Paper Charting Information

Use of Paper Charts in Australian Waters Explained

Who publishes official paper charts covering Australian waters?

Official charts are those issued by, or on the authority of, a Government authorised Hydrographic Office or other relevant government institution.

The Australian Hydrographic Office (AHO) is Australia’s national charting authority. All official nautical charts covering the Australian Charting Area are published and updated by the AHO. 

The AHO publishes and updates approximately 500 official paper nautical charts. The full portfolio of Aus and SLB paper charts is commercially available through AHO Distribution Agents.

Coverage includes Australian, Papua New Guinea, Timor Leste and Australian Antarctic Territory waters published as 'AUS' charts and Solomon Islands waters published as 'SLB' charts. For details, visit our Australian Chart Index 'online catalogue' or refer to our paper index charts, AUS 5000, AUS 5001 and SLB 1001, which are available from this website as PDF downloads and in printed form from AHO Distribution Agents.

260 selected AHO published paper charts are reproduced by the UK Hydrographic Office (UKHO) in their world-wide Admiralty chart series. AHO published charts within the Admiralty chart series are easily identified by their 'AUS' and 'SLB' chart numbers.  Charts reproduced by the UKHO are selected based upon their usefulness to large commercial vessels and may not be the largest scale available in regional and remote areas.   If you use the UKHO catalogue, you should be aware that a more appropriate AUS or SLB chart at a large scale may be available from an AHO Distribution Agent.

What are the benefits of official paper charts over non official paper charts?

Official paper nautical charts:

  • Are issued by, or on the authority of, a Government authorised Hydrographic Office or other relevant government institution.
  • Are quality controlled and Government assured.
  • Are updated regularly for navigationally critical information. Updates for Aus and SLB charts are published fortnightly. 
  • Enable commercial and recreational vessels to meet chart carriage regulations.

Non – official paper nautical charts:

  • May be scanned from outdated or superseded versions of charts (sometimes decades old).
  • May not be rigorously quality controlled.
  • Are unlikely to be updated either quickly or regularly for navigationally critical information.
  • Do not enable commercial vessels to meet chart carriage regulations.
  • Do not enable offshore racing yachts to meet race regulations. 

How are official paper charts kept up-to-date?

Maritime Safety Information updates for paper nautical charts and publications are promulgated via Notices to Mariners.   Keeping charts and publications up to date is an essential part of navigating any vessel that is subject to chart carriage requirements, whether this is to support an international voyage, or an offshore yacht race.

Notices to Mariners affecting AUS and SLB paper nautical charts and publications are published fortnightly.   They can be accessed by any of the following methods:

  • Fortnightly free PDF download, containing all MSI updates issued for that fortnight, plus summaries of all existing temporary and preliminary notices still in force.   (Some AHO distribution agents may download and print them for a small fee).
  • Via the Australian Chart Index (ACI), by selecting each chart a user is interested in checking / updating.   The full text of every existing update for the current edition of each chart may be accessed via the ACI (paper chart list àview details), making this method particularly suitable if a vessel only has a selected series of charts and / or only needs to update them periodically (such as prior to a cruise or race).
  • Via eNotices, a free email subscription service that allows the AHO to email details of changes affecting a user’s nominated charts each fortnight.
  • Via Admiralty Notices to Mariners, which reproduce Australian Notices for only those charts adopted by the UKHO.   (Notices copied in Admiralty Notices to Mariners are allocated a new Notice number but the original AHO Notice number is referenced as source information.)

Broad instructions on how to hand correct AUS and SLB paper charts can be found in the Guide to Updating Nautical Charts fact sheet on this website. Detailed step by step instructions are included in the Australian Chart and Publication Maintenance Handbook available free from this website

AUS and SLB charts reproduced by the UK Hydrographic Office and supplied from an Admiralty chart agent can be corrected using either Australian Notices to Mariners editions or Admiralty Notices to Mariners Editions. For a step by step guide on how to use either Australian Notices to Mariners or British Admiralty (BA) Notices to Mariners to update Aus charts reproduced by the UK Hydrographic Office, see the Correcting Australian Paper Charts (from BA) fact sheet.

Who are official paper nautical charts suitable for?

http://www.hydro.gov.au/images/who-papercharts.jpg

What are the paper chart carriage rules and regulations in Australian waters?

SOLAS Vessels:
The International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) - Chapter V requires that vessels (other than fishing vessels) greater than 500 tonnes, or vessels greater than 50 tonnes when engaged on international voyages, carry up to date official nautical charts, sailing directions, list of lights, notices to mariners, tide tables and all other nautical publications necessary for the intended voyage. The International Maritime Organization (IMO) also requires that the master or officer in charge of navigation use the largest (most detailed) scale charts for the intended route, corrected with the latest available information.    

The Australian implementation of SOLAS regulations is contained in the Commonwealth Navigation Act 2012, and Marine Orders / Notices issued by the Australian Maritime safety Authority.  For more information refer to www.amsa.gov.au.

Australian Domestic Commercial Vessels:                        
All aspects of domestic commercial vessels operating inside Australia’s exclusive Economic Zone are governed by the Marine Safety (Domestic Commercial Vessel) National Law Act 2012.  Implementation and adherence is administered by the Australian Maritime safety Authority.   For more information refer to www.amsa.gov.au.

AUS paper charts when kept up-to-date, will allow commercial vessels 12 metres or more in length and engaged in Australian domestic operations to meet the requirements of this Act..  However, it is good practice to carry appropriate nautical charts on vessels less than 12m in length when operating outside port and harbour limits.

Recreational Vessels:  
Requirements for recreational vessels are: 

State

Chart carriage requirement 

State Marine Authority 

Queensland

Recommended for smooth, partially smooth and beyond smooth waters 

Maritime Safety Queensland
www.msq.qld.gov.au

New South Wales

Required for open waters

NSW Roads and Maritime Services
www.maritime.nsw.gov.au

Victoria

Advisable for all waters 

Transport Safety Victoria
www.transportsafety.vic.gov.au

South Australia

Unprotected waters
All Vessels > 10 nautical miles from Shore

Department of Planning, Transport and Infrastructure
www.transport.sa.gov.au

Tasmania

Advisable for all waters

Marine and Safety Tasmania 
www.mast.tas.gov.au

Northern Territory

For vessels > 5 metres

Northern Territory Government
nt.gov.au/marine/marine-safety

How accurate are paper charts?

For information on the accuracy of paper charts refer to the Accuracy and Reliability of Charts fact sheet on this website. 

What other information do I need?

Paper (and electronic) charts are complimented by a series of nautical publications which contain additional information to assist navigation. AHO published charts are complimented by the following types of nautical publications: