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ENC is coming ashore, slowly but surely

Portraif of Paul Elgar, NAVTOR
Paul Elgar,NAVTOR OEM Business Relations,

In a connected, evolving and data-empowered industry, Paul Elgar from NAVTOR argues that shore-based teams need access to the same charts as vessel crews to enable safe, secure and sustainable industry development. It’s an opinion that is now finding favour with a growing number of hydrographic offices and RENCs… but not everyone’s on board just yet.

In June 2022 NAVTOR published an article in Digital Ship (Link to article) that questioned why the maritime industry was unable to use ENC in shoreside systems because of usage restrictions and high pricing. The article generated a lot of interest and discussion, not least with the Hydrographic Offices, and the Regional ENC Coordination Centres (RENCs) of IC-ENC and Primar, who control the distribution of most ENC available today.

To summarize the article, we highlighted that ENC needs to be used onshore because many traditional and new tasks are now being done in office environments. Route planning, optimization, and autonomous navigation to name just a few. But this was not happening because the cost of a world folio ran into many hundreds of thousands of dollars per year, so unofficial charts were being used instead.

Big picture buy-in

Shortly after the article was published, NAVTOR was contacted by IC-ENC, saying that they wanted to start to make their ENC available to their Value-Added Resellers (VARs) and end-users at a price level that would be acceptable to the market.

Towards the end of 2022 they recommended the new service to all their Hydrographic Office members (currently 50) and suggested greatly reduced pricing, which was agreed upon unanimously. This resulted in the ENCs becoming available to IC-ENC Value Added Resellers at about 10% of the standard price. IC-ENC really have seen the big picture, and their cooperation has been invaluable.

Completing the jigsaw

We have also tried to work with Primar RENC to get their 15 full members to price their ENC along the same lines, but so far with mixed results. We understand from a recent meeting that Primar will adopt the same licensing scheme and price levels as the IC-ENC members, which is very positive and will result in much higher uptake, and of course increased revenue for them.

There a just a few Hydrographic Offices that have not joined the initiative, meaning we must charge the full ENC price, and so we urge them to do so in the interests of the marine industry they serve. If we can get Japan, China, South Korea, and India to recognise that their ENCs really do need to be used in other areas than just ship navigation then we will put the final piece of the jigsaw in place. To quote Aristotle, “The whole is greater than the sum of the parts”.

ENC Online in a operations room setting - illustration

Evolving benefits

NAVTOR now has a new service available called ENC Online by NAVTOR, which delivers ENC to internet connected systems at commercial terms the industry can accept. This will be followed up in mid-2024 with access being allowed for other types of non-internet connected onshore systems (ENC Onshore by NAVTOR). This is a big positive step forward for the maritime industry.

When we have full ENC coverage at pricing that is accepted by the industry, we will have taken an enormous step forward for the maritime community and beyond. Using ENC onshore will accelerate initiatives such as autonomous shipping, AI, Performance and Optimization, Emergency Response and much more. And S-100 will also allow many more layers of data to be used together with ENC (S-57 / S-101), so we really do need it to be available to everyone. Maybe more importantly, the same official ENC charts will be used both onshore and offshore, which in the end can only lead to increased safety and efficiency, which is something we have all talked about for over 30 years.


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