Admiralty to stop printing paper nautical charts after 227 years.

The UKHO, which assumed the role of printing Admiralty charts some time ago and has some 3,500 such nautical works of art on file, recently announced they are going digital-only, because why worry enough to have paper backups, right?

Today’s world is unrecognisable to the one that existed in 1795, when our organisation was founded. Back then, mariners navigated by the stars using a magnetic compass and surveying with a leaded line marked in fathoms. They could fix where they had been, but not where they were. 

Every aspect of modern life is now driven by technology. Mariners use global navigation satellite services combined with electronic navigational charts (ENCs) and inertial navigation systems to determine where they are, in near real-time, to centimetric accuracy. This enables them to navigate and berth vessels of all shapes and sizes more safely and with incredible precision.  

Shipping is steering rapidly towards a future underpinned by digital innovations, enhanced connectivity at sea and optimised data solutions, all of which are bringing about the next generation of navigation. 

The UKHO aims to be at the forefront  of this digital transition, continuing to provide the assured and globally trusted ADMIRALTY navigation services that seafarers the world over depend on. Withdrawing from paper chart production will allow us to increase our focus on advanced digital services that meet the needs of today’s seafarers. 

Importantly, the past few years have seen a decline in demand for paper charts, driven in part by the SOLAS-mandated transition to ECDIS and by the growing recognition of the benefits of digital products and services.

As we look to the future, our core purpose remains the safety of shipping operations and delivering the best possible navigation solutions to achieve that. Whether for the Royal Navy, commercial vessels or other ocean users, our focus is on developing and delivering ADMIRALTY digital services that promote and underpin safe, secure and thriving oceans. 

On the bright side, the phase-out is supposed to take until 2026, so at least you have a minute to stock up. 

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