Annex 3 - Nautical Charts and Publications

These guidance notes should be read in conjunction with Regulations 19, 21 and 27, which cover the carriage of Charts and Nautical Publications.  The Regulations revoke the Merchant Shipping (Carriage of Nautical Publications) Regulations 1998 (SI 1998 No. 2647)


1.) Regulation SOLAS V/1.4 allows Administrations to determine to what extent Regulations 15 to 28 apply to smaller vessels and fishing vessels.  In the case of Regulation the carriage requirements for charts and publications do not apply to the following:

a.) UK Ships of Class V.

b.) UK Ships which are neither passenger ships nor seagoing.

c.) New ships of class A,B,C or D

d.) Fishing vessels

e.) Pleasure vessels under 150 gt.

Small craft

2.) All small-craft users should note that Regulation 34 (Safe navigation and avoidance of dangerous situations) is not listed in Regulation 1.4 and therefore applies to ALL SHIPS ON ALL VOYAGES (Regulation 1.1).  The definition of “ship” in this respect includes all small watercraft. Operators of small craft of the categories listed above should therefore have sufficient charts and published information on board to be able to plan the intended voyage and execute it safely. When the type and structure of a small vessel means that it is impracticable to carry charts and publications, the crew should have sufficient knowledge of the area of intended operation and of all local dangers and regulations so that they can complete the intended voyage in safety.

Requirement to carry nautical publications


a.) All ships, except those listed in para. 1 above, shall carry-
i.) Charts, as defined in Regulation 2.2 or an electronic chart display and information system (ECDIS) using Electronic Navigational Charts (ENCs) or Raster Navigational Charts (RNCs) to meet the requirements of  Regulation with the necessary back-up arrangements required by Regulation The back-up arrangements may either be duplication of the ECDIS or a reduced folio of paper charts. (ANNEX 14 - Electronic charts contains MCA guidance and also includes IMO SN Circ/207 “Differences between RCDS and ECDIS”.) Advice on determining suitable backup is given in MGN 285; and

ii.) such adequate and up to date sailing directions, lists of lights, notices to mariners, tide tables and other nautical publications, as defined in Regulation 2.2 to meet the requirements of  Regulation;

Nautical publications presented in electronic format are acceptable when issued by or on the authority of an authorised Hydrographic office or other relevant Government institution.

Recommendations for system installation and use aboard ships are included at Section 6.

b.) All sea-going passenger ships, and all other ships of 300 gt or more and all other ships required by SOLAS to carry a radio installation, shall carry the International Code of Signals published by the International Maritime Organization. (See Regulation 21)

All ships to carry Volume III of the IAMSAR Manual (See Regulation 21 and the Guidance note which lists MCA exceptions to this requirement.)

Furthermore to comply with the Radio Regulations published by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), ships to which the Merchant Shipping (Radio Installation) Regulations (SI 1998/2070) apply i.e. passenger ships and other ships of 300 gt or more on international voyages, when provided with equipment for use in sea areas A2, A3 or A4 i.e. beyond VHF range of coast stations, shall also carry the following publications of the ITU:
  • List VIIA, the Alphabetical List of Call Signs and Numerical Table of Identity of Stations.

  • The Manual for Use by the Maritime Mobile and Maritime Mobile Satellite Services.


4.) The charts or ECDIS referred to in Regulation must be of such a scale and contain sufficient detail as clearly to show;

i) all navigational marks which may be used by a ship when navigating the waters which are covered by the chart;

ii) all known dangers affecting those waters; and

iii) information concerning any ships' routeing and ship reporting measures applicable to those waters.
All charts and publications must be of the latest obtainable edition and be kept up to date from the latest relevant obtainable notices to mariners and radio navigational warnings.


