Geospatial Information & Services
Maritime Navigation Handbook

for the digitally perplexed,
the cartographically disoriented,
and the geospatially disadvantaged,
custom tailored for self-resuscitation
in the privacy of your own stateroom or berthing area

Version 2.0
20 April 1998

Zdenka S. Willis, CDR USN
James C. Goodson
Edwin O. Danford NIMALO


The purpose of this handbook is to help with the introduction of digital databases that will support the transition from maritime navigation relying primarily on paper products, to navigation in the digital environment. It is meant as an initial reference for information about Geospatial Information and Services (GI&S) as they relate to maritime navigation and support from the National Imagery and Mapping Agency (NIMA). This handbook is adapted from a previous handbook entitled "NAVAIR MC&G handbook" and can be downloaded at

This handbook will:

Help you understand GI&S relevance to your operations,

guide you in acquiring a necessary basic competence in GI&S,

explain the process for you to get NIMA GI&S data and services, and

point you to assistance on GI&S within NIMA, and elsewhere.

You don't have to read the whole thing front to back right away, if ever. We organized it for browsing. For more details on a particular topic see the

Where to find it:

box at the end of each section.

We recognize that you are busy, so we included an Executive Gouge that distills the essence of the handbook on two pages. If you read the Executive Gouge on the following pages and intuitively grasp the fundamental implications of each nugget of truth…well, you need read no more! Furthermore, you become a Geospatial Information Prophet and can grant audiences to those of dimmer wattage than yourself. Then you can reveal to NIMA the next crisis area that needs mapping which is, of course, where our next conflict will be. If anyone needs to know, they do.

If you now are beginning to wonder:

"Why is GI&S so important to your operations anyway?"

- Please read on!

Executive Gouge

The least understood part of navigation systems is GI&S!
A navigation system w/o GI&S is like a ship without power dead in the water.
GI&S is a vital part of the evolving national spatial data infrastructure.
GI&S is brought to you by The Oceanographer of the Navy.
NIMA provides standard GI&S to DoD.
Global geospatial information promises unprecedented interoperability.
GI&S will be DoD's worldwide spatial reference base for interoperability.
Using NIMA data is required but it is also a good idea!
Not using standard NIMA data will cost BIG $$.
DoD says go Commercial! But beware of what data you are buying!
Developmental and operational GI&S requirements are different.
Identifying GI&S requirements early ensures GI&S data in the Fleet.
Don't keep your Area requirements a secret!
Digital data structures constrain systems development.
Raster is faster but vector is smarter.
Raster What you see is what you get.
Vector- like a word file manipulable
Running Aground Can Ruin your Day Vector can help prevent this!
TM and ® ensures you do not get copycat data.
DNC does not refer to a National Political Committee.
High seas in a shoebox.
TOD is 20,000 Leagues Underneath the Sea.
Soon the computer will correct your charts!
Coastlines and Political Boundaries and Maritime Boundaries, OH MY!
ECDIS-N, a Revolution on the Bridge.
Paper to digital charts, culturally like going from sails to steam!
NIMA provides GI&S software for display & fusion, but little analytical software.
FUND is not a BUDGET Term!
NIMA provides NAVINFONET to the Navy.
The Keys to success: datums, reference systems, transformations, accuracies, and GPS.
Plot Where you are vs. Where you were!
A new way to Navigate.
Datums why are they so important?
WGS 84 is the standard DoD position reference system.
Practice safe navigation. JUST DO IT!
Same Island can have 2 addresses Just Ask CNN!
Abandon Ship GPS says I've submerged!
Charts are No Longer Accurate. NOT TRUE!
Digital Data is no better than the source data!
What happened to the Compass Rose?
Oh Starry Night.
Coordinate conversion can be tricky.
Bowditch Navigates the Web.
Go to Supply to Order My Charts?
It takes acquired skills to order NIMA products.
DMS is a source of GI&S Training.
Circumnavigate with DNC But not into all Ports yet.
ECDIS-N Policy Letter.

Table of Contents
Executive Gouge

Section I - Do You Need GI&S Support For Maritime Navigation?

Geospatial Information.
The Role Of CNO (N096)
NIMA Data is the standard GI&S Data
standard data compared with commercial data
Where to find it

Section II - GI&S Requirements

Two Kinds Of Requirements
Different database formats
Where to find it

Section III The Navigation Data Base and Electronic Charting

A Revolution is about to take place on the Bridge
Change Means New Terminology
NIMA Software
Where to find it

Section IV - Navigation in this New Way

What Is GPS?
Differential GPS
A New Way To Navigate
Datum Transformation
The Shape Of Our Earth
Understanding chart accuracy counts
Digital Data
Magnetic Information
Celestial Navigation
Where to find it

Section V - How To Get NIMA Online and Products

NIMA WebPage
Basic Information
Chart Portfolios
nima combat elements
Where to find it

Section VI - How To Get MC&G Training

Defense Mapping School
Mission of dms
Organization of DMS
Resident Training
Mobile Training Teams
Where to find it


Appendix A: DNC's Availability chart
Appendix B: ECDIS-N Policy Letter
Appendix C: Those Inevitable Acronyms

Section I

Do You Need GI&S Support For Maritime Navigation?

Today, the United States Navy relies on paper charts for the full range of maritime navigation requirements. For the future, however, the Global Positioning System (GPS), in conjunction with chart data in a digital format, will provide the technology necessary for the Navy's move to electronic charting as a primary means of navigation. In this initiative, understanding issues such as: the nature of the new digital databases, new ways of navigation, geodetic datum differences, and chart accuracy are key to a successful transition.

Continuous positional information & Electronic Charts



The common backdrop supporting Department of Defense (DoD) navigation and/or weapon systems and their development is spatially referenced data. The newest navigation and weapon systems require digital geospatial information in increasing amounts, more quickly, and on varying media, for successful mission operations. So what do you know about this thing called geospatial information?

1. Geospatial Information. Geospatial information is 2- or 3-dimensional data referenced to the earth and its environment. Mapmakers (cartographers) give the information its meaning through formal representations that describe distances, direction, size, and relative position. Spatial objects, which vary in location or time, are either picture elements (pixels), points, lines, or areas (sometimes called polygons). Cartographers measure positions, encode features with coordinates, and further define these objects by assigning other attributes. They then store this data in raster or vector data model representations for the warfighter's later use. This information will print or display as text, imagery, or accurate models of the real world. For maximum value to the warfighter, geospatial information (referenced in space) should be available wherever the Navy must operate, and it must be highly accurate, continuously updated, and delivered electronically. Further, it needs to be viewed and manipulated with user friendly software, on low-end personal computers.

