Frequently Asked Questions
These frequently asked questions have been sub-divided to better assist you in locating the information you require. If your question is not answered here, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we would be pleased to assist you.
Am I required by law to carry CHS charts? What are the Charts and Nautical Publications Regulations of the Canada Shipping Act?
Most vessels of any kind in Canada have an obligation to carry and use official charts and publications and to keep them up to date. The chart carriage regulations are listed in the Canada Shipping Act, 2001 of the Charts and Nautical Publications Regulations, 1995.
- CHS paper charts meet the requirements of the chart carriage regulations.
- CHS digital charts meet the requirements of the chart carriage regulations under certain circumstances:
- CHS Electronic Navigational Charts (ENCs) meet the requirements provided they are used with an Electronic Chart Display and Information System (ECDIS).
- CHS Raster Navigational Charts (RNCs) meet the requirements only if paper charts are carried and used as a backup.
For further information on which charts meet the official requirements, please see our CHS Official Products and CHS Licensed Manufacturers.
How does CHS update its chart information?
Many mariners understand the importance of having charts onboard but it's just as important to ensure your charts are up to date. If a buoy has changed or there is a new obstruction, you need to know about it before you encounter it, not after. CHS regularly updates charts and it's essential you have the latest updates for safe navigation.
CHS is an active partner in the Canadian Coast Guard Notices to Mariners system, which issues critical navigation updates for Canadian navigable waters. CHS applies these notices to its charts and publications on a regular basis. You can register on the Notices to Mariners web site to receive email notifications of any updates to your charts.
For purchasers of digital charts, CHS operates a chart updating service and updates are included for a two-year period, from the date of product purchase. Find out more about how you can update your paper and digital charts.
What is the difference between a hydrographic chart and a topographic map?
A hydrographic chart (also known as a nautical chart or marine chart) is an essential tool used by mariners to guide them safely from port to port. These charts are specifically designed to meet the requirements of marine navigation by showing the depths of water, the nature of the sea bottom, elevations, configuration and characteristics of the coast, dangers, and aids to navigation.
A topographic map focuses on the horizontal and vertical positions and features of land. A topographic map uses contours or comparable symbols to show mountains, valleys, and plains.
Are there any nautical charts of my lake?
Canada has the longest coastline in the world and many inland navigable waters within its boundaries. Due to budget limitations CHS is restricted to charting only some of the largest of Canada's inland waterways, as well as our coastal waters. Priorities for future charts are based on the greatest need.
However, a provincial agency may have charted the lake you are interested in or they may know of some private company that has produced a chart.
What is chart datum?
Chart datum is the reference plane to which depths on a published chart, all tide height predictions, and most water level measurements are referred. Canadian charts use datums that are deliberately set low so that the amount of water actually present in a given place will rarely ever be less than what is stated on the chart.
Is there any way that I can print the charts out on my own printer for backup?
Your software may allow you to print images of your digital charts on your printer. However, please be aware that images printed this way may be incomplete, and that only official paper charts issued by the Canadian Hydrographic Service meet the chart carriage requirements of the Charts and Nautical Publications Regulations, 1995, under the Canada Shipping Act, 2001.
Are CHS product catalogues available?
What digital products does CHS offer?
CHS offers digital charts in two formats: Raster Navigational Charts (RNC) in the BSB format and Electronic Navigational Charts (ENC) in the international S-57 vector format. RNCs and ENCs are available individually or in a series of collections. You can search this web site for digital charts.
What is BSB?
BSB refers to the format of our raster charts (version 4.0). BSB Electronic Charts LLC was the company that developed the BSB format originally. BSB refers the initials of the founders. BSB Electronic Charts was purchased by Maptech in 1997. BSB v4 raster charts are not GIS compatible. Contact us at CHSInfo@dfo-mpo.gc.ca for information.
What is S-57?
S-57 describes the standard to be used for the exchange of digital hydrographic data between national hydrographic offices, and for the distribution of digital data and products to manufacturers, mariners, and other data users. In Canada, the national hydrographic office is the Canadian Hydrographic Service.
The most significant digital product being delivered in the S-57 format is the Electronic Navigational Chart (ENC). S-57 was adopted as an official International Hydrographic Organization (IHO) standard by the XIVth International Hydrographic Conference, Monaco in May 1992. The S-57 standard is also specified in the International Maritime Organization (IMO) Performance Standards for Electronic Chart Display and Information Systems (ECDIS).
To find out more about the S-57 standard, visit the International Hydrographic Organization web site.
What is the difference between raster (BSB) and vector (ENC) charts?
Many CHS charts are available in digital form as either a Raster Navigational Chart (RNC) in the BSB format or as an Electronic Navigational Chart (ENC) in the S-57 vector format. Both kinds of electronic charts, when used with navigation software, relieve the navigator of many of the traditional paper chart routines, and contribute to safer navigation.
RNCs are simply an electronic image of the paper charts and as such provide no more information than that available on the paper chart. Raster charts are digitized by scanning the paper chart. Beyond geo-referencing, there is no intelligence inherent in the raster image.
ENCs are vector charts or "smart charts" and are coded with additional information not available in paper or raster charts. ENCs carry a wealth of geo-spatial intelligence through a database of information associated with them. On an ENC the user can click on different features, such as a light or buoy, and retrieve additional information about the feature.
For more information, please visit http://charts.gc.ca/charts-cartes/digital-electronique/raster-enc-eng.asp
Does CHS sell individual digital charts?
Yes. CHS offers individual Electronic Navigational Charts (ENCs) in the S-57 vector format and individual Raster Navigational Charts (RNCs) in the BSB format for sale through its dealer network. If you would like to submit a licence request for this data electronically, please visit the CHS Chart Registry Service and Digital Data Portal. Please note that products intended for navigational use must be acquired through the dealer network.
Do the chart numbers used for CHS digital charts correspond to the CHS paper chart numbers?
The chart numbers listed on the back of CHS CDs correspond to the paper chart numbers for easy reference. However, the actual file numbers for the individual digital charts may or may not correspond with the paper chart number, depending on whether it is a Raster Navigational Chart (RNC) or an Electronic Navigational Chart (ENC).
The RNC number is essentially the same as the paper chart number – the first four digits match the paper chart number. Our ENCs do not match the paper chart numbers as they follow a separate numbering system for ENCs. If you have purchased a series of ENCs, the back of your ENC CD will indicate the equivalent paper chart numbers for your convenience. The CD also contains a text file which indicates the paper chart equivalents.
As a developer of electronic charts systems, what standards do I have to follow?
To ensure your electronic chart system meets the carriage requirements under the Canada Shipping Act, 2001 (Charts and Nautical Publications Regulations, 1995), it needs to be an Electronic Chart Display and Information System (ECDIS) that conforms to the standards set by the International Hydrographic Organization (IHO) and the International Maritime Organization (IMO).
The ECDIS is a powerful onboard navigational tool that uses official Electronic Navigational Charts (ENCs). For a system to be certified as "ECDIS compliant" it must be tested and approved by an independent authority.
Systems that are not ECDIS compliant are called Electronic Chart Systems (ECS). If an ECDIS does not use the official Electronic Navigational Charts from a country's national hydrographic office, it cannot be considered an ECDIS but is instead an ECS. This is an important distinction because the carriage requirements are different for Electronic Chart Systems as outlined under the Canada Shipping Act, 2001 (Charts and Nautical Publications Regulations, 1995).
What is the time period of a CHS license?
When you purchase a CHS Digital Charts CD, the End User License Agreement (EULA) is valid for two years from the date of purchase and entitles you to receive free updates and free new editions for two years from the date of purchase. Your product must be registered to receive updates. Registration is also required to allow you to decrypt and use your product.
Registration can take place online or by phoning 1 (866) 833-6676.
After your two-year license expires, if you wish to continue to receive chart updates as well as new charts and new editions, you must purchase a new license.
