UKHO Announces Plans to Withdraw from Paper Chart Production

UKHO Withdrawing From Paper Chart Production: What it Means for Mariners

The UK Hydrographic Office (UKHO) has announced that it intends to withdraw its portfolio of Standard Nautical Charts and Thematic Charts by 2026. A UKHO spokesperson explained that the planned withdrawal results from increasing reliance on digital navigation tools.

Although the withdrawal will occur in phases, it's important to start preparing as soon as possible. Mariners relying on the UKHO's paper navigation charts will need to start using digital navigation information systems. Read on to learn more about why the UKHO is discontinuing paper chart production and what the withdrawal means for maritime vessels.

Affected UKHO Products

UKHO plans to withdraw several products from the market, including the following items:

UKHO representatives will also assess the contents of the ECDIS Service, which gives mariners access to electronic navigational and raster charts. Any mariners relying on these products must make other arrangements to ensure they have access to the most up-to-date navigational data.

Why Is the UKHO Withdrawing Its Paper Navigational Charts?

According to a UKHO spokesperson, the UKHO is withdrawing its paper navigational charts because there's more demand for electronic charts. In a public statement, Peter Sparkes explains, "The decision to commence the process of withdrawing from paper chart production will allow us to increase our focus on advanced digital services that meet the needs of today's seafarers." Sparkes also stated that digital navigation solutions have broader benefits than paper-based solutions, making a shift to digital the best way to meet the needs of today's mariners.

Founded in 1795, UKHO has a long history of making changes designed to benefit maritime professionals and make the waterways safer for everyone. Now that digital tools are widely available, it makes sense that UKHO would shift its focus to giving mariners access to advanced digital technology. By withdrawing its paper navigational charts, UKHO can continue filling a leadership role in the maritime industry.

Making the Transition to Digital Nautical Charts

According to the news release announcing the withdrawal, UKHO personnel will focus on phasing out paper charts sustainably. The plan is to withdraw paper charts in phases and ensure maritime professionals can access digital alternatives. UKHO personnel also plan to support vessels implementing an Electronic Chart Display and Information System or ECDIS for the first time. As a result, mariners should be able to complete the transition gradually rather than scrambling to adopt an ECDIS after all paper charts have been withdrawn.

Electronic Nautical Charts and Legal Compliance

Many mariners continue to use paper nautical charts because maritime laws require each vessel to display its current route. Mariners have long relied on paper charts to determine their nautical position and make navigation decisions accordingly. Fortunately, UKHO's withdrawal of paper charts will not affect a vessel's ability to comply with relevant regulations, as using an ECDIS meets the requirements for route display and monitoring.

That said, even vessels with an ECDIS in place may use paper charts as a backup in case the ECDIS loses power or malfunctions. Now that UKHO is withdrawing its paper nautical charts, such vessels will need to implement a second ECDIS and have a backup power source available to ensure all route display and monitoring requirements continue to be met even if the primary ECDIS isn't working.

Implementing ECDIS in Place of Paper Charts

Mariners that rely solely on paper charts will need to switch to ECDIS before the UKHO's withdrawal of paper navigational charts is complete. Before selecting and implementing an ECDIS, maritime professionals must consider the following:

  • Who will be using the ECDIS? Different users have different requirements; understanding those requirements is essential to choosing an appropriate ECDIS.
  • Will the ECDIS make the vessel and its crew safer? Some ECDIS offer more features than others, some of which may enhance safety.
  • Does the vessel have the computer applications needed to operate the ECDIS? If not, mariners will need to update their vessels' computer systems before the target withdrawal completion date.
  • How much will the ECDIS cost to implement and maintain?
  • Can the ECDIS accommodate the needs of all users, regardless of their level of expertise?
  • What training will crew members need to use the ECDIS? If crew members need extensive training, it may be necessary to select and implement an ECDIS well in advance of the target withdrawal date.
  • Does the organization need to change any of its existing policies and procedures to account for the use of electronic navigational charts instead of paper ones?
  • Does the organization need additional infrastructure to support the use of an ECDIS?

Frequently Asked Questions About the UKHO Withdrawal

When Will UKHO Begin Withdrawing Its Paper Nautical Charts?

The sunsetting process is set to begin in 2022 and occur in phases. UKHO is undertaking a gradual withdrawal to ensure that mariners continue to have access to up-to-date navigational charts even as they make the switch from paper to digital.

Which Paper Charts Will Be Withdrawn First?

UKHO plans to start by withdrawing charts with low demand and significant maintenance requirements. Before any chart is withdrawn, UKHO will issue a notice in its Weekly Notice to Mariners. That way, maritime professionals will have at least one week's notice of the planned withdrawal. UKHO personnel expect to remove large-scale charts first, as they tend to have the lowest demand. Large-scale charts also require frequent updates, making them one of UKHO's most resource-intensive products.

How Will the Withdrawal Affect Maritime Vessels?

UKHO personnel believe that the gradual withdrawal will have little effect on maritime vessels, except for vessels that rely exclusively on paper charts and must select and implement an ECDIS before the process is complete. UKHO will also be providing support to vessels that may have difficulty adopting digital navigation tools due to regulatory issues or logistical barriers.

How Can Mariners Without Dual ECDIS Remain in Compliance with Maritime Regulations?

UKHO personnel will collaborate with the Maritime and Coastguard Agency to ensure that all maritime professionals have access to a digital transition path. This pathway will make it easier for vessels to adopt compliant products and continue putting safety first.

Will UKHO Discontinue Its Paper Publications?

No. Even though UKHO is withdrawing its paper navigational charts, the organization intends to keep publishing its paper guides and handbooks, giving mariners continued access to the information they need to plan their voyages.

When Will UKHO Complete Its Planned Withdrawal?

UKHO expects to complete the withdrawal by the end of 2026. Eventually, all paper charts will be withdrawn, so mariners must use digital navigation tools instead of paper charts distributed by UKHO.

With so many people relying on digital tools for every aspect of their lives, it's only natural that UKHO would withdraw its paper nautical charts and focus on delivering innovative digital navigation solutions to maritime professionals. Although some vessels will need to select and implement an ECDIS before the withdrawal process is complete, doing so will likely increase safety and ensure that mariners always have access to the most up-to-date nautical charts.