These ideas comprise a new way of doing business and are identified as Geospatial Information and Services (GI&S). GI&S has replaced the term Mapping Charting and Geodesy (MC&G). Remembering the acronym is not important. Remembering that you will be using and exchanging GI&S data anytime, anywhere IS!

2. NIMA. NIMA was established on 1 Oct 1996, and its mission is to provide timely, relevant, and accurate imagery, imagery intelligence, and geospatial information in support of the national security objectives of the United States. NIMA is comprised of the following former agencies: Defense Mapping Agency (DMA), National Photographic Intelligence Center (NPIC), Central Imagery Office (CIO), all imagery support resources of the Defense Intelligence Agency, and resources of the Defense Airborne Reconnaissance Program and the National Reconnaissance Program associated with imagery exploitation and dissemination.

3. The Role Of CNO (N096). The Oceanographer of the Navy, CNO (N096) is responsible for all Navy GI&S matters and validates and submits Navy's GI&S requirements to NIMA. Additionally, N096 operates a fleet of 8 survey ships that collect hydrographic and bathymetric data under the direction of Commander, Naval Meteorology and Oceanography Command (CNMOC). This represents a major contribution to GI&S source information of naval interest, along with data obtained from other sources, such as foreign nations. The new digital databases constructed from this information will be fundamental to our new approach to navigation, and N096 has been working closely with NIMA to understand these databases and their use on the bridge.

4. Interoperability. Joint Pub 1-02 says: "Interoperability is the ability of systems, units or forces to provide services to, and to accept services from, other systems, units or forces, and to use the exchanged services to operate effectively together." Talk about a classic understatement with leading implications!

NIMA's goal for systems development is straightforward joint GI&S interoperability in the battle space!

In order to ensure Interoperability we have adopted standard formats for various types of data you will use. Below is the identification of those formats. Later in the handbook we will define these format types and what they mean to your operations. For now, the point we want to convey is that there are standard formats, and by ensuring all Navy systems DIRECTLY use the standard data, you will be able to talk (in a charting sense) to the other units in company.

  • Raster = Raster Product Format (RPF)
  • Vector = Vector Product Format (VPF)
  • Elevation = Digital Terrain Elevation Data (DTED)
  • Bathymetric = Digital Bathymetric Data Base (DBDB)
  • Aeronautical Info = Digital Aeronautical Flight
                 Information File (DAFIF)

By the way, RPF and VPF are not only DoD formats but they are also the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) standard formats.

5. NIMA Data is the standard GI&S Data. DoD 5000 acquisition instructions and DoD Directive 5105.60 mandate that all new systems will use standard NIMA products. We also believe it is a good idea based on: COST, LIABILITY, and INTEROPERABILITY. From a cost perspective, standard data is free to you. From a liability perspective, you depend today on the NIMA emblem as the "seal of good housekeeping" on a paper chart; NIMA will provide that same "seal of good housekeeping" on the digital data. A single data format allows interoperability not only across all of DoD, but among all other NIMA products. This allows for a seamless transition from submerged to surface and overland operations and reduces the potential for "friendly fire" incidents. Finally since NIMA is a combat agency, during crisis, NIMA can surge under JCS direction to provide the GI&S products to DoD.

6. STANDARD DATA COMPARED WITH COMMERCIAL DATA. The business of Geographic Information System (GIS) data has exploded in recent years. From ship navigation to agricultural applications such as the optimum placement of vines in a vineyard, GIS data can be used to support the task. In the commercial shipping and recreational boating communities in particular, the ability to have one's position moving along in near real time on the back drop of the chart has exploded the desire for this capability. This led to the proliferation of commercial chart data in a number of formats. While it has taken a long time for government standard data to be developed, significant DNC coverage is now becoming available and we believe you will find it worth the wait. Additionally, DoD's recent push to commercial standards, software, and hardware has led to much discussion on whether using commercial charting data is a viable option. We fully endorse DoD's move to COTS; but when it comes to GI&S data we have the following concerns:



COSTs O&M,N dollars

Data support for emerging crisis CAN BE VERY $$$$

Every contractor's data format is different

Charts are produced by digitizing National (gov) Chart Products, e.g.; NIMA, NOAA

Notice to Mariner (NtM) information is copied from chart producers, then reissued

Beware of out of date Charts

Liability; vendors will NOT assume and cite "Not Fit for Navigation"

No infrastructure to collect new data, and perform new compilation; rely on Hydrographic Offices' (HO) to make new charts

Could have multiple datums

May not have access to worldwide data; may not have worldwide portfolio

NIMA DATA in Contrast

Costs DOD to produce but DATA IS FREE to the Fleet NO OPTAR needed

JCS Directs crisis support - Data is still FREE to DoD

Data Interoperable across DoD and NIMA products

NtM issued based on worldwide exchange network for maritime safety info

Products are based on (Navy, NOAA and foreign government) data from surveys performed to International standards

NIMA has access to National assets

Liability; NIMA will certify data "safe for Navigation"

Single Datum - ALL digital data is WGS 84

Seamless database from submerged to surface; wet to hinterland

NIMA digitizes the data from the existing paper source, updates with NtM, and incorporates new survey and imagery data when available

Where to find it:

For information on NIMA see DoD Directive 5105.60, 11 Oct 1996 and read NIMA Functional Manager's Guidance for the USIGS Community, FY 1999-2003, downloaded from, or call NIMA (CF) (703) 808-0848. For information on Navy GI&S talk to CDR Willis, N961E1, at (202) 762-0265 [DSN 762], e-mail or Mr. Goodson, N961E3, xtn 1005, e-mail For Survey Ships call CNMOC (N3) CDR D. Smith, (228) 688-4173 [DSN 485], e-mail, or Mr. K. Cooper ext 4201, e-mail For information on NIMA standard products, download DoDI 5000.2R from www.acq.osd.mill and SECNAV Instr 5000.2B from Also see DoDI 4120.3-M. For standard products order NIMA Standard Hardcopy Imagery and Mapping Products NSN 7643014402525 and NIMI 805-1A obtained by calling the NIMA Customer Support Line 1-800-826-0342, (301) 227-2495 [DSN 287]. NATO formats call NIMA(SES), Division (703) 262-4412

Section II

GI&S Requirements

1. TWO KINDS OF REQUIREMENTS. Two kinds of requirements exist in GI&S: developmental (sometimes called functional) requirements and operational requirements. They are different. Developmental requirements come from the service development commands such as NAVSEA and SPAWAR. The GI&S products that usually result are NIMA test data sets, product prototypes, and hardware/software related to development. On the other hand, operational (or "area") requirements come from the Services, Unified Commands, and the JCS. Area requirements are defined in terms of the geographical regions where GI&S products are needed to perform the mission (i.e. wherever you will STEAM). These go through a priority process that ensures NIMA produces the most important areas first. System developers must take the initiative to talk with the warfighters and their GI&S support staffs early and often in the development process. If not, a system can deploy for which NO operational GI&S coverage exists. Amazingly, this has already happened, with embarrassing and costly consequences! There is no substitute for clear teamwork in GI&S.

