UK Hydrographic Office to Discontinue Paper Charts By 2026
The UK Hydrographic Office (UKHO) has announced its intention to develop options for the withdrawal from global paper chart production by late 2026 to increase focus on its digital navigation products and services.
Plans to withdraw the UKHO’s portfolio of ADMIRALTY Standard Nautical Charts (SNCs) and Thematic Charts are in response to more marine, naval and leisure users primarily using digital products and services for navigation.
The ADMIRALTY Maritime Data Solutions digital navigation portfolio can be updated in near real-time, greatly enhancing safety of life at sea (SOLAS).
The phased withdrawal of paper charts from production will take place over a number of years and is anticipated to conclude in late 2026. In parallel, UKHO will develop viable, official digital alternatives for sectors still using paper chart products.
Peter Sparkes, Chief Executive of the UKHO, said: “The decision to commence the process of withdrawing from paper chart production will allow us to increase our focus on advanced digital services that meet the needs of today’s seafarers.
“We understand the significance of this announcement, given the distinguished history of the UKHO’s paper chart production and the trust that mariners have placed in ADMIRALTY charts over the generations.
"We will support users of SNCs during the withdrawal of our paper chart portfolio and work with our distributors to help users switch to digital alternatives between now and our planned date of 2026.”
The move to digital navigation solutions has been accompanied by a rapid decline in demand for paper charts, driven by the SOLAS-mandated transition to ECDIS and the wider benefits of digital solutions, including the next generation of navigation services, Peter Sparkes explained.
Baroness Goldie, Minister of State at the UK government’s Ministry of Defence, said: “The world has changed unrecognisably in recent years, driven by digitalisation and rapid technological advancement.
"When it comes to maritime, one of our priorities at the Ministry of Defence is to make shipping as safe as possible; to achieve this, the industry must continue transitioning to digital tools and technology that share data almost instantly from ship-to-ship or ship-to-shore.
“The decision to focus on digital products and services makes strategic and commercial sense, helping usher in a new era of maritime navigation, which will be powered by digital innovations.”
Richard Bell, Assistant Director for UK Technical Services Navigation at the MCA, said: “The MCA recognises the benefits of official digital navigation products for safe navigation, at a time when paper products make up a minority of navigation products being used at sea.
"This announcement by UKHO represents a clear vision for the future of navigation, which will need to be supported by official equipment and data suited to the needs of the different maritime end users."