This document is addressed to all owners, operators, masters, nautical inspectors, and recognized organizations.
It was published on February 9th, 2023.
Some national hydrographic offices are phasing out traditional paper nautical charts while others are still determining how to transition to an all-digital future.
These decisions, which are beyond the control of the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI) Maritime Administrator, may have an impact on certain RMI-flagged vessels that are operating in the affected areas.
The purpose of this Advisory is to bring awareness to the subject.
Recent National Announcements
United States (US)
By January 2025, the US will end the production of paper nautical charts and raster navigational charts. See Federal Register (FR) Notice 84 FR 62512. More details about this nautical chart sunsetting program can be found here.
In March 2022, the United States Coast Guard (USCG) proposed a rulemaking proceeding (FR docket USCG-2021-0291) on Electronic Chart and Navigational Equipment Carriage Requirements. The proposed rule outlined a broad strategy to revise the chart and navigational equipment requirements for commercial US-flagged and foreign-flagged vessels operating in US waters. A final rule is pending.
United Kingdom (UK)
The UK originally announced that their hydrographic office (UKHO) would withdraw from producing paper nautical charts by the end of 2026.
However, in response to user feedback, UKHO revised its plans by committing to continue its paper chart service until at least 2030.
Importantly, the UKHO is the primary and major global charting agency for the UK and for 63 other coastal States and territories. Frequently asked questions can be found here.
Current Requirements and Guidance
The shift to providing primarily Electronic Nautical Charts (ENCs) by the various hydrographic offices are likely to impact many RMI-flagged vessels, albeit to varying degrees.
This is because all vessels are required to carry adequate and up-to-date charts and nautical publications necessary for the intended voyage.
See the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) Chapter V, Regulation 184.108.40.206 and RMI Maritime Regulation MI-108, §7.41.15.
To determine the availability of official navigation charts (electronic, paper, and paper backups), check the International Hydrographic Organization online catalog and their article here.
When paper nautical charts are the primary means of navigation or used as the dedicated backup to an electronic chart display and information system (ECDIS) for a vessel’s area of operation and they are no longer available through the common providers, compliance may be met by:
Obtaining alternative approved charts. This could be directly from the hydrographic office of a coastal State, a nautical chart service; or
Installing an ECDIS.
If an ECDIS is fitted, then the Master and officer in charge of a navigational watch must undergo ECDIS training per applicable SOLAS and the International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers requirements, regardless of the vessel’s size or type. See RMI Marine Notice 7-041-6.
As a cautionary note, Electronic Chart Systems (ECSs) and other devices that electronically display the vessel’s position and nautical chart data on a display the screen does not meet all the International Maritime Organization requirements for ECDIS.
They are not currently intended to satisfy SOLAS Chapter V requirements and therefore are not permitted to be used onboard RMI-flagged vessels in lieu of approved nautical charts.