CNO & SYSCOMs identify needs for new types of products. The FLEET identify where we need them.

Submit Area Requirements via MSG to CINC & FLT CINC; Info CNO Washington DC //N096//

2. Different database formats. Navy uses all types of NIMA data. For maritime navigation, a deliberate process was used to define a database format for safe surface and submerged navigation. A vector format was chosen over a raster format. Why? Two reasons: (a) at the time of the decision, and still today, vector format is the only format recognized by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) for use by civil shipping to replace the paper chart, and (b) the vector format offers technical advantages over the raster format. There is a difference between the flavor of vector chosen by DoD to ensure interoperability and that authorized by IMO for marine navigation safety. What this means to the Navy is discussed in Section III.

Before we go into the specific advantages of one data format over another, you need to understand the basic definitions.

Raster. The raster structure has a simple format of rows and columns of pixels. The pixel (short for "picture element") is the smallest non-divisible part of a digital image and is characterized completely by gray-scale brightness and/or color. The row and column of each pixel location determines the geospatial position. Excessive magnification of a displayed raster image degrades the visual fidelity and does not improve the content accuracy

Raster is like a facsimile what you see is what you get!

Vector. The vector representation, in contrast to raster's matrix of single-valued pixels, describes features objectively and subjectively in great detail. Vector data depicts features as points, lines, areas (sometimes called polygons), and text which are separately manipulable. The vector structure is more flexible because at any magnification it preserves feature content and retains maximum digitized positional accuracy. Vector format is not a simple data structure like raster; it requires sophisticated data manipulation software.

Vector is like a word file one you can manipulate!

In general terms the figure below illustrates the difference between raster and vector formats.

VECTOR offers powerful advantages!

Tonight's Top 10 list 'Vector over Raster.'



Is Cheaper to Produce

Is Smarter

Looks like a chart

Can look like a chart also

Cannot rotate for heading up display

Will do flips if you want

Zoom constrained by pixel size

Zoom is unconstrained (data density matters)

Symbols & text unchangeable

Symbols & text tailorable

Color palettes hard to adjust

Color palettes corresponds to ambient light

No data query capability

Yes, there is query capability

Can not be decluttered

Declutters naturally

Clogs Comm Pipes

Fits through smaller Comm Pipes

No automatic grounding avoidance

Supports grounding avoidance

When vector products were first produced, the viewing software was not robust enough to make full use of the underlying database, and many of the renditions looked more like cartoons than charts. Today's software allows you to turn on some or all of the features from the vector database, allowing the display to mimic a paper chart. Since the symbols in raster displays are inseparably bound to the entire image, they cannot easily be manipulated separately; rotating raster charts yields inverted symbols and text. This does not occur with vector data, because the symbols and text are stored independently without respect to orientation. Thus, these features can be changed and displayed in any number of orientations. As you zoom raster displays, the data pixels only become bigger or smaller to the point of being unreadable. Vector data remains readable while moving through successive scales. The ability to declutter becomes increasingly important with the overlay of other layers such as radar and sonar contacts on the chart data. Raster data includes all pixels of the image including the background color. Vector data just includes the lines, points, and area boundaries, thus taking up a lot less data storage space. This means faster screen refresh, and quicker electronic transmission.


A raster product is a single image with no associated database - what you see is what you get. On the other hand, the vector representation is a relational database, from which you can interrogate the data. This is a very significant advantage of the vector data over the raster data when it comes to grounding avoidance. Alone, the raster data cannot support automatic grounding avoidance. With the vector data, the features (i.e., soundings and hazards) are stored in a relational database. The navigation system is set up based on user-defined ship's parameters (i.e. ship draft) and can alert you to areas and features that are a danger to your ship. The software application literally drills down into the database and displays hazardous features or soundings at the best resolution of the data, no matter what scale is on the display.

Where to find it:

For more information contact NIMA (COTN) (703) 264-3002 [DSN 570]. Information on Vector see MIL-STD-2407(DMA) of 28 Jun 96 and Raster MIL-STD-2411 of 6 Oct 94. These can be downloaded from or printed copies can be received from the Defense Automated Printing Service, Standardization Document Order Desk, Building 4D, 700 Robbins Ave, Philadelphia, PA 19111-5094 or call (215) 697-2667/2171. NIMA POC is Mr. D Gleason, e-mail For information on submission of area requirements see CJCSI 3901.01 or contact your MC&G officer at either the Unified or FLT CINC. For a complete list call NIMA(COTN). Selected FLT CINC POCs; CLF N37, CAPT Roman, (757) 322-5791 [DSN 836]; CPF S3WX2 Mr. Morris, (808) 474-6901; CNE N39, CDR Barker, 011441715144085 [DSN 314-235-4085]; NAVCENT NIMALO L O'Brien 0119737224050 [DSN 318-439-4050] or CDR Vic Addison ext. 4585.

Section III

The Navigation Data Base and Electronic Charting

In dealing with this new age of electronic charting, we need to distinguish between the underlying databases of geospatial information and the software and systems that will be used to access and manipulate them.

1. DATABASES. The following table represents the databases in production to replace the paper products you use today.

Digital Product

Paper Equivalent


Digital Nautical Chart (DNCtm)

General, Coastal, Approach, & Harbor


Tactical Ocean Data (TOD) 0

OPAREAs, Range markings

Distribution Limited

Tactical Ocean Data (TOD) 1

Bottom Contour (BC)


Tactical Ocean Data (TOD) 2

Bathymetric Navigation Planning Chart (BNPC)


Tactical Ocean Data (TOD) 3


As required

Littoral Warfare Data (LWD)

Combat Chart


Vector Database Update (VDU)

Notice to Mariners

Depends on product

Trademark or Registration of NIMA data does not make this commercial data! Why a trademark or registration? US law prohibits the domestic copyrighting of data produced with government money, but NIMA wants to ensure a commercial vendor does not copy the name. Trademark or Registration ensures you get official NIMA data.

