Mariners can now use electronic charts and publications in place of paper, according to recent guidance issued by the U.S. Coast Guard.

“After consultation with our Navigation Safety Advisory Committee, the Coast Guard will allow mariners to use official electronic charts instead of paper charts, if they choose to do so," said Capt. Scott J. Smith, chief of the U.S. Coast Guard’s Office of Navigation Systems. "With real-time voyage planning and monitoring information at their fingertips, mariners will no longer have the burden of maintaining a full portfolio of paper charts."

Combining the suite of electronic charts from the U.S. hydrographic authorities and the Electronic Charting System (ECS) standards published tin 2015 by the Radio Technical Commission for Maritime Services, the Navigation and Vessel Inspection Circular No. 01-16 issued on Feb. 5 establishes uniform guidelines for the use of electronic charts. It applies to vessels subject to U.S. chart, or map, and publication carriage requirements codified in Titles 33 and 46 CFR and provides a voluntary alternative means to comply with those requirements.

“Mariners have been requesting the recognition of this capability for some time,” Smith said. “When you combine the new expanded Automatic Identification System carriage requirement and the capability that an ECS provides, it should provide a platform to move American waterways into the 21st century.”

Electronic charts will allow mariners to act upon updated information and data based on changing conditions, enhancing situational awareness during voyage planning and while underway.