grapple with. Is this a sign of UKHO focussing more tightly on things, or is it just piecemeal privatisation? Your comments and guidance on how this fits into the wider matrix of things – and especially into the free data debate – are really welcome here.

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