Digital Nautical Chart (DNC™). DNC™ (referred to hereafter as DNC), in Vector Product Format (VPF), is a general purpose global relational database designed to support marine navigation and GIS applications, and is divided into 4 scales: General, Coastal, Approach, and Harbor. NIMA is in the process of digitizing over 5000 paper charts currently used by the Navy and Coast Guard and distributing them as DNC on CD-ROM. When completed there will be 29 CD-ROMs covering the world. NIMA anticipates worldwide coverage in the year 2000. Listings of available CD-ROMs or new edition CD-ROMs can be found in Weekly Notice to Mariners and NIMA's homepage. For userid and password call NIMA COTN. Appendix A is a graphic of of DNC coverage at the time of this writing. As we move to the digital world we will need to re-orient our thinking from individual chart numbers to a "data library" concept. However, to ease the transition, the charts used as sources to build DNC are indicated on the cover of the CD-ROM and within the header of the database. With paper charts, there is data overlap, but when the data is digitized for DNC, the best resolution is used and cataloged in the library. This means that in some cases only parts of the individual paper chart is used.

So what's DNC anyway? DNC is composed of point, line, area, and text features. What's considered a feature? A feature is an object on a chart that is geo-referenced. Examples: point feature - Buoy, Fixed Light or Tower; line feature - Shoreline, Depth Contour or International Boundary; area feature - Anchorage, Explosives Dumping Ground, or Inshore Traffic Zone.

All of the features are divided into "coverages." Think of coverage as a Directory or "Home File". Below is a breakdown of the DNC coverages.


Land features of human origin - Roads, Buildings, Industrial areas

Earth Cover

Topographic and hydrographic features - Shoreline, Islands, and International boundaries


Ocean currents, Tides, and Magnetic anomalies


Depth curves, Soundings, Bottom characteristics and a new feature unique to electronic navigation Depth areas

Inland Waterways

Inland hydrographic features - rivers, lakes, and canals

Land Cover

Shore features significant to navigation Trees, Glaciers, Swamps, Marshes


Significant to navigation Pilot boarding locations, Restricted maritime areas, and Traffic separation schemes

Navigation Aids

You guessed it! Marine navigation aids, Buoys, Lights, and Beacons to name a few


This is a no brainer! Rocks, Wrecks, Bridges and just about every feature that is considered a hazard to navigation safety


Unique features common in most ports Breakwaters, Piers, Wharves, Jetties, and Berths


Topographic spot elevations and contours

Data Quality

Everything you wanted to know about the paper source chart or survey used in the compilation of the DNC. Provides historical data, edition, Datum information, and related notes



Small scale depiction of the Chart coverage for use in selecting a geographic reference position for viewing

Tactical Ocean Data (TOD). TOD, in VPF, is a companion product to DNC which will support safe submerged navigation and includes Operating Areas (OPAREAS). TOD will also contain BC, BNPC and other classified products to support submarine operations. We anticipate completing the prototyping effort and beginning production in FY98. Remember interoperability? Since the features of DNC are not repeated in TOD a common format is required so that the data is seamless as a submarine submerges and moves from using DNC data to using TOD data.

Littoral Warfare Data (LWD). LWD continues prototype development in FY98. Although it has yet to be fully defined, we expect combat chart data will fall under this product. LWD, in VPF, will support amphibious assault, mine warfare, and Special Forces operations.

Vector Product Format Database Update (VDU). A key parameter in moving to electronic charting is the ability to update DNC electronically. In December 1996 the Navy approved electronic file replacement, in VPF, as the process for updating. Ultimately, NIMA will send these updates to the Navy electronically over SIPRNET/NIPRNET and standard communications circuits. In the interim, DNC continues to be maintained by re-issue of CD-ROMs. Onboard, the overlay and text annotation function can be used to indicate the latest Notice to Mariners. CNO(N096) and NIMA are working with Navy's system developers and communications experts to begin testing the automatic update concept in 1998.

World Vector Shoreline Plus (WVSPlus®). A data set not included in the list of navigation data, yet important to naval operations. This product, in the VPF (can you see a theme developing?), will contain the shoreline information, country boundaries, some general bathymetric coverage, and international maritime limits information. Slated to be part of the data sets used by Command and Control systems, WVSPlus® can be viewed using MUSE/VPFVIEW software. The final pre-production data was released in February 1997. The format is correct, but the data contained some maritime claims information that was outdated. Thus WVSPlus® was not released widely. The first production of WVSPlus® will be available in summer 1998.

Symbology. You will notice that vector data has no symbols of its own. A symbology set must be developed. NIMA has developed a symbol set called Geospatial Symbology (GeoSym™). For nautical charts these symbols conform to the international standards set by the IHO. Although the symbol set is physically located on a different CD-ROM than the dataset, many of the software packages load the symbol set onto the hard drive for your use. This is the case with FUND.

2. A Revolution is about to take Place on the Bridge AND IT IS CALLED Electronic Chart Display and Information System Navy (ECDIS-N).

The Navy is moving toward electronic systems on the bridge. Civil shipping is also headed in that direction. The Navy will leverage off the work done in the international community as we move down a similar path. Appendix B is the policy letter adopted by CNO on 17 Mar 1998.

Many say that ECDIS-N is the biggest advance in safety on the bridge since the introduction of RADAR!

3. Change Means New Terminology.

Safety of Life At Sea (SOLAS). A United Nations Convention in 1974 that has been voluntarily adopted around the world. This convention requires that a civil ship must carry up-to-date charts to be in compliance. Today this is satisfied with paper charts but IMO in November 1995 modified this to allow ECDIS equivalency (must be official government data [DOD=NIMA] and have updating). The Navy traditionally conforms to these same standards although not required to do so by law.

Electronic Chart Display and Information System (ECDIS). This is the new set of rules and performance standards that allow a civil ship to meet the 1974 SOLAS convention requirements with digital data and electronic systems. These rules represent the culmination of 10 years of work by several international organizations; as follows:

International Hydrographic Organization (IHO)

Chart content and functionality, and a data format(s)

International Maritime Organization (IMO)

Minimum performance standards

International Electrotechnical Committee (IEC)

Equipment test standards

NIMA has represented the Navy's interest at these organizations. The US Coast Guard and NOAA also represented the civil United States interests.

