UK Hydrographic Office appoints new National Hydrographer and Chief Customer Officer


The UK Hydrographic Office (UKHO) has announced the appointment of Rear Admiral Angus Essenhigh OBE as the United Kingdom’s new National Hydrographer.

Rear Adm. Essenhigh (pictured, left) will be taking on the role of Director, Defence and Data Acquisition at the UKHO, leading the work that the UKHO undertakes within the international hydrographic community and supporting the organisation’s efforts to fulfil its public task and ensure Safety of Life at Sea. He replaces outgoing National Hydrographer Rear Adm. Rhett Hatcher, who is retiring after two years in post.

The UKHO has also appointed Vanessa Blake (pictured, right) as Chief Customer Officer. Vanessa is a multi-award-winning customer experience (CX) expert with 25+ years’ experience in creating and implementing successful transformation and CX strategies for customer-centric operations.

Vanessa specialises in growth strategy, change and digital transformation, including strategic thought leadership for end-to-end customer journey transformation, and applying artificial intelligence and machine learning to enhance customer environments.

After joining the Royal Navy as a university cadet in 1992, Rear Adm. Essenhigh sailed the world on minesweepers, frigates and an American Destroyer. He returned to the UK in 2002 to command two P2000 patrol boats. Since then, Rear Adm. Essenhigh has been Commanding Officer of HMS Daring, during which he received the OBE for assisting people in the Philippines affected by Typhoon Haiyan, and captained several vessels including HMS Protector and the Royal Navy’s Fleet Flagship, HMS Queen Elizabeth.

More recently, Rear Adm. Essenhigh held key roles at the Ministry of Defence, working in International Policy and Plans for the Asia Pacific region. He was also Deputy Principal Staff Officer to the Chief of the Defence Staff. His last role before joining the UKHO was as Commander in the UK Carrier Strike Group, where he operated in the North Atlantic, supporting NATO and the Joint Expeditionary Force.

Speaking about his appointment, Rear Admiral Angus Essenhigh OBE, UK National Hydrographer, UKHO, said: “I’m very much looking forward to my next venture at the UK Hydrographic Office, working with colleagues in support of defence and the furtherance of Safety of Life at Sea. With more than 30 years as a user of hydrographic products at sea, I am passionate about the exciting challenges of this new role and the opportunity to support our users in both the defence community and the commercial shipping fleet with the latest data-driven navigation solutions.”

Vanessa Blake, Chief Customer Officer, UKHO, is equally enthused about her new role. She said: “I’m incredibly excited to join an organisation with such a rich history in navigation and seafarer safety. The UKHO has a remarkable reputation for unrivalled expertise in hydrography and marine geospatial data and I am excited to work alongside their talented team to further elevate the customer experience and ensure that our solutions meet the evolving needs of our customers worldwide.”

Commenting on the appointments, Peter Sparkes, Chief Executive of the UKHO, said: “We’re delighted to welcome Rear Admiral Angus Essenhigh to the UKHO as National Hydrographer and Director, Defence and Data Acquisition, where he will work with the international hydrographic community, while ensuring that we continue to support national security and seafarer safety. Angus’ remit will be to build on the important work of his predecessor, Rhett Hatcher, who has done an exemplary job since assuming the National Hydrographer role in September 2021 – we wish him well for the future.

“Appointing Vanessa Blake as our new Chief Customer Officer is also an important step for the UKHO, as we continue to shift towards our digital future, and we’re thrilled to have her onboard. Vanessa’s strategic background in customer experience and business development will enhance our support to existing and new clients that rely on our ADMIRALTY charts and services to safely navigate the world’s oceans.”