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- Official ENCs Seamlessly Merged With C-MAP Charts
By Captain Raj S. Chakravorty


The author is the Director of C-MAP India Private Limited responsible for promoting C-MAP products in the Indian subcontinent. He is a Charge Hydrographic Surveyor and a Master Mariner. He has experience both on Hydrographic ships and Commercial shipping.

Sometimes I wonder whether institutions are teaching sufficiently about electronic charts and the systems which run them. New regulations have been brought into force in SOLAS, IMO and also through International Hydrographic Organisation (IHO) Resolutions. IHO has become important since the 2002 amendments to Chapter V of SOLAS. Yet not many books exist to simplify this subject for the ultimate user - the mariners. Regulations, as such, reveal only one side of a multi-faceted structure. In a real world there are many other factors which affect the working of a system.

The ship-operator gets confused by terms such as Primar or IC-ENC ".......very heavy terms! We only understand IMO. Where in IMO have they mentioned them?" asked one ship-operator who was exploring charting options for his VLCC.

Primar and IC-ENC, the two Regional Centres responsible for distributing official charts have jointly produced a remarkably fine compendium on Chart carriage regulations. It is a must-read for all mariners who wish to learn about the current regulations for charts. The underlying fact is that only Electronic Navigation Charts (ENCs) from national Hydrographic Offices (HOs) can replace paper charts on commercial ships. No other types of chart, whether vector or raster, official or otherwise, can be used without a backup of paper charts.

Some ship-owners do not understand the logic behind this IMO dictum. I mean, here are these C-MAP vector charts which have been sourced from the same HOs to whom C-MAP is paying royalties. And unlike others these charts actually have a worldwide coverage. Moreover NMEA - a regulatory body has selected C-MAP charts as the best in the world for last six years consecutively. Yet you still require a paper chart backup when you use them!!

Apart from its own charts C-MAP also distributes Official ENCs produced by national Hydrographic Offices all over the world.

It is one year since the Indian HO started distributing ENCs. These charts were given to C-MAP by the Chief Hydrographer of India, Admiral BR Rao in February 2005. The first year was a testing time for us. However, we found the market response to be very encouraging. Our ENC sales were more than double the projected target. A main reason was because all the minor ports in India are covered only by ENCs.

Indian ENCs distributed by C-MAP are supported by the Real Time Updating service. End users can log on to the C-MAP server and download the chart corrections from the net. Each chart costs Rs 1150 (24 USD) and comes with 1 year free updates.

Sixty percent of the customers for Indian ENCs are commercial ships, the rest are Ports and VTSs. Overall, it is found that the vessels carrying sensitive cargoes such as oil and gas tankers and the cruise and ferry industry dominate the customer group for world ENCs.

Selling ENC chart data used to be a challenge in the past. Poor coverage, high cost and a limited number of approved ECDISs were considered to be hampering the demand. Now many new ships are coming fitted with proper ECDIS. ENC coverage in the world has improved considerably now. Western Europe, Mediterranean, Indian sub-continent and the US have adequate ENC coverage. Prices have been reduced by some HOs to attract more customers.

One of the main reasons for increased sales of ENCs is due to the promotion of the Dual-fuel concept by C-MAP. If a customer were to navigate with only ENCs there would be large gaps or 'black holes' where there are no chart coverage. What C-MAP has done is to merge its own CM93 Chart database with the ENC data. The CM93 database is the world's most comprehensive vector chart database. It has a total worldwide coverage with more than 15000 charts available on one CD. When the ENCs are merged with it then users get a convenient method of sailing with official ENC data where they are available or with CM93 charts where they are not.
As both charts are in the same format, the vector-vector type of Dual-fuelling has many advantages. The charts are seamlessly merged horizontally as well as vertically. There is no switching between databases. Both share the same Updating service. For the user the chart presentation and functionalities remains same.

Sailing with Official ENCs means the customer need not stock paper chart folio for those areas provided the other conditions of an approved ECDIS are met.

The ENCs are distributed after they have been converted to CM93 format to facilitate the Dual-fuelling. This is called the SENC method of distribution which has been permitted since April 2002 under the Technical Resolution A3.11 – ENC/SENC Distribution Option. Using this method C-MAP has achieved seamless vector-vector global chart coverage. This in fact is the USP of C-MAP.

The SENC method of ENC distribution pioneered by C-MAP has been found to be very customer-friendly due to two reasons - data compression to the extent that all available ENCs fit into one DVD. So the chart management is better. Secondly the ENCs that reaches the end user is error-free having already being tested on systems ashore before being used on the ECDIS on board.

Today C-MAP is the world's largest distributor of official ENCs providing this service for 30 countries.
A point to be noted is that it is impossible to integrate raster charts seamlessly with vector ENCs. Sailing from one chart area to another would make the ship jump on the screen. There is a clear demarcation between the two different types of charts. Even the colour schemes are different and users get a mismatched view on the screen. Though IMO permits ECDIS to be operated with Raster Charts, this mode does not have the full functionality of ECDIS and can only be used together with an appropriate portfolio of up-to-date paper charts.

Though there is an increase in ENC sales their demand will actually shoot up if the prices are brought down substantially. At present there is no incentive for buying them in bulk. Because there are so many countries and agencies involved the prices are also not uniformly applied. Since there is no single agency controlling folio management or bulk pricing of ENCs, it is unthinkable to sail with worldwide ENC coverage because of the cost factor alone. Hopefully the pricing anomaly will be corrected in the near future.

Further, paper charts can be bought permanently and kept updated for many years free of cost till the paper lasts or the chart is replaced. When customers compare this aspect of paper charts with ENCs they find it more attractive. ENCs come with a time-tag and they lapse after one year.

Nevertheless, C-MAP is interacting closely with the customers to assess their needs. A major headache for customers used to be the selection and licensing of ENCs. C-MAP has simplified these two things considerably.

Marine Forecasting

In the last few years there has been a strong development within Meteorological Science. Aided by super-computers, satellite data and weather buoys there has been a tremendous development in this field.

C-MAP has embarked on a project to integrate the weather forecasting with navigation at sea. It aims to provide quality information from European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) in an easily accessible form onto the chart. The mariner is helped to choose reliable information from the confusing amount of data floating in the internet.

C-MAP Marine Forecast is an ambitious project and headed by a highly qualified Meteorologist. They already have a standalone system in the market, called Weatherview which allows mariners to download a ten-day weather forecast with either global or regional data.

In the next few months C-MAP is expected to merge the Weather forecasting system with Oceanview and Vessel based Electronic Charting Systems. Oceanview is a popular Office Charting System used by many ship-managers and operators to manage their fleet.

A practical use of weather forecasting is to integrate it with vessel’s voyage planning to form weather routing. It is extremely useful to find out how the weather will affect the vessel’s intended passage. It gives indication of dangerous weather along the route.

With the continuous advancements taking place in the Electronic Charting technology the day is not far when every ship will have them on board. Navigation, the way we know, will change forever.



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Electronic Navigation Charts - by Captain Raj S. Chakravorty,