U.S. vessels given OK to use digital versions of nav publications

The U.S Coast Guard will allow vessel operators to carry electronic versions of many navigation publications. However, this new policy will not apply to nautical charts.

The new policy was explained in a Nov. 26, 2010, letter from Capt. Eric P. Christensen, chief of the Coast Guard’s Office of Vessel Activities, to Coast Guard sector commanders.

Current regulations require U.S. vessels to carry a corrected edition of the following publications: U.S. Coast Guard Light List, Local Notice to Mariners, Tide-current or River-current tables, U.S. Coast Pilot, Light List, VTS Rules, as well as adequate and up-to-date nautical publications for the intended voyage.

“This requires a vessel to have a large amount of printed documents on board and accessible to the mariner,†Christensen wrote. “It is standard practice for the industry to have computers on board their vessels and to use them for storage and ready retrieval of any of the above listed general publications.â€

Christensen made clear that this policy change does not apply to nautical charts. “This policy was designed to provide vessel owners and operators with an option for electronic versions of the publications they are required to carry,†he said. The idea that the requirement to keep paper nautical charts could be changed in favor of electronic nautical charts “is something that we do consider and some folks have proposed to us, but that is where we are not willing to go at this time,†he said.

If vessel operators decide to keep these publications in an electronic format, then there should also be some form of backup, such as a second computer, CD or paper.

David A. Tyler

By Professional Mariner Staff