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U.S. Coast Guard Endorses Official Electronic Charts

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The U.S. Coast Guard issued The Navigation and Vessel Inspection Circular, NVIC 01-16, establishing a uniform guideline for boaters using electronic charts and publications.

Published this past Friday, the document illustrate that the Coast Guard views combining electronic charts distributed by U.S. Hydrographic Authorities, such as NOAA, and the Electronic Charting System (ECS) standards published this past summer by the Radio Technical Commission for Maritime Services provide mariners with all the proper information they need to navigate safely. In less words, this means the Coast Guard believes E-version of charts and publications that are held to those standards are now officially adequate replacements USCG-approve paper charts.

“After consultation with our Navigation Safety Advisory Committee, the Coast Guard will allow mariners to use official electronic charts instead of paper charts, if they choose to do so. With real-time voyage planning and monitoring information at their fingertips, mariners will no longer have the burden of maintaining a full portfolio of paper charts,” said Capt. Scott J. Smith, the chief of the U.S. Coast Guard’s Office of Navigation Systems.

According to a USCG-issued press release, the new guidance applies to vessels subject to U.S. chart, or map, and publication carriage requirements codified in Titles 33 and 46 CFR and provides a voluntary alternative means to comply with those requirements.

Smith points out that electronic charts, when combined with modern AIS systems, can provide real-time data to improve situational awareness. Something he hopes will enable captains to make the safest navigational choices possible while underway.

“Mariners have been requesting the recognition of this capability for some time,” said Smith. “When you combine the new expanded Automatic Identification System carriage requirement and the capability that an ECS provides, it should provide a platform to move American waterways into the 21st century.”