Navy is NOT BOUND by the UN SOLAS Convention, but we have used this work as our foundation for


Using ECDIS as a foundation for the Navy's transition to electronic charts is a good idea, because the inventory of Navy vessels is just a drop in the bucket when compared to over 80,000 civil ships expected to use ECDIS. In conjunction with DoD's move to emphasize COTS software & hardware, it makes good business sense to use what's being developed for civil shipping. Secondly, these commercial standards have been in development for 10 years by all the maritime nations and have undergone rigorous testing around the world. These standards provide a good path for the Navy to safely transition from relying primarily on paper charts to utilizing digital charts and electronic systems.

SMART SHIP showed that these commercial standards can work for the Navy with small modifications

ECDIS-N. This is the term that we have established which defines the Navy's performance standard for ECDIS. The Navy will use ECDIS-N to transition to reliance on digital data to support maritime navigation. The only deviations from the commercial standards are limited to those items that are absolutely required by the military to perform its mission. Principally, these additions:

  1. Mandate the use of NIMA data, which differs slightly from the international vector data transfer format referenced in the IMO resolution, - Remember Interoperability
  1. Support visual bearing and dead reckoning (neither is fully supported in civil shipping).
  2. There have been some questions whether the Navy's choice to use VPF format over the International format referred to as S57 (formerly DX90) will bar a Navy ship from entering a foreign port. This is UNEQUIVOCABLY NOT TRUE. ECDIS-N has the data content, functionality and symbology of other ECDIS: the data format differences are "transparent" to the navigator.

Having said this, NIMA is working with Navy to gain national and international recognition of DNC as applicable under the SOLAS Convention. NIMA, wanting to ensure that a tactical advantage would not be lost, requested the Navy's permission to release DNC for public sales. The Navy gave NIMA this permission in March 1998. NIMA has also submitted a letter to the Commandant of the United States Coast Guard seeking their approval of using DNC, in lieu of the paper charts, in US waters. NIMA has also submitted the necessary documentation to the International Hydrographic Organization for a change to the documentation so that VFP format will be recognized as an acceptable format to meet the civil ECDIS specifications.

4. NIMA Software. NIMA produces general purpose utility software to standardize the access to GI&S digital data.

Full Utility Navigation Demonstration Software (FUND). A Windows 95/NT based software suite intended for demonstrating the power that DNC brings to navigation. It is demonstration GOTS software and has not been certified as "SAFE FOR NAVIGATION." FUND supports an interface to PLGR and some commercial GPS receivers using a NMEA 0183 interface. FUND has been developed to match as closely as possible the ECDIS performance specification. NIMA will continue to maintain FUND with the intent of familiarization, but it is not an ECDIS and up-to-date paper chart navigation is required when using FUND.

MUSE 2.0. Mapping, Charting, and Geodesy Utility Software Environment (MUSE) is NIMA's software to exploit NIMA raster and vector digital products across different hardware platforms and operating systems. MUSE comes on CD-ROM or may be downloaded from the web. MUSE includes source code, and will run on Macintosh, MS-DOS, Windows, and Sun UNIX platforms. Basic exploitation includes the capability to import, annotate, and simultaneously display different vector and raster products (such as CADRG, DTED, DNC, DAFIF, and WVSPlus®) fused together over the same area.

VPFVIEW. VPFVIEW is a module within MUSE to view NIMA's VPF. You can select data from one or more databases for display by region, feature, or group of related data types. You don't have to load or convert the data: simply read it directly from the media (CD-ROM, hard drive, or diskette). It is not a Geographic Information System (GIS), so it has no analytical capability other than viewing and zooming data features. In the use of DNC, this module differs from FUND from the perspective that FUND is optimized for navigational functions and defines default displays.

5. NAVIGATION INFORMATION NETWORK (NAVINFONET). NAVINFONET provides remote access to NIMA's database of navigation safety information. Chart and publication corrections are available on a 24 hr/day bulletin board service, accessed through voice-grade telephone service (landline, cellular or INMARSAT) and commercially available communications software and hardware. There is no charge for the service, but the user must bear any cost of connect time for cellular, satellite, or long-distance if not using DSN. A variety of services are available through NAVINFONET, including corrections for NOS and NIMA charts; Hydrographic Catalog, NIMA List of Lights and USCG Light List; Radio Navigational Aids (PUB. 117); Broadcast Warnings (NAVAREA IV, NAVAREA XII, HYDROPACS, HYDROLANTS, and Special Warnings); Mobile Offshore Drilling Units; and Anti-Shipping Activity Messages (piracy and terrorists attacks on shipping). The system also includes a mailbox for communicating with NIMA's Marine Navigation Department. The information on NAVINFONET is at least 2 weeks ahead of the printed Notice to Mariners. You can also reach the Marine Navigation Department through NIMA's homepage for on-line services and the notice to mariners database.

CURRENT LIMITATIONS: NAVINFONET is not a replacement for the paper Notice to Mariners. There is no graphics capability (no chartlets and Depth Tabulations for instance), and Sailing Directions corrections are not currently available. These limitations are being addressed in a massive upgrade of NIMA's production system currently in development, called the Navigation Safety System (NSS). Other features of the NSS include DNC corrections, on-line pubs and INTERNET access (see Section V).

To Sign Up for NAVINFONET:

NIMA Marine Navigation Dept

ATTN: GIMM, MailStop D-44

4600 Sangamore Rd

Bethesda, MD 20816-5003

Where to find it:

For information on specific products see the following specifications: DNC MIL-PRF-89023, May 1996, WVSPLUS MIL PRF-89012A, LWD MIL-PRF 89046 draft dated 1995, TOD MIL-PRF-89049/10 (still in draft), and VPFS MIL-STND-2412 and MIL-V-89045 which can be downloaded from, or ordered from the Defense Automated Printing Service. Also order MIL-HDBK-850 Glossary of GI&S Terms from TeleSpecs. Get the NIMA List of Products and Services from NIMA(COTN) at (703) 275-3002 [DSN 570]. Ask for NIMI 805-1A. Order Digitizing The Future, 4th Edition from NIMA with stock number NSN DDIPDIGITALPAC. For copies of IMO Resolution A.19 of Nov 95 (includes ECDIS performance standard) and IEC 61174 call (CNO(N096) NIMALO (202) 762-0252 [DSN 762]; e-mail For online information on ECDIS check out the IMO web site at or the IHO at The latest version of MUSE can be downloaded from the web at or ordered by the following stock number MUSXXSOFTWARE. NIMA POC is Jim Bellenger and Richard Simpson (314) 263-4728 [DSN 693] or the general NIMA help desk 1-800-826-0342. For more on NAVINFORNET email or telephone (301) 227-3296 [DSN 287]. Another site of interest on Maritime Safety is the US Coast Guard site at For information on FUND contact CDR O'Loughlin, NIMA(COTN) (703) 264-3002 [DSN 570], e-mail

Section IV

Navigation in this New Way

Technology is great, but as you can appreciate, there are some basic skills required to safely transition to ECDIS-N, beginning with an understanding of the Global Positioning System (GPS).

