Admiralty gives in

The revolution has been postponed: the United Kingdom Hydrographic Office has delayed the phasing out of its Admiralty paper charts for four years, to 2030. This follows pressure from the Royal Yachting Association and others.

The argument against losing paper charts sooner is that adequate electronic alternatives for small craft – especially small commercial ones – will not be ready in time.

I assume this means officially approved, high-quality electronic charts designed for the relatively simple equipment that small craft use. These are not currently available on the market.

The vast majority of electronic charts in use by smaller craft are not officially authorised by national hydrographic authorities – hence the prominent, but universally ignored, warnings that they must not be used for navigation.

Their quality control and some of their operational features are not good enough to satisfy official standards: one key feature missing from most is reliability information – the electronic equivalent of the diagrams on Admiralty charts showing age of seabed surveys. Leisure charts do have the advantage, of course, of being cheap compared with the officially approved versions used by ships.

The day before the RYA announced it had won a four year reprieve for paper, I filled in a survey on chart usage by SHOM, the French equivalent of the UKHO, which is also trying to establish what to do about paper charts. The survey was forwarded by the RIN to its members. SHOM does seem to be keener than the UKHO to continue with paper.

The Royal Institute of Navigation and other bodies including the RYA are trying to improve leisure chart standards to the point where they can gain some sort of official approval. But it’s a slow process.

Meanwhile, we all have to carry on using what are basically sub-standard charts. Remember that next time you read advertising guff about how wonderful the various leisure chart brands are.

This is a link to the SHOM questionnaire:

The RIN has provided an English translation: