David Store is the managing director of David Store Navigational Management (DSNM). Here, he considers the advances in digital navigation and the changes seen on the bridge as new generations take command – but also suggests that paper charts and publications still have a place on board.

I have spent the past 17 years supporting and supplying the superyacht industry with charting and publications. In that time, I have observed and encouraged the gradual move towards digital solutions for charting, publications and updating. It has become apparent in the past couple of years that this shift is accelerating and that more yachts are crossing over to digital solutions as a younger generation of crew matures and takes up command positions.

I have observed and encouraged the gradual move towards digital solutions for charting, publications and updating.

As organically as possible, I have tried to adapt my company and the management service we offer to fully support this shift, which has been an interesting process that has met with both positive and constructive opinions from crew. Throughout the past decade, I have seen a huge change to the types of management programs and software available, not only in quality but also in quantity. Superyachts now have a choice of what system they use on board, and as a company we now offer multiple software solutions to cover the ever-growing market.

With the completion of the Admiralty Digital Product suite and the introduction of e-NP Sailing Directions in particular, yachts have been able to take a huge step towards becoming fully digital. Updating and maintenance for these products is as simple as two clicks of a mouse button, reducing errors and freeing up valuable time for other tasks.

The downside of this digital shift is that for compliance, yachts are required to have the programs installed on two separate computers. This can cause issues depending on the yacht’s facilities, and is especially relevant to smaller vessels. Also, digital publications are licensed only for a 12-month period whereas the paper publication version may have a lifespan of, say, three years, which can be off-putting to some when justifying budgets.

However, as with everything, it sometimes just comes down to preference. Some people simply prefer a book in their hands, while others are enjoying the new-found ability to use computers and handheld tablet devices for certain programs.

One thing that has been noticeable with the introduction of tablet-based charting solutions is the increasing amount of quality data being made available to both crew and owners – iPad-operated items supplied by agents such as Transas with iSailor have become a very popular tool for planning, allowing owners to be more interactive with the crew even if the charting software can’t be used for ‘official’ navigation.

However, in my opinion – even though the industry is pushing towards digital products more and more – I still feel it is imperative that yachts subscribe to some level of a chart and outfit maintenance programme. Whether that is a full outfit solution or just being advised of new editions, it is a tried and tested formula to maintain and keep things up to date and to be informed of any changes or compliancy requirements.

Even though the industry is pushing towards digital products more and more – I still feel it is imperative that yachts subscribe to some level of a chart and outfit maintenance programme.

The navigation element of the marine industry is changing and we try our hardest to stay in touch with, and even ahead of, the trends with the constant developments in technology. That said, currently none of the digital solutions can take the place of paper charting which is still the safest way to navigate, and I truly believe this will still be the case in five or even 10 years’ time.

The UK Hydrographic Office is regularly commenting on how paper charting production and sales is still its most valued source of income, and that these figures are rising year on year. But we are very aware of the move towards a more digitally integrated solution for the delivery of permits and updates – something that, as a company, we are excitedly embracing.

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