1. What is GPS? This is not a tutorial about GPS. In fact one of the best tutorials we have read is a Whitney, Bradley, and Brown, Inc. publication titled "A GPS Primer for Strike Warfare Operations." Don't be fooled by the title, understanding GPS is crucial to every warfare area. NIMA has produced a GPS Tutorial diskette set which can be ordered under NSN 7644-01-416-4051.

The operating concept of GPS is simply stated; if you know the exact location of 4 points and you know how far you are from each of these positions, then you can determine your location relative to these points in latitude, longitude, and height. GPS supplies three-dimensional position, velocity, and time information in all weather. The GPS reference frame is World Geodetic System (WGS) 84.

GPS tells you where you are, but it's not a navigation system. GPS will change the way you NAVIGATE!

GPS provides two different levels of accuracy. With Precise Positioning Service, full accuracy is 10 meters Circular Error Probable (CEP) (50%) or 16 meters Spherical Error Probable (SEP) (50%). (Note that 16 meters at 50% equates to a PLGR display accuracy no better than .5 arc seconds.) Access to this encrypted signal is restricted to DoD.

With Standard Positioning Service, the accuracy is 40 meters CEP (50%). This signal is primarily for the civil community, but DoD can downgrade it in a crisis. (Note that 40 meters at 50% equates to a PLGR display accuracy no better than one arc second.)

GPS receivers give warfighters the option to output elevations and coordinates on many grids and datums, including WGS 84. Just because they are "coordinates from GPS," however, do not assume they necessarily meet the HIGHEST GPS accuracy. Understanding the health of the GPS satellite constellation, and whether you are receiving the encrypted signal affects the accuracy of the positional readout.

2. Differential GPS (dgps). DGPS is the concept of comparing the instantaneous readout of a GPS set to known benchmark data (sometimes called "ground truth"). From this a continuous correction or differential can be calculated. Local area DGPS networks are designed to operate over a limited area (perhaps a 10-mile radius). Wide area DGPS networks are intended to operate over as much as a 1000-mile radius. Using DGPS the error can be decreased to the 1-2 meter range.

Accuracy depends on the original source of the coordinates, not the display device!

3. A NEW WAY TO NAVIGATE. I have been navigating for years, so why now do I need to know about DATUMS? By using GPS and positioning yourself continuously in terms of specific latitudes and longitudes, you have changed the way you navigate in a subtle way. Today, navigating in and out of port is performed relative to fixed landmarks. By shooting bearings and angles, positions are calculated using the intersection of the bearing lines taken simultaneously to multiple fixed objects, as depicted in the figure below. Thus, one seldom cares where the ship is in an absolute sense - i.e. exact numerical latitudes and longitudes in a global sense are not an issue.

Even though you could estimate the latitude and longitude from your apparent position on the paper chart, the result may differ from the numbers found independently from GPS. Successful navigation with GPS requires that navigation and bathymetric features and landmarks on the chart be registered in the same geospatial reference frame as that used by the GPS and this raises the issue of datums. Therefore if you navigate using GPS and your paper chart is on a different datum, you have a potential disaster on your hands.

4. DATUM. OKAY, so what is a datum and how does it relate to what I do? A datum is a math model of the Earth's shape used as a basic reference to calculate position coordinates, heights, and distances, and also to make maps. The datum is made up of several components, but the most important is that a datum defines the point of origin from which all positions are referenced. For example the WGS 84 point of origin is the center of mass of the earth. The North American Datum (NAD) 27 datum is a world referenced to Meade's ranch in Kansas, roughly the center of the Continental United States. For the Tokyo Datum it is the world centered on Tokyo.

The only way you can know the datum of a paper chart is by a careful reading of the legend!

The only way you can know the datum of digital data is by a careful reading of the header information!

The DoD standard datum - and the one to which GPS defaults - is WGS 84, but there are hundreds of other datums worldwide. The measured difference between positions reported with respect to WGS 84 and these other datums can be up to 1/2 mile with reference to a continental port and a matter of miles with respect to isolated islands. Thus, traversing a channel using the wrong chart datum can spell disaster. Although NIMA produces all digital data in WGS 84, there are thousands of paper charts and even some electronic data in use today based on different datums. As one begins to rely on electronic systems for auto-piloting, understanding the provenance of the input data will be critical to safe navigation. The figure below shows the difference that a datum can make while navigating in a channel.

Different datums will give different coordinates for the same location!

So you may think this is just theoretical, or does not apply to me. Wrong! Some recent examples:

In Lebanon, naval gunfire from the Battleship used WGS 72 coordinates, while Marines ashore used European Datum coordinates! Result, Naval gunfire was directed too close to friendly forces, and the target was missed.

During the Haitian crisis, a Navy ship found itself on a shoal (according to CNN 'anchored just offshore'). The visibility was low and positions were obtained using a GPS defaulted to WGS 84. However, the paper chart used for plotting position was based on the NAD 27 Datum with a difference in position when compared to WGS 84 of 100-200 meters. The plot of the ship's course looked good on the chart, but in reality the true track was directly over a charted shoal. Although the paper chart and GPS showed 2 different addresses for the shoal, the shoal, not caring about the datum, did not move!

A Navy ship in the Red Sea noticed that the GPS receiver and the paper chart differed by several hundred meters. The ship's crew thought that the GPS receiver was malfunctioning. Even though the METOC officer pointed out that the difference could be associated with a datum difference, the crew still believed that the GPS receiver was bad. So they CASREPed the GPS receiver, and requested a technician be flown out to the ship. Can you tell where this story is going?! You bet, the technician got onboard and observed that, "the chart was in a local datum and the GPS display defaulted to WGS 84." After the GPS receiver was defaulted to the local chart the position matched. OOPS!!!