5.) The following publications are considered to satisfy the requirements of Regulation

  • International Code of Signals (IMO)
  • IAMSAR Manual Vol.III
  • Mariners' Handbook (UKHO)
  • Merchant Shipping Notices, Marine Guidance Notes and Marine Information Notes (MCA)
  • Notices to Mariners (UKHO)
  • Notices to Mariners – Annual Summary (UKHO)
  • Lists of Radio Signals (UKHO) 
  • Lists of Lights (UKHO)
  • Sailing Directions (UKHO)
  • Nautical Almanac
  • Navigational Tables
  • Tide Tables
  • Tidal Stream Atlases
  • Operating and Maintenance Instructions for Navigational Aids carried by the Ship


i.) In the case of publications listed above, only those parts of the publication which are relevant to a ship's voyage and operation need be carried.

Where the UK Hydrographic Office (UKHO) is listed as the publisher, any other charts or publications which meet the definition in Regulation 2 shall be acceptable.

The MCA also recommends that ships carry a copy of "Safety of Navigation, implementing SOLAS Chapter V, 2002" and, ships fitted with electronic chart and display information systems (ECDIS), carry a copy of NP 5012 "Admiralty Guide to ENC symbols used in ECDIS" and NP133C "Admiralty ENC Maintenance Record".



6.1. System Installation

6.1.1  The following recommendations arise from consideration of the use of digital Nautical Publications on a vessel in compliance with requirements laid down in SOLAS Chapter V and relevant IMO Guidelines.

In conjunction with these Recommendations the following IMO Circulars should be consulted when implementing digital nautical publications:

MSC/Circ.891 'Guidelines for the on-board use and application of computers'

MSC/Circ.982 'Guidelines on ergonomic criteria for bridge equipment and layout'

MSC/Circ.1091 'Issues to be considered when introducing new technology on board ship'.

6.1.2  As a minimum, the hardware should consist of two computer systems (referred here as primary and secondary computers) each having the functionality of a processor unit, display, keyboard, pointing device (such as a mouse) and the means to load software and data updates.

6.1.3  The processor unit of the computer should be capable of running the official digital nautical publication software products in an effective manner, giving due regard to the specific requirements of the official software products, the operating system in use and the demands of other software products loaded on the computer. Full consideration should be given to the:

  • Operating System in use (eg Windows XP) - is it supported by the digital nautical publication products that will be loaded onto the system?
  • Processor speed (eg 1GHz) - is it fast enough to support the loaded products, particularly if nautical publication software will be operating simultaneously with other products?
  • Memory: (eg 256 MB) - is it large enough to support simultaneously nautical publication products and other running software?
  • Hard disk space free: (eg 1 GB) - is there enough space to load the programme, the data and the necessary updates?
  • Essential peripherals, (eg CD ROM, floppy disk, keyboard, mouse, internet connection) - are the right peripherals available to load, use and update digital nautical publication software and data?

6.1.4  The primary computer should be installed close to where the voyage is monitored. It should be designed to meet the environmental conditions defined in IEC60945 and be powered from the main and emergency sources of power on the bridge. The effective display area should measure at least 350 millimetres across the diagonal. The display should be able to be varied in brightness and contrast to enable viewing in all ambient light conditions. The lighting over the keyboard should be adjustable to enable use in all ambient situations. Care should be taken in positioning and setting-up the display and keyboard lighting so that it does not affect the night vision of bridge watch staff.

6.1.5  If the display and controls for accessing digital nautical publications are situated close to the conning position or to a look-out position the display at night should be set to appropriate night-time colours. Great care must be taken in setting brightness adjustments to prevent the display and the keyboard lighting from affecting the night vision of bridge watch staff.

6.1.6  An ECDIS capable of accessing appropriate digital nautical publications may be used as the 'workstation' for the use of such publications. However, digital nautical publications may only be used on ECDIS if the ECDIS equipment has been approved by the flag Administration (type approved) for this purpose.

6.1.7  The primary computer (if not an ECDIS) may also be used to run other software needed for essential bridge support functions, provided these are checked for compatibility with the officially approved products loaded. Digital nautical publications should be available for instant use at any time during the voyage.

6.1.8.  On some ships, with a poor electrical supply, it may be necessary to power the primary computer system through an uninterruptible power supply (UPS). This is a self contained battery-driven power inverter that continues to supply good quality electrical power, even when there are fluctuations in the ship's main supply. A UPS can also operate the computer system for some minutes even if there is a complete power failure. It cannot normally be considered to act as the emergency source of power because of the relatively short time before its batteries are exhausted.

