The UK Hydrographic Office (UKHO) has announced its intention to develop options for the withdrawal from global paper chart production by late 2026 to increase focus on its digital navigation products and services.
Plans to withdraw the UKHO’s portfolio of ADMIRALTY Standard Nautical Charts (SNCs) and Thematic Charts are 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. In parallel, UKHO will develop viable, official digital alternatives for sectors still using paper chart products. This will be a carefully managed process, conducted in close liaison with all customers and stakeholders, including the RYA, the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) and other regulatory bodies, hydrographic offices, industry partners and distributors.
The RYA believes that the UKHO has a responsibility to provide support to recreational boaters through the provision of hydrographic information, products and services in a range of formats and media that is suitable for and easily usable by all recreational craft.
We recognise that there are those who wish to continue navigating using paper charts and more traditional navigational techniques, and we want to ensure that that there are ways of accessing paper charts within the market during the transition to a fully digital era, for example through Print on Demand (POD).
The RYA understands that the UKHO’s decision to end the production of paper charts may result in a feeling of significant change for some recreational boaters. However, the UKHO have given the RYA assurance that with the introduction of the digital navigation portfolio there will not be a compromise on navigational functionality, but instead an increase in data accuracy and ultimately, safety at sea.
The RYA is keen to ensure that the implementation plan for moving to a full digital capability is communicated to all well in advance and that alternatives are listed for each chart as the paper product is withdrawn.
The RYA recognises the benefits of official digital navigation products for safe navigation, at a time when paper products make up a minority of navigation products being used at sea. The announcement by UKHO represents its vision for the future of navigation, which will need to be supported by official equipment and data suited to the needs of the recreational boating sector.
The RYA will work closely with the UKHO and MCA to represent the views of its members. Close liaison will be essential, to ensure that the technical and legislative barriers to the proposed change are overcome if the UKHO’s 2026 timeline is to be achieved.
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