Potential disaster lurks in the use of mixed datums!

5. Datum Transformation. NIMA software such as MADTRAN and MUSE, and most GPS receivers, can perform datum transformation. The key to safe and successful navigation is to ensure that your GPS receiver and the paper chart or digital display you are using to plot your position are using the same datum.

6. THE SHAPE OF OUR EARTH. My GPS receiver elevation display indicates my ship has just submerged! Should I sound the abandon ship alarm? Warfighters use height information in several varieties: barometric altitude (referenced to atmospheric pressure); MSL elevation, AGL elevation, radar altitude, contour values and spot elevations (all related to the mapped surface); geoid height (related to the bumpy, undulating physical model of the world's gravity); and the ellipsoid height (based on the smooth geometric model of earth).

Consider the relationship between good old Mean Sea Level (MSL) and the new kid on the block, GPS. Traditionally, MSL has been the zero height for our vertical datum. It's called mean sea level because it is based on the average rise and fall of tides over about 18.6 years of measuring (the length of the sun and moon cycles that influences tides). Each of the worldwide set of tide gauges was used to define a particular local vertical datum. At the time, there was no reason to tie in the local horizontal datum. In the recent past MSL was considered good enough, but scientists now know that the surface of the sea is not level everywhere. Contrary to common sense, water does not seek the same level, globally speaking, because of major gravity variations around the world. Rather, the water conforms to the equipotential surface of constant gravity the geoid, our gravity model of the earth's shape. Better height measurements from satellite radar altimetry, using the Earth's center of mass as the point of origin, verify that MSL is a poor approximation of the geoid surface for our current needs. Typically, GPS receivers display elevation data referenced to the ellipsoid, not the geoid. So, you could find yourself in port in a geoid valley beneath the smooth surface of the ellipsoid model, and your GPS receiver will say the sea level is minus some number of meters, and it will be correct!

In some places, the ocean surface is 100 meters lower than elsewhere!

7. Understanding chart accuracy counts. We have often been asked, "Where is my GPS chart?" and "Why are the charts no longer accurate?" A "GPS chart" does not really exist, and fundamentally the accuracy of the charts has not really changed. Before GPS, mariners knew that their estimate of geographical position could be in error by over a nautical mile, since the ship position was derived using various electronic systems and celestial navigation. With that degree of uncertainty, mariners gave wide berth to hazards depicted on charts, including shoals and obstructions. There was general acceptance of the idea that the available navigational information and cartographic process used by the chart maker to position the hazards were more accurate than the navigation means available to the user of the chart. With GPS providing a more accurate fix, the mariner now needs to pay close attention to the reliability of the chart, because the accuracy limitations of charts will now be critical to ship safety when GPS is used. For example, mariners may be tempted to become more daring, relying on their GPS to approach hazards depicted on charts more closely than prudent to save steaming time. This has already happened! However, the plotted hazards typically will have been positioned by less accurate navigation means than GPS and, in fact, may be significantly mispositioned.

From the mariner's perspective the chart has always been "accurate," now the chart he or she is using, not his or her navigation, may contain the errors!

GPS allows us to know one's actual position to a higher accuracy than the accuracy associated with the scale of the chart and often to a higher accuracy than the surveys from which the chart was made.

Specified Chart Accuracy. The NIMA accuracy for paper charts meets the National Map Accuracy Standard, originally based on human limitations in manually plotting information on charts. The NIMA specified accuracy for harbor, approach, and coastal charts requires that features plotted on a chart will be within 1 mm (at chart scale) of actual position with respect to the preferred datum at a 90 percent confidence level. The table below shows the relative comparison of 1 mm error at chart scale to GPS accuracy error. Remember since scale is a ratio -- small scale = large area.

Small Scale


80 M

> GPS error

Large Scale


15 M

GPS error

Harbor Inset


5 M

< GPS error

In the case of a small scale chart, the chart error is the limiting factor in position plotting accuracy. The reverse can be true for large scale charts, such as the harbor plan insert. In this case, the absolute accuracy of GPS, rather than the chart limit the navigator's plotting accuracy.

In addition, the scale of paper charts force cartographers to generalize, and even displace, selected information on the map to preserve clarity. The inaccuracies associated with map generalization and displacement are no longer acceptable for new navigation and weapon systems.

Positioning of Survey Data. Errors in the underlying survey data will also affect accuracy. While NIMA makes every effort to produce the most accurate charts possible given the available data, the prudent navigator should approach shoals or isolated dangers with utmost caution, no matter what navigation method is used. Few coastal surveys of years past were possible to the accuracy of DGPS.

8. Digital Data. DNC and all other NIMA products are produced on WGS 84 datum. Currently, the primary information source is the current paper nautical chart. Therefore, all paper chart accuracy cautions apply to DNC and other NIMA products when used for navigation and other applications, such as mission planning, command and control, simulation and training.

Use of the most powerful hardware and software in the world to exploit GI&S data will not improve the original accuracy of that data, and can make it worse!

There are a number of efforts underway to use collected bathymetric and imagery data to provide higher accuracy for new edition charts. CNO (N096), CNMOC and the Naval Oceanographic Office are working with NIMA to field the Hydrographic Source Assessment System (HYSAS) and the Navigation Safety System (NSS) to accomplish this. Additionally, the ECDIS-N policy letter includes a desired requirement to integrate the onboard fathometer to make all gray hulls bathymetric collection ships.

For digital displays of GI&S data, the same rules about projections and scales apply. Displayed vector data minimizes traditional projection problems for the warfighter, since the data displayed at the moment uses a projection optimized for the location in view, rather than using a constant projection required for an entire map sheet. The positional accuracy of the displayed data is consistent and will not vary by location to the degree it would on a paper chart. That is, each point or feature will have a unique geographic position and the digital data will appear seamless. The age-old problem of trying to edge-match chart sheets together vanishes with a digital display.

9. Magnetic Information. What happened to the compass rose? The magnetic variation determined from the world magnetic model (WMM) was printed on the paper chart. With the move to digital data and GPS, the WMM is embedded within the electronic chart software and GPS receivers. The WMM is updated every 5 years and the DoD global accuracy requirement is for no more than ±1 deg of degradation at the end of 5 years. The last model was promulgated in 1995; the next model is due out in 2000. Although there are some yearly variations, the WMM needs to be loaded only once each epoch, since the annual changes are not significant enough to affect Naval operations.