6.1.9  A secondary computer is required in case of failure of the primary system. It is ideally situated on the bridge when it should comply with the requirements of Paragraphs 1.2-1.5 above, except

(i) It is not necessary for it to be provided with an emergency source of power.

(ii) It need only comply with the EMC requirements of IEC60945

A network solution can inherently provide a good backup. In this instance prior consideration of the preferred secondary workstation should be made. This should be documented within the ship's bridge procedures. It should be noted that not all officially approved products currently support network operation.

6.1.10  If not mounted on the bridge (and if permitted by the flag Administration), the secondary system may be a good quality office system connected to the ship's normal power supply. It should comply with the requirements of Paragraphs 1.2 and 1.3 above and be situated in a convenient position for access by bridge personnel. It should not be in an area subject to high levels of vibration, heat or humidity, which could lead to damage of the system. The effective display area should measure at least 350 millimetres across the diagonal.

6.1.11  The secondary system may be used for other applications of a critical or non-critical nature, provided that any software loaded is approved by the master and is checked for compatibility with the officially approved products loaded. During the voyage it must be available for instant access to digital nautical publications in the event of a failure of the primary system.

6.1.12  If the secondary system is not on the bridge it is recommended that it is also connected to a colour printer to allow the printing of critical data needed for use at the chart table or elsewhere on the bridge.

6.1.13  A secondary system is not required if the equivalent paper version of the digital nautical publication is available on the bridge and is maintained up-to-date. In that case the bridge computer system need only comply with the EMC requirements of IEC 60945 and not the full environmental requirements specified for the bridge environment.

6.1.14  In placing equipment on the bridge care must be taken to comply with the requirements of SOLAS Chapter V Regulation 15 'Principles relating to bridge design, design and arrangement of navigational systems and equipment and bridge procedures'.

6.1.15  Consideration must be given to protecting the primary and secondary computers (including a network system, if used) against computer viruses. This may be by the installation and regular update of anti-virus software or by strict bridge instructions prohibiting unauthorised use, including the loading of non-approved software or data.

6.2. System Use

6.2.1  Training on the system should be provided to enable operators to use it effectively and maintain the databases to be fully up-to-date. Users new to the particular vessel should be familiarised with the equipment set-up and with the vessel's bridge procedures concerning the use of digital nautical publications, prior to using the equipment.

6.2.2  Updates available in port should be applied before passage planning commences and before leaving port. If updates are received at sea they should be applied as soon as possible. Any changes relevant to the execution of the passage plan should be noted on the passage plan

6.2.3  Updates need to be applied to both primary and secondary systems

6.2.4  Records should be kept of when updates are received and applied

6.2.5  During passage planning it should be checked that any licences concerning the use of the software and its updates will remain valid for a period in excess of the expected worst-case voyage duration. If this is not the case corrective action needs to be taken.

6.2.6  A status check of the primary and secondary systems should be made before leaving port and at least once per day in order to ascertain the availability of the systems. This information should be recorded in the ship's log.

6.2.7  In the event of a failure of the primary or secondary system it should normally be repaired at the next port of call, unless the facilities for such a repair are not available. In the latter case proper thought and action needs to be taken to minimise the effects of failure of the remaining system. That could include, for instance, making a print-out of critical data that may be needed during the voyage before the voyage commences, directly from the digital nautical publication

6.2.8  Bridge instructions should be in place to prohibit any unauthorised use of the primary and secondary systems, such as: the loading of additional software; change of software or hardware configuration; and any use by untrained staff.

Associated Documents

Annex 14 - Electronic Charts

MGN 285 – Electronic Charts – the use of risk Assessment Methodology when operating ECDIS in the Raster Chart Display System (RCDS) Mode.

MGN 319 - Acceptance of Electronic Chart Plotting Systems for Fishing Vessels under 24m and small vessels in commercial use (Code boats) up to 24m load line length


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