I have a CD that is several years old. How can I update my CD?
You will have to purchase a new CD from an authorized CHS dealer. Please see the list of digital chart dealers.
How many computers or devices can I use my digital charts on?
When you purchase Canadian Hydrographic Service Digital Charts®, you will have a licence for the installation, registration, decryption and use of the Raster Navigational Charts (RNC) by you on your own primary device or computer, plus installation of one backup on another device owned by you. In the case of Electronic Navigational Charts (ENC) you may use up to nine copies of each ENC on one ship, plus one backup.
What are the differences between CHS and Value-Added Reseller (VAR) products?
Value-Added Reseller (VAR) products are created under licence from CHS but are not "authorized" by CHS for use in navigation. These charts do not meet the chart carriage requirements and paper charts must also be carried unless the user has an Electronic Chart Display and Information System (ECDIS).
VAR products are considered as aids to navigation and official CHS charts must be carried and used. Official products issued by CHS are updated regularly whereas VAR products are not required to be updated with the latest CHS data. For more information, please refer to the Value-Added Reseller section of this web site and our list of authorized manufacturers.
Which companies are licenced through CHS as VARs?
To find an up to date list of CHS VARs, click on the following link: CHS Official Products and CHS Licensed Manufacturers.
Why doesn't CHS make its charts available for free like the United States does?
Canada and the U.S. have different domestic, fiscal and social policy. In the U.S., copyright laws prohibit the federal government from claiming copyright protection for the information it produces.
In Canada, by contrast, there is no barrier to the government exercising its copyright, or from earning revenues from such copyright. As such, there is an expectation that CHS will earn revenues and royalties from the sale of charts and publications in order to partially cover the cost of publishing, distributing and maintaining those products. Surveying and charting benefit our nation as a whole, therefore the costs of conducting hydrographic surveying and producing the charts are borne by the government and funded through parliamentary appropriations. Anyone accruing a specific benefit from the use of the derived products is expected to contribute by paying a portion of the incremental costs associated with publishing, supporting, maintaining and distributing the products.
Prices for Canadian paper charts, publications and electronic charts are among the lowest in the world. In fact, in March 2007 CHS reduced the prices of its electronic charts, both vector and raster, by more than 50% and has been constantly increasing the number of digital charts available. Effective in 2015, CHS offers free updates for two years from the date of purchase of our digital products.
How do I contact CHS if I have questions about my charts?
If you have any questions about your digital charts, please contact CHS by email at email@example.com and we would be pleased to assist you. CHS is pleased to offer support in both official languages.
What do I have to do to install a CHS Digital Chart CD?
For CHS digital charts you will need to visit the CHS Chart Registry Service and Digital Data Portal.
You will need to sign up for a GCKey account which will grant you access to the web application. Once you have created your account, you will be able to log in to the CHS Chart Registry Service and Digital Data Portal and register your CD. From this web application you will be able to download product updates for the duration of your licence agreement.
How many times can I install my CD?
When you obtain Canadian Hydrographic Service Digital Charts®, you will have a licence for the installation, registration, decryption, and use of the Raster Navigational Charts (RNC) by you on your own primary device or computer, plus installation of one backup on another device owned by you (two (2) registrations total). In the case of Electronic Navigational Charts (ENC) you may use up to nine (9) copies of each ENC on one ship, plus one backup.
If your computer is being repaired or replaced, you may be entitled to an additional product activation code. If you have already installed your product once on your primary device and once on your backup, you will have to contact CHS at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I get an error when I try loading my BSB v4 charts onto another system with my current activation code, why is this?
Activation codes are generated based on the product ID as well as the installation ID of the computer. Each computer has a unique installation ID and so you cannot use the activation code from one computer to register the products on a different computer. To install the charts onto a different system, the end-user will have to register their product again using the installation id from the new system. Note: There is a maximum two registrations based on the CHS End User License Agreement.
Can I register products that are from 2013 or earlier?
