The difficult choice of electronic charting

Which to choose ? Raster ? Vector ? What costs, for which application, how to Navigation ? As many questions as most of you arise, and rightly. I will try to shed some light.

While visiting my website pages devoted to charting (¹) on my website achieves the full information and links to various suppliers, a synthesis is needed here.

First of all, specify the types of charting related to applications that concern us :

  • GPSNavX : raster charts only (Maptech BSB 4 and 5, old Softcharts, NOAA RNCs, CHS raster, NV. Digital, etc)
  • MacENC : Navionics vector charts and all raster maps available at, Vector ENC S-57/S-63, Private ENC Navionics, AVCS the UKHO, and all raster map above.
  • iNavX : Navionics vector charts and all raster maps available at

Raster charts

To date, the choice of raster charts covering the world is relatively small. Unlike Americans who have, with NOAA, complete and free Raster charting of the American coasts from Bermuda in the East to Hawaii in the West, only Maptech Navigation Inc. provides cartography covering the most popular spots on the planet, but unfortunately not all. Otherwise, these charts are in majority in BSB format 4.0, they date back several years for certain non-updated. It is imperative to ask the suppliers list and dates of last charts corrections available in each portfolio.

The main areas of Maptech charts

  • UK and Ireland
    DVDRUK : UK. and Ireland Boating Charts DVD
    INCLUDES : Raster Nautical Charts (RNC’s) high-resolution maps reproduced from British Admiralty charts (UKHO). Format BSB4.
    $150 / 114 € / 169 € (²)
  • Western Europe
    DVDRWE : Western Europe Boating Charts DVD
    INCLUDES : Raster Nautical Charts (RNC’s) high-resolution maps reproduced from the British charts (UKHO), French (SHOM), German (BSH), Danish and Spanish. Format BSB4.
    $150 / 114 € / 169 €
  • Mediterranean
    DVDRMED : Mediterranean Boating Charts DVD
    INCLUDES : Raster Nautical Charts (RNC’s) high-resolution maps reproduced from the British charts (UKHO), French (SHOM), German (BSH), Greek and other. Format BSB4.
    $150 / 114 € / 169 €
  • Caribbean
    CDBA300 : Caribbean Super Region
    The best maps covering Maptech Caribbean reproduced from the British charts (UKHO) and NOAA. Format BSB 4.
    $500 / — / 229 €
  • CDR09 : Bahamas
    Nautical Pub and Wavey Line Charts of the Abacos, Exumas, Near and Far Bahamas, Turks and Caicos selected Aerial Pictures. Format BSB4.
    $200 / 114 € / ND
  • CDR10 : Puerto Rico and US Virgin Islands
    Contains all NOAA Charts in the title area, Coastal Topo Maps, Pictures Navigation, Aerial Photos, Tides, List of Lights, Coast Pilot. Format BSB4.
    $100 / ND / ND
  • Caribbean
    CDR11 : Eastern Caribbean (St.Thomas to Grenada )
    Contains all NOAA maps of the area, Coastal Topo Maps, Pictures Navigation, Aerial Photos, Tides, List of Lights, Coast Pilot. Format BSB4.
    $200 / 114 € / 169 €
  • New Caledonia
    CDFR07 : New Caledonia
    SHOM maps of the area. Format BSB 4.
    ND / ND / 399 €
  • French Polynesia
    CDFR08 – French Polynesia
    SHOM maps of the area. Includes Marquesas, Tuamotus, Society Islands, Austral Islands and Gambier Islands. Format BSB 4.
    ND / ND / 399 €

Apart from the U.S., Canada, and some areas covered by the Swedish and German charting, raster charts offer less and less interest. The digitization of paper charts is a long and expensive process, Softcharts have gradually disappeared, SHOM has dropped from 2002 CDs released from 1998, and vectorization tends to spread among publishers, both public and private.

Official ENC vector charts

S-57 ENC charts are provided by RENC Primar and sold through a network of authorized distributors. In France, ScanNav, among other distributors, is particularly turned yachting. These charts are provided in the form of "cells" to download, either unit, either in the form of portfolio. The price includes a subscription period for updates and take account of this period : 3, 6, 9 or 12 months. Beyond, charts are no longer updated, but can still be used. Worry, they do not self-destruct !

Charts selection can be made directly on Primar website, online, or downloading a catalog to make a selection offline.

Primar chart catalog

Primar catalog to choose charts by area or route


Choose by area selection


Choice by drawing a path

Charts selection can be done, or by selecting an area which automatically selects the charts and adds a detailed list to shopping cart, or by using the tool to plot a course, as in the two examples below.

Prices per cell, for a minimum of 3 months of updates, come from 2,50 € up to 7,50 €, depending on the size of the cell, with 30% to 100% a paper chart. The ScanNav company also offers packs 20 to 25 charts for 140 € TTC mainly the coasts of France, as the Zone 3 in the example below.

primar pack zone 3

Pack Zone 3


Panama route – Polynesia

Unfortunately, some areas are not covered by official ENCs, such as the Gulf of Morbihan, or large area crossing the eastern Pacific, Panama to the Marquesas. See the opposite example.

