U.S. ENC Availability Starts To Gain Speed

It is no secret that acceptance and incorporation of electronic charting systems has been more widespread in Europe than in the U.S., as European governments and commercial organizations collectively have worked more diligently together and built and maintained a lead in this area. The gap, however, is closing, as the era of the electronic chart is quickly arriving in the U.S.

In a recent Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM), the U.S. Coast Guard announced that it is considering the feasibility of allowing commercial vessels to use electronic charting and navigation systems as their primary means of navigation in U.S.

waters. It would have to meet ECDIS standards as supplied by the IMO. In the ANPRM, the Coast Guard proposes that vessels equipped with electronic charting equipment meeting the IMO standards be exempt from mandatory compliance with the requirements for paper charts and navigational publications in 33 CFR part 164. Comments on the ANPRM were accepted up to July 2.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, NOAA, announced that beginning July 15, the agency will distribute digital Electronic Navigational Charts (ENC) of U.S. waters on the Internet.

Initially, the charts will be prototypes of the nation's 40 major ports that will not be supported by regular updates, but as resources become available, the site's coverage will be expanded. NOAA's National Ocean Service (NOS), which is spearheading the project, does not intend to limit access to the ENC, but is planning specific procedures to satisfy chart carriage requirements mandated by SOLAS and the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations. Users can access the charts at www.chartmaker.nos.noaa.gov.

Also, the New Orleans District U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced the release of new electronic navigation charts (ENC) on the Atchafalaya River.

The Atchafalaya river ENC comes in three parts, and the set is available for free at www.mvn.usace.army.mil/eng/s-57/atchafalaya.asp "The Corps' goal is to make river ENCs as readily available to our customers as GPS receivers are today," said Mark Nettles, a New Orleans District cartographer.

"To that end, the New Orleans District's Website will provide free and easy access to current and future river ENCs."

Maritime Reporter Magazine, page 42,  Aug 2001

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