You may continue to use your product if it is already installed; however, products from 2013 or earlier are no longer supported for new registrations and/or updates. As stated in the CHS End User License Agreement, Canadian Hydrographic Service Digital Charts® are valid for registration and updates for two years after the initial date of registration. In order to maintain safe navigation, please contact a dealer near you to renew.
How and how often are updates distributed?
Once you have registered your product, you will have two years of free downloads that will be available via the CHS Chart Registry Service and Digital Data Portal. You simply need to log in and check the status of the product. Monthly updates will be made available through this web application when applicable.
If your products are two years old or older, they are no longer eligible for updates. In order to ensure safe navigation, please obtain a new product from a dealer near you.
Can I get an activation code for my older NDI digitalocean CDs?
The Canadian Hydrographic Service has discontinued support for any NDI DigitalOcean products. The reason for this is because the last NDI product produced was in 2007. Under the Charts and Nautical Publications Regulations of the Canada Shipping Act, mariners are to use the most recent edition of the chart in respect of the area to be navigated. For safety reasons, due to the constantly changing nature of the marine environment, outdated versions of charts should NOT be used for navigational purposes.
You can upgrade to the newest Canadian Hydrographic Service Digital Charts® for half the cost of the older NDI products. To obtain a new charts you can find a dealer near you from the following link: http://www.charts.gc.ca/locator-localisateur-eng.asp
Do the CHS digital chart CDs contain navigation or viewer software?
Canadian Hydrographic Service Digital Charts® CDs do not contain navigation or chart viewing software.
Where can I find viewing and navigation software?
Raster Viewing or Navigation Software
You may acquire raster viewing software from a number of popular suppliers, including, but not limited to:
- http://opencpn.org/ocpn/ (free viewer)
Vector Viewing or Navigation Software
You may acquire vector viewing or navigation software from a number of popular suppliers, including, but not limited to:
What are the system requirements for my desktop or laptop computer?
We recommend using Canadian Hydrographic Service Digital Charts® on computers equipped with the following:
- Windows (XP, Vista, 7, 8, or 10), a CD-ROM drive, minimum 256 colour display.
- Requires navigational software (not included).
- BSBv4 products are not GIS compatible.
Note: A CD-ROM drive is not necessary if you choose to download the product using the CHS Chart Registry Service and Digital Data Portal.
How do I load my charts on my navigational software?
Answer:Canadian Hydrographic Service Digital Charts® are compatible with many navigation software packages. Please consult with the manufacturer of your navigation software for additional details. Unfortunately, due to the large number of software packages on the market, CHS cannot provide software technical support for these packages.
Will CHS Digital Charts work in a handheld GPS?
Canadian Hydrographic Service Digital Charts® work on any device where the manufacturer provides a mechanism for importing Raster Navigation Charts in the BSB format or Electronic Navigational Charts in the S-57 format onto the device, as well as the related functionality to use the data. Please consult the manufacturer of your device for more information.
There are manufacturers of handheld units and other devices that participate in the CHS Value-Added Reseller Program and are licensed to use CHS data. Value-added products do not, however, meet the chart carriage requirements of the Charts and Nautical Publications Regulations, 1995 under the Canada Shipping Act, 2001.
How do I load the navigation software and CHS charts onto my handheld device?
Please consult with the manufacturer of your device for information on how to install their navigation software, as well as how to transfer Canadian Hydrographic Service Digital Charts® from your computer. Alternatively, you can purchase Canadian Hydrographic Service Digital Charts® from third parties in a format that is compatible with the iPad (for example), but the Canadian Hydrographic Service Digital Charts® product you purchased is only supported by CHS for use on Microsoft Windows computers. For information on Apple computers see "Will CHS charts work on the Mac operating system?"
Will CHS charts work on the Mac operating system?
How to use BSB charts in the GPSNavX application: http://gpsnavx.com/help/openingcharts.htm
How to use ENC charts in the MacENC application: http://macenc.com/help/openingencs.htm
The RNC BSB installer will provide the installation id that our Windows installer would normally provide. The user can get their product id from the CD and bring it to the CHS Chart Registry Service and Digital Data Portal to get the activation code to be entered into the Mac version of the BSBv4 Installer.
