Charting success

Born out of the long established Kelvin Hughes Group to develop an electronic means to communicate chart corrections to vessels at sea and around the globe, ChartCo Ltd is today the world’s leading and largest distributor of nautical charts, navigational data, marine technical publications and digital products. The company’s flagship product, PassageManager, a software package providing vessel operators with corrections for digital charts and navigational information, is the most widely used of its type in the world. In operation on approximately 6700 ships around the world, it is estimated that PassageManager is used in two to three times as many vessels as its nearest competitor.

In addition to a range of electronic software systems and navigational aids, ChartCo also supplies daily-updated paper charts, training and consulting and acts as a distribution partner for a range of marine equipment and instrument manufacturers. Amongst those represented by the firm is Weems & Plath, ChartCo’s preferred supplier of chartroom instruments.

Nearly a year since Shipping & Marine last spoke with ChartCo, Global Sales and Marketing Manager Robert Corden is able to report a number of new product developments as the company sets out to diversify and expand its offering. “The first thing to note is that PassageManager 6.0 has just started sea trials and we hope to see this fully released in about three months’ time,” he says. “The main update to the software is the inclusion of ENC data visualisation and the ADMIRALTY Information Overlay (AIO) which provides information on temporary and preliminary Notices to Mariners – notoriously tricky for the navigating officer to manage effectively. The ability to view official AVCS chart data on the ChartCo PC means you have what is almost an additional ECDIS machine at the back of the bridge.

One of the key driving factors behind ChartCo’s service to its customers is in supporting them to monitor and adhere to various legislation and compliance requirements around the world. A recent addition to the PassageManager programme is a work and rest hours monitoring system. “It’s a requirement under the Maritime Labour Convention (MLC) that all ships have to monitor and record crew hours according to strict rules on the periods which individual mariners are permitted to work and more importantly, how long they must rest,” Robert explains.

“All that data has to be recorded and monitored by the ship and they have to be able to prove to inspectors that they are recording all that information correctly and that none of the crewmembers is working in contravention of the MLC. Quite a few ships are still using spreadsheets and paper to record those hours, but our software allows them to monitor, record and also share data back to their office in real time. The ship managers ashore can then be confident that the vessels they are operating are complying with the legislation.”

Similar support is currently being sea-trialled to help vessels comply with challenging MARPOL legislation. Designed to clarify areas of zero discharge and emission control areas amongst others, ChartCo has taken the lead in allowing vessel operators to quickly and easily visualise where they are in relation to controlled areas and what they can do. “For instance, our software tells them and shows them at any given position whether they are allowed to discharge garbage, sewage or any other pollutant covered by MARPOL,” Robert adds.

Keen to continue delivering as simple and effective service to its clients as possible, another recent business development has been the introduction of a fixed price offering. Covering all navigational products and services, the package includes everything an operator needs to manage the navigational products and data on board a vessel for a single annual cost. “The idea behind this is to provide budget certainty and to cut down on the costly and time consuming admin that comes with multiple purchase orders,” notes Robert. Whilst its first package sold came into effect at the start of January 2016, the company is pleased to report a positive reaction to the service and Robert highlights that several customers have now signed up with more in talks.

By providing customers with up-to-date digital navigational products and services, ChartCo is playing a central role in the industry as more and more ships switch to the digital solutions. The acquisition of Regs4Ships, a specialist in the provision of digital regulations, technical information and IMO material, in 2014 is proving fruitful for the company in this regard. “It has given us another unique digital service offering, and also allowed us to expand our training and consulting capacity in areas that we did not have previously,” Robert outlines.

Overall then, it has been a successful year for ChartCo as it expands and updates its product offering. As economic challenges continue to put pressure on vessel operators around the world, tightening profit margins and creating uncertain conditions, anywhere the company can help its customers to reduce operating costs and manage navigation more effectively is a sure opportunity. On a concluding point, Robert sums up a clear strategy for the company moving forward: “Put simply it is to sell more services to more ships. Our focus is on continuing to support our existing customers with regular updates and new services, whilst at the same time being able to acquire new customers. Of course, continuing to push new product and service developments will be key to achieving this.”

ChartCo Ltd

  • Largest distributor of navigational data, charts and digital maritime publications
  • Supplies most of the world’s largest ship owners and ship managers
  • Part of the Kelvin Hughes Group