VII International forum
“Marine Industry of Russia”
Hotel complex
Department of affairs of the President of the Russian Federation

Moscow, 24, B.Yakimanka Str
24-25 May 2017
Forum bulletin

More on navigation charts

Navigation maritime charts ensure safe navigation. Neither ship or vessel will put to sea without a chart onboard. Currently, charts are represented as isogonal normal cylindrical Mercator projection permitting to prick out in a straight line. Such maps contain coastlines and data on coast properties, bottom configuration and soil characteristics, obstacles and other dangerous elements (rocks, shoals, sunken wrecks, reefs), artificial navigation objects (lighthouses), fairways and some other data on coastal territory.

The History of Navigation Charts

We cannot say when exactly first navigation charts emerged. We only know, that already in the V B. C. E. Polynesian tribes used plant fiber mats with depiction of islands and reefs. Of course, these maps were very imprecise and schematic.

The larger was the territory, the lesser was chart’s reliability. And such distortion is conditioned by the spherical shape of the planet. Eratosthenes (Hellenic mathematician and geographer, 276-194 B. C. E.) probably was the first to put into practice a map depiction in conformal cylindrical projection. Hipparch, another Classical Greek scientist, developed notions of “longitude” and “latitude”, while Ptolemy compiled a mapping manual based on well-known papers.

In the XIII, comprehensive coast charts appeared after the magnet compass was brought to Europe. Such charts bore the name of portulans (portolans). It is interesting that mediaeval charts had very unusual orientation (from our point of view): the north was at the foot, and the south – at the top.

With beginning of the Age of Discovery, interest towards cartography come up with a bang. Emergence of navigation devices ensured rather exact object placement whether they are islands, reefs, shoals, etc., and chart them.

The development of maritime cartography in Russia started under Peter the First. Since then, Russia has become one of the powers having the most complete collection of maritime navigation charts. The Chief Directorate for Navigation and Oceanography under the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation made a great contribution to the cause of maritime navigation cartography. Currently, GUNiO possesses large hydrographic fleet which makes it possible to search. The special GUNiO catalogue lists over six thousand charts and over nine hundred sailing directions.

Current Situation

Modern navigation charts can be:

  • General charts (1:500,000 – 1:5,000,000 and less) depicting oceans and their large parts, entire seas. Such charts are used in studying ocean or sea transition conditions in the whole, preliminary plotting and reckoning.
  • Route charts (1:100,000 – 1:500,000) used in the navigation between ports both for coastwise voyage and when the coastline is beyond the visibility range. These are most common charts.
  • Private maps (1:25,000—1:75,000) designated for ship cruising in areas with severe navigation and hydrographic conditions: in skerries, narrow waters, in close proximity of the coast, and so on.
  • Plans (1:1,000 – 1:25,000) used as guide when the vessel calls at bays, harbors, anchorage, ports and so on. As distinct from charts, plans depict divided cable and metrical scales.

Besides, there are special-purpose charts – navigation-fishery (navigation support for fishery, etc.), radio-beacon and radio-station (for distortionless defining direction-finding bearing by means of straight lines with construction of stereographic projection), radio-navigational (general maps with plotted special chart graticules used for radionavigation locating), and others.

There are three standard maritime chart formats:

  • (75х100 см) – the whole sheet;
  • (50х75 см) – half-sheet, and
  • (38х50 см) – quarto.

Besides, some charts are printed on two sheets or on one sheet and a flap. In addition to maritime charts, there are lake and river ones.

New Technologies

Emerging of high-performance computing systems led to radically new direction of navigation – electronic navigation charts which can be stored on various data carriers or transmitted via communication lines. These charts are made by digitalization of paper charts. It is reasonable that electronic cartographic data information system (ECDIS) was compiled comprising electronic charts, GPS-receiver and computer. Such system occupies a good deal of space and is used at large ships and vessels. For small ships, other equipment was designed, such as chart plotters, navigation centers and so on. They are hermetic and are equipped with a GPS-receiver, computer and a set of navigation charts.

In accordance with Chapter V “Navigational Safety” of Convention SOLAS-74 and Resolution of IMO A.817 (19), all sea-going ships are to be equipped with Electronic Chart Display and Information Systems (ЭКНИС) with S-57 (ENC) electronic navigation charts without fail. In Russia, GUNiO compiles such maps. There are over 250 S-57 electronic charts in the catalogues of this organization. Charts by GUNiO advantage with high quality, they are under constant upgrade and can be easily relied upon.

However, ЭКНИС may use databases of informal commercial electronic charts in default of official ones. In such case, it is not considered to be an equivalent of an official paper navigation chart.

According to available data, informal maritime navigation electronic charts often cause accidents. Beyond doubt is the fact that among companies offering commercial navigation maritime charts, there are some which feel responsibility for compiled documentation ensuring safety.

Unfortunately, this market is filled with a lot of bad quality goods with so major errors that their use can cause aftergrowth.


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