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Accuracy of depth information in electronic charts

The Australian Hydrographic Office has released a guide for mariners to understand the international rating system used in Electronic Navigation Charts to assist mariners in understanding how good, or not so good, the bathymetry contained within their ENC may be in each differing area, and the associated risks involved.

This is available as a free PDF download from the AHO website as a supplement to the existing edition of the Seafarers Handbook for Australian Waters. Noting that Australian paper charts use the same rating system (but with letters instead of symbols), the information is also useful for those mariners still using paper charts.

Charts for Papua New Guinea 

The AHO has been producing nautical charts of Papua New Guinea (PNG) waters since PNG independence over 40 years ago. As part of a maturing relationship between Australia and its South Pacific neighbours, it is time to recognise the level of partnership and cooperation that exists between the AHO and the PNG National Maritime Safety Authority in support of maritime safety, by identifying their charts as ‘PNG’ charts rather than ‘Aus’ charts. This transition is now underway, and is planned for completion by mid-2020.    

To keep arrangements clear for mariners, only the national prefix will change during this transition; the individual chart number will remain constant. As part of the transition, the national prefix for Electronic Navigation Charts will similarly change, from AU to PG.

How many paper charts are enough?

The Australian Hydrographic Office is reviewing the ongoing requirement for selected paper charts in areas where there appears to be a high concentration of overlapping charts at similar scales.  

Demand for Electronic Navigation Charts (ENC) in Australian waters now exceeds demand for paper charts by around 5 to 1. As this relative demand exceeds the 25% of AHO cartographic resources dedicated to keeping existing paper charts up to date, the AHO now critically reviews the ongoing need for selected paper charts on a case by case basis prior to embarking upon major updates. The current focus of this activity is areas covered by charts at multiple scales that appear to be fulfilling the same purpose, particularly within and near ports.    

While this is only likely to result in a relatively small number of permanent withdrawals, these withdrawals will permit the AHO to focus on emerging requirements.

Electronic Chart Services

Did you know that the Australian Hydrographic Office provides a low cost Electronic Navigation Chart (ENC) service for use by vessels operating only in Australian Waters? 

The AusENC service contains the same ENC as those made available to international shipping, but at a much lower prices (about $1 each per year when purchased in a coastal pack). The service includes updates every fortnight that users download as a single file following email notification from the AHO. These can then be loaded into any of several commercial Electronic Chart System (ECS) applications running on a laptop or tablet, or a dedicated navigation workstation. For most commercial mariners, ECS performance requirements are quite simple, in turn keeping system costs significantly lower than for a vessel meeting specific SOLAS requirements.  

Use of ENC within an ECS allows mariners to see a real time position for their vessel in relation to their charted surroundings, along with larger scales and more detail than is included in paper charts.

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