Do not use the Get Code button. You just have to make sure to copy the activation code from the web browser into the activation code field on the Mac installer form. Automatic registration will no longer work. Finally, copy the charts from the BSBChart folder in the zip file to your charts folder.
How do I apply the downloaded BSB updates on a Mac?
To enable raster navigational chart updates on a Mac, use "The Unarchiver.app" (which is a free download from the Mac App Store) to open the chart zip archive file.
- Use The Unarchiver.app to open the zip file.
- Copy these files from BSBCHART into the current chart folder, replacing any previous versions of files with the same name.
- Reload the charts into the navigation program and verify if the new files are being used by looking at the Notices to Mariners date information on the charts and comparing it to the information in the 20xx_.TXT file that is in the root folder of the zip file.
How does one obtain data that will work with GIS programs, e.g. ESRI ArcGIS?
Raster Navigational Charts in the BSB v4 (encrypted) format may not work in your GIS as they were designed to be used in navigation software. To obtain raster data that will work with GIS programs, such as ESRI ArcGIS, interested persons should submit a request for BSB v3 data. You can also request Electronic Navigational Chart (ENC) data in the S57 vector format which is intended for use in a GIS. Please visit the CHS Chart Registry Service and Digital Data Portal to submit your request.
The 5th character in the BSB v4 product ID codes looks like the letter "O" and also a Zero, which is it?
The 5th character of each product ID is actually the number "0" (zero)
Do you provide exclusive licenses for value-added products?
No, exclusive licenses are not granted for value-added products to Value-Added Resellers (VARs).
Is there screening criteria?
Yes, each application is screened prior to approval.
How do I acquire the source materials once a license has been granted?
CHS will provide the necessary materials once a license has been signed.
Do copyright and intellectual property stay with CHS?
Yes, copyright and intellectual property rights remain the property of CHS. Your Value-Added Reseller (VAR) license does not transfer copyright, and does not authorize the sale, sub-license, lease, and assignment of the data, or application for any patent in relation to the data.
Are VAR products recognized under the Canada Shipping Act?
VAR products do not meet the requirements of the Canada Shipping Act (Charts and Nautical Publication Regulations, 1995) because they are not official products issued by CHS. VAR products must carry a disclaimer to that effect.
Are VAR products recognized as official CHS products?
VAR products are not recognized as official CHS products for the purposes of navigation. Official CHS charts and publications must be used for navigation.
Can I use the CHS crest on my VAR product?
No, VAR products may not include the CHS crest, the original product name or any other annotation that may be interpreted as CHS endorsement.
Are VARs required to submit regular reports?
Yes, reports pertaining to the production and sales of the VAR product are required on a regular basis and reporting requirements are specified in the applicable license agreement.
Is there complete digital coverage of Canadian waters?
Although there is broad digital coverage of Canadian waters, in some areas CHS field data may only be available in paper format. A significant number of charts are available in raster form, but not all.
Some charts are not suitable for use with modern navigation systems such as the Global Positioning System, and for safety reasons CHS cannot make these charts available until they have been reconstructed. Please refer to our catalogues of digital charts.
Can I purchase data sets with more soundings than displayed on a chart (i.e. denser data at a larger scale)?
CHS conducts hydrographic surveys that collect all the reference field data that supports the information displayed on a chart. These data sets, commonly called field sheets or source data sets, are composed of numerous soundings at a larger scale. They are made available for purchase or their use may be licensed in a similar fashion as the CHS charts. Data may be available in digital or graphic form depending on its age and location.
What formats are field sheet or source data sets available in?
Please contact us at email@example.com for more information on availability, pricing and formats.
What licensing applies to field sheet or source data sets?
A potential Value-Added Reseller may apply for access to CHS field data by filling out the Application – CHS Digital VAR Agreement.
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