Concerns over out-of-date navigation charts in Hong Kong

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 24 November, 2015, 6:21pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 24 November, 2015, 6:21pm

I refer to the letter of Peter Forsythe (“Data ban is a marine safety issue in HK”, November 14,).

The hydrographic office of the Marine Department is the government body responsible for surveying and charting Hong Kong waters. The office produces paper charts and electronic navigational charts for Hong Kong, which fulfil the International Maritime Organisation and the International Hydrographic Organisation standards. The intellectual property rights of these products belong to the department and are protected by the laws of Hong Kong.

The hydrographic office does not have any relationship with electronic charts suppliers like Navionics, iSailor, Explorer and Garmin, nor has it granted them permission to sell chart data derived from the office’s products.

By selling chart data obtained from these products in their own digital forms, these companies may have infringed the copyright of the department.

In addition to the legality of the data, the department is equally concerned about the accuracy and timeliness of the data acquired by vessel operators from unauthorised data. The use of unreliable and outdated data poses a serious threat to navigational safety.

There have been cases involving the use of inaccurate chart data causing marine accidents, and these examples illustrate the importance of having reliable and up-to-date navigational charts on-board.

Many professional ship management companies would agree that certain unauthorised electronic chart data sold in the market can hardly constitute as comprehensive electronic navigational charts under the standards of the International Maritime and International Hydrographic organisations.

The hydrographic office launched its electronic charts in 2003, and the Hong Kong charts are available at HK$904 for a one-year subscription.

Whether it is these reasonably-priced charts or the even more affordable paper charts, for the sake of navigational safety, vessel operators should always get official and up-to-date data which meet their individual needs.

Ng Kwok-chu, hydrographer, for director of marine