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An electronic navigational chart (ENC)
is an official database created by a national hydrographic office
A hydrographic office is an organization which is devoted to acquiring and publishing hydrographic information.Historically, the main tasks of hydrographic offices were the conduction of hydrographic surveys and the publication of nautical charts...
for use with an Electronic Chart Display and Information System (ECDIS)
An Electronic Chart Display and Information System is a computer-based navigation information system that complies with International Maritime Organization regulations and can be used as an alternative to paper nautical charts...
. An electronic chart must conform to standards stated in the International Hydrographic Organization
The International Hydrographic Organization is the inter-governmental organisation representing the hydrographic community. It enjoys observer status at the UN and is the recognised competent authority on hydrographic surveying and nautical charting...
(IHO) Special Publication S-57 before it can be certified as an ENC. Only ENCs can be used within ECDIS to meet the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) performance standard for ECDIS.
ENCs are available through Regional Electronic Navigational Chart Coordinating Centre (RENCs) and national electronic chart centers. Distributors like the United Kingdom Hydrographic Office then distribute these to chart agents. In July 2008, the first mandatory requirements for the use of ENC and ECDIS will become international law.
IHO Special Publication S-63
S-63 is an International Hydrographic Organization standard for encrypting, securing and compressing electronic navigational chart data....
developed by the IHO Data Protection Security Working Group is used to commercially encrypt and digitally sign ENC data. Chart data is captured based on standards stated in IHO Special Publication S-57, and is displayed according to a display format stated in IHO Special Publication S-52 to ensure consistency of data rendering between different systems.
IMO has proposed compulsory carriage of ECDIS and ENCs on high speed crafts from 1 July 2008 onwards for all new crafts, and from 1 July 2010 onwards for existing crafts.