UK Begins the Phaseout of Paper Nautical Charts

Plans to withdraw the UKHO’s portfolio of ADMIRALTY Standard Nautical Charts (SNCs) and Thematic Charts is in response to more marine, naval and leisure users primarily using digital products and services for navigation. The ADMIRALTY Maritime Data Solutions digital navigation portfolio, can be updated in near real-time, greatly enhancing safety of life at sea (SOLAS).

The phased withdrawal of paper charts from production will take place over a number of years and is anticipated to conclude in late 2026. This will be a carefully managed process, conducted in close liaison with all our customers and stakeholders, including the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) as well as other regulatory bodies, hydrographic offices, industry partners and distributors.

The rationale for withdrawing from paper chart production

Today’s world is unrecognizable to the one that existed in 1795, when our organization was founded. Back then, mariners navigated by the stars using a magnetic compass and surveying with a leaded line marked in fathoms. They could fix where they had been, but not where they were.

Every aspect of modern life is now driven by technology. Mariners use global navigation satellite services combined with electronic navigational charts (ENCs) and inertial navigation systems to determine where they are, in near real-time, to centimetric accuracy. This enables them to navigate and berth vessels of all shapes and sizes more safely and with incredible precision.

Shipping is steering rapidly towards a future underpinned by digital innovations, enhanced connectivity at sea and optimized data solutions, all of which are bringing about the next generation of navigation.

The UKHO aims to be at the forefront  of this digital transition, continuing to provide the assured and globally trusted ADMIRALTY navigation services that seafarers the world over depend on. Withdrawing from paper chart production will allow us to increase our focus on advanced digital services that meet the needs of today’s seafarers.

Importantly, the past few years have seen a decline in demand for paper charts, driven in part by the SOLAS-mandated transition to ECDIS and by the growing recognition of the benefits of digital products and services.

As we look to the future, our core purpose remains the safety of shipping operations and delivering the best possible navigation solutions to achieve that. Whether for the Royal Navy, commercial vessels or other ocean users, our focus is on developing and delivering ADMIRALTY digital services that promote and underpin safe, secure and thriving oceans.

Managing the transition from paperless to digital

Our strategy to withdraw from paper chart production is centered around reducing and eventually removing our paper chart portfolio, in line with market trends and viability, as well as the strategic priorities of our organization. This will happen in a phased and transitionary basis, in close consultation with our customers and the MCA.

As we withdraw paper charts, we will focus on providing digital alternatives to meet demand and manage the phasing-out process in a way that is sustainable to the UKHO. Meanwhile, we will give users ample time and support as they switch to those digital alternatives. The withdrawal of paper charts does not include paper publications, which we will continue to support.

We understand the significance of this announcement, given the history of the UKHO’s paper chart production and the trust that mariners have placed in ADMIRALTY charts over the generations. We will support users of SNCs during the phased withdrawal of our paper chart portfolio and work with our distributors to help users switch to digital alternatives between now and our planned transition end date of 2026.

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