Official ENC charts offer the advantage to replace paper charts, a permanent updates service for time, at the user's choice, may be renewed if necessary. This is the solution of professional vessels. A contrario, the cost is enough of a deterrent if you need to cover large areas of navigation, an Atlantic crossing back and forth, for example.

If you are unfamiliar with English, once your list of selected charts in the shopping cart, you can contact ScanNav that will provide them to you and help you to install them.

ChartWorld ENC vector charts

German distributor, now owned by the investment company Dutch-Belgian-Trading GmbH, ChartWorld distributes the full catalog cards ENC S-57 and S-63 official, Navionics Private ENC, and its own ENC ChartWorld Charts.  These cards are available in two formats : DirectENC and S-63, compatible with MacENC. These charts are derived from S-57 official, approved by the’IHO. In the example shown below, can cover a Pacific crossing, from Panama to New Caledonia, with a general chart Navionics ENC S-63 to 150 € HT (Ref. 1I09001) and several charts ChartWolrd S-63 to 7,50 € each (Ref. see image below). These charts can be purchased and downloaded directly from Chartworld website.

chartworld charts

Navionics vector charts

As explained in previous articles, Navionics provides worldwide coverage of vector charts, based on official charts from different hydrographic agencies that reproduces by agreements. The charts are grouped into a number of folios, called "Region" covering the entire globe. They are provided on a number of media according to destination (chartplotters, computers, smartphones). See related articles about it (³).


Navionics World coverage

All Navionics folios are the same, as cover as levels of detail, for all media. But their price depends on the destination media. For example, the Region 46XG is sold for download : 10 € for iPhone 30 € for iPad in the iTunes AppStore, $40 for iNavX (iPhone / iPad) on website, $299 for MacENC on SD Card or Compact Flash media :  238 € at Nauticom. Do not try to understand, there are only logical business strategy in all this.

Anyway, Navionics offers the best global coverage and the best value for money all media, especially for those who want to sail away. For our three favorite applications, iNavX, GPSNavX and MacENC, X-Traverse provides an ideal platform for downloading together with a private storage space providing other services. The updates are performed about once a year, charts can be downloaded repeatedly. The major updates are done by new edition, it must be purchased anew each portfolio.


The choice is yours, according to your project navigation, your area, your application or hardware. Be aware, however, that the raster chart is gradually declining.

Using the category "Cartography" in the sidebar of this blog, You'll find articles tutorials about how to install charts.

(¹) Raster charts, Vector charts.
(²) Pricing : MapTech / Memory-Map / ScanNav (statements on their websites in February 2011, excluding shipping costs. HT pour Maptech, VAT for others)
ND = Not available

(³) Navionics knows no crisis

Related Articles :
The stakeholders of electronic charting
For all the acronyms of this article, see definitions in Glossary.


6 Replies to “The difficult choice of electronic cartography”

  1. Hello Francis,
    I am very regular blog that helped me for my choice of equipment. I want to thank you.
    Making only the cabotage (Pabouk love) I opted for Navionics bought on iTunes with a IPAD equipped with an external GPS BadElf. It works very well.
    I have one question.
    Under Navionics is it possible to display on screen a speedo ?
    Thank you in advance for your help.

  2. Hello,
    New to "electronic navigation", I am fitted last summer to an iphone with iNavX and Navionics. I continue of course to make the point in bearing compass on paper maps, However, it is interesting to have confirmation of GPS in certain circumstances.
    Thus I saw a kind of white area to the west of Hoedic, between 2 cardinal
    West, in a corner pretty well attended but poorly paved !
    Do you have an explanation ?
    Thank you and congratulations for your work

  3. Hello,
    Like many, I eagerly await the publication of your trials in January. Indeed, an association member who is sailing around water 120 per year ( 9000 Jrs / man / sea) on two boats stationed at Turballe, we wonder now about choosing a navigation system.
    For educational reasons, training of new entrants, we stick to paper maps, relévements, points GPS, However, for security reasons ( visibility) we tested Macs on PC and some of us are equipped with an iPhone Navionics.
    I am one of them. And here I have two specific questions. Having loaded on my iPhone 2010 for 19.90 € Navionics Marine Europe West ( 430 MB), I saw:
    That during a passage near the coast, If the iPhone is receiving a telephone message the trace starts on standby or dotted.
    Otherwise, at the quality of the map, markup at the entrance of the port is incorrect Turballe. Long ago that there is more than three markers in the green channel input port, but only one lit. Both tribort tags along side parking Tourlandroux SSE is also no longer exist. I reported these problems to Navionics.
    I bought in late 2010 the new version of Navionics Europe, for 9.90 € ( 23,5 MB ) ???
    Taking care to keep the old. In fact the new version, ( which is perhaps an update to the old) opens at cards with a much larger slow? You even get the impression that the map fails to load when we are close to the coast !
    Here are my findings.
    Thank you for your efforts to keep us informed,
    Cordially, P. CT.

    1. On the application Navionics Mobile, see the comparative updated in this article.
      For inaccuracies of Navionics, it is actually important to report them to the editor. If you are training students to navigation, do their share of advantages and disadvantages of available maps, and especially that the only official electronic charts being updated by subscription ENCs are distributed by Primar.

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