Hydrographic data, nautical charts and nautical publications

Hydrographic data, nautical charts and nautical publications

All ships are required to carry "adequate and up-to-date charts" under SOLAS chapter V (regulation 27) to assist in navigation.

At present, the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) does not specify Governmental responsibility for producing charts, but in 1983, IMO adopted a resolution referring to the importance of the provision of accurate and up-to-date hydrographic information to safety of navigation and to the fact that many areas had not been surveyed to modern standards.

The resolution invited Governments to conduct hydrographic surveys and co-operate with other Governments where necessary. This was followed in 1985 by a resolution urging IMO Member Governments to establish regional hydrographic commissions or charting groups and to support groups already set up by the International Hydrographic Organization (IHO) to prepare accurate charts.

The resolution was adopted after representation from the IHO, which had informed IMO of the inadequacy of nautical charts of many sea areas as a result of dependence on old hydrographic surveys and noted that, in order to develop up to date charts for these areas, substantial technical co-operation would be required between developed and developing coastal states on a regional basis. 

SOLAS regulation V/9 Hydrographic services states:

  • Contracting Governments undertake to arrange for the collection and compilation of hydrographic data and the publication, dissemination and keeping up to date of all nautical information necessary for safe navigation.
  • In particular, Contracting Governments undertake to co-operate in carrying out, as far as possible, the following nautical and hydrographic services, in the manner most suitable for the purpose of aiding navigation:
    1. to ensure that hydrographic surveying is carried out, as far as possible,   adequate to the requirements of safe navigation;
    2. to prepare and issue nautical charts, sailing directions, lists of lights, tide tables and other nautical publications, where applicable, satisfying the needs of safe navigation;
    3. to promulgate notices to mariners in order that nautical charts and publications are kept, as far as possible, up to date; and .4 to provide data management arrangements to support these services.
  • Contracting Governments undertake to ensure the greatest possible uniformity in charts and nautical publications and to take into account, whenever possible, relevant international resolutions and recommendations. (refers to the appropriate resolutions and recommendations adopted by the International Hydrographic Organization).
  • Contracting Governments undertake to co-ordinate their activities to the greatest possible degree in order to ensure that hydrographic and nautical information is made available on a world-wide scale as timely, reliably, and unambiguously as possible.