Guidance

Navigation safety for UK seafarers

Vessel traffic management, electronic nautical publications and safety information for owners, operators of ships, yachts, fishing vessels.

Vessel traffic management

Vessel traffic management can involve vessel traffic services or local port services.

Vessel traffic services

Vessel traffic services (VTS) is an important tool in contributing to:

  • safety of life at sea,
  • safety of navigation
  • protection of the marine environment

VTS is made up of one or more of three service types:

  • information
  • traffic organisation
  • navigational assistance

Local Port Service

A local port service is where VTS is considered excessive, but there is still a need to disseminate information to those using the port. This is not a lower standard or poorer service - it just means that VTS is not provided.

VTS - publications and guidance

Refer to the following guidance for more information about VTS and local port services:

MCA is responsible for broadcasting the warnings issued by the UK Hydrographic Office (UKHO) to vessels at sea. Radio broadcasts are made about known and potential risks.

‘Navigational warnings: reporting and broadcasting hazards at sea’ outlines:

  • how and when warnings are broadcast
  • what kind of activities require a warning
  • how to inform UKHO that a hazard requires a navigational warning
  • broadcast charges to those reponsible for the hazard that’s issued as a warning

MCA produces information leaflets for seafarers on ships, yachts and fishing vessels. Find safety leaflets about navigation, communication and safety at sea.

Digital nautical publications on ship’s bridge

Ship operators and owners must meet approval and installation standards for electronic equivalents of nautical charts and publications.

Digital nautical publications – requirements and equivalency

The Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) Convention Chapter V Regulation 19.2.1.4 states that all ships whatever their size must have “nautical charts and nautical publications to plan and display the ship’s route for the intended voyage and to plot and monitor positions throughout the voyage” and that “an electronic chart display and information system (ECDIS) is also accepted as meeting the chart carriage requirements”.

SOLAS Chapter V Regulation 2.2 defines a nautical chart or nautical publication as “A special-purpose map or book, or a specially compiled database from which such a map or book is derived, that is issued officially by or on the authority of a government, authorised hydrographic office or other relevant government institution and is designed to meet the requirements of marine navigation”.

Exemptions - equivalency

The Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) makes exemptions or alternative arrangements from the requirements for certain types of vessel, for example:

Equivalent approved products

As well as nautical charts and publications covered under the regulations, MCA also recognises products which satisfy certain carriage requirements.

Check out MCA’s‘equivalency letters’ to find out which products are MCA approved as meeting requirements.

Contact MCA if you’re a service provider of digital nautical data and you’d like us to consider your product as satisfying certain carriage requirements:

Email: navigation.safety@mcga.gov.uk

System installation

The use of digital nautical publications on a vessel must comply with requirements laid down in Annex 3 Section 6 of SOLAS “Guidance on Chapter V - safety of navigation”.

SOLAS Chapter V

Access the full MCA Guidance on understanding and complying with Safety of life at sea (SOLAS) Chapter V – safety of navigation.

Published 1 May 2014
Last updated 23 November 2017 + show all updates
  1. Updated links and documents
  2. Amendment to one of the links.
  3. First published.