FUND calculates magnetic variation at any location by the click of the mouse

10. Celestial Navigation. Navigation by the stars, or heavenly bodies, is the oldest type of navigation still used today on all types of seafaring ships. Some consider it an art to be able to "shoot stars" skillfully with a sextant and then reduce these observations to a pinpoint navigation fix. Art or not, it takes a true professional navigator to complete the process from identifying which stars to observe, to computing lines of bearing and plotting the navigation fix. Accurate observations and calculations are the keys to success.

System to Estimate Latitude and Longitude Astronomically (STELLA). STELLA, Version 1.0, is a software package developed by the United States Naval Observatory to assist the busy navigator by taking advantage of today's computer systems. Based on several new, improved, more accurate mathematical approaches to celestial navigation, STELLA provides the following functions:


Calculates data published in the Nautical Almanac


Dead reckons a vessel track


Gives times of rise/set/transit of Sun/Moon


Provides star visibility tables with a sky diagram


Determines the gyro/compass error


Determines fix from sextant altitude observations

STELLA currently runs in MS-DOS operating system. A new version of STELLA, configured to run on WINDOWS 95 is scheduled for release in 1999.

11. Military Grid Reference System (MGRS). Why do I get positions from the beach that are not in lat/long? The most familiar coordinate reference system is latitude, longitude, and elevation. Others include the two-dimensional Universal Transverse Mercator (UTM) and Universal Polar Stereographic (UPS) grid systems. Simply put, NIMA overprints these rectangular grids on maps to identify a location in rectangular coordinates without converging meridians or the lengthy description of degrees, minutes, and seconds of latitude and longitude. The grids also simplify distance measurement. Grid units are always meters. MGRS is an alphanumeric shorthand for expressing UTM and UPS coordinates with fewer numbers. The basis for MGRS is the 100,000 meter grid square two letter identifier.

MGRS is used to support Naval Surface Fire Support (NSFS). We observed NSFS operations on the USS YORKTOWN to support SMART SHIP. Today the Mark 86, using the SPQ-9, illuminates a position on the beach to initialize the position of the gun. Then MGRS coordinates are radioed in from the beach and the Mark 86 computes the gun solution. As we move to automate this process you will need to ensure that the routines used within the Mark 86 are able to properly perform the calculations of datum transformation and coordinate conversion.

Future NSFS will involve the use of GPS guided rounds. When the Navy moves to this weapon, conventional charts will no longer be sufficient to put these weapons on target. For a complete description of this problem see the Naval Air Systems Team, MC&G handbook which you can download from

Where to find it:

Order DoD WGS 84 from NIMA and ask for NIMATR83502WGS84. Remember it includes MADTRAN, which also can be downloaded from NIMA's homepage. Order Coordinate Selection Guide from NIMA using stock number DIAXXCOORDGRAPH. Read Geodesy For the Layman from NIMA's homepage. The document is out of print, contact NIMA (GIMC) (314) 260-1058 [490] for information on obtaining a printed copy. Order the following GPS emulators: PLGR NSN 7644-01-416-4034; Trimble 7644-01-416-4040 and Ashtech MC-XII 7644-01-416-4036. For more information on precise positioning order All You Ever Wanted to Know and Couldn't Find Out About Precise Positioning, NIMA Stock No. Info Presiepos, NIMA has established a National Geopositioning Office contact NIM ST/RO Dr. Wooton, (301) 227-3492 [DSN 287]. For Information on the location of US DGPS sites see USCG website For information on STELLA contact QMC MCCarthy (202) 762-1442 [DSN 762]. For information on the WBB GPS primer, please contact Mr. Tom Chapin, (703) 448-6081 x 145, email (if requesting a copy, a nominal fee may be required for reproduction).

Section V

How To Get NIMA Online and Products

1. CHECK IT OUT! MARINE NAVIGATION HOME PAGE. Address: This is a new Marine Navigation Home Page which contains several Sailing Directions and the American Practical Navigator, "Bowditch," in a portable document format (PDF) and using Adobe Acrobat software for viewing. A marine navigation calculator is also available. In addition there is a limited set of Notice to Mariners chart corrections available to demonstrate search capabilities. You can also access DNC information at For Userid and Password contact NIMA (COTN).

2. Basic Information. The distribution of NIMA products transitioned to the Defense Logistic Agency (DLA) on 1 April 1998. This transition is intended to be transparent to the fleet and started for the Navy with CNO (N4) message DTG 101200Z Jun 96 instructing the Navy to begin using the Defense Logistics Standard System (DLSS) to order charts using National Stock Number (NSN) and standard MILSTRIP guidelines. There will be some classified products that will not use NSN but will continue to use the NIMA stock numbers. These products will be indicated in the catalog. Despite some isolated cases of not being able to receive charts, overall fleet feedback has been positive. Currently you already visit supply to order and receive your charts; therefore this change to DLA should not affect you. The only change you may notice is that the box will have been shipped from Richmond, VA instead of Philadelphia, PA.

Customer Support Number (1-800-826-0342)

WWW Address:

DoDAAC. You need a DoD Activity Address Code (DoDAAC) to order GI&S products or subscribe to products routinely on automatic distribution. (The DoDAAC connects to the official clear text address of a DoD activity.) Navy DoDAACs start with either an N, V, or R followed by the 5 digit Unit Identification Code (UIC). Supply understands DoDAAC's, since they already use them to handle all incoming requisitions, bills, and supplies. You also need to know with some precision what product you want (its NSN), if it's available, how many of them you need, and by when. Finally, you need to know the priority based on the schema outlined in the current NIMA catalogs. As we move into the digital world, ordering of products does not change. Although digital data is distributed on CD-ROM, each CD-ROM contains a stock number.

Order Digital Data the Same Way you Order Paper Charts!

Automatic Distribution. You can set up a subscription to your account if you want predetermined quantities of new or revised products automatically. As the data goes digital, this makes most sense since now you can literally carry the world in a shoebox. Since there will be only a small number of CD-ROMs to support your navigation needs we recommend you put yourself on worldwide distribution of DNC, and TOD (as applicable). To put yourself on automatic distribution you must send or fax a memorandum on official letterhead to the address below. Ensure you include your DoDAAC, NSN, and quantities you need. If you want a current copy of the product right away, ask for automatic distribution and initial issue; otherwise, you may wait some time before the first delivery arrives. At your end, you will need to coordinate with supply since their system is not geared up for the receipt and processing of products pushed to the unit without requisition. Be sure to alert supply that GI&S data must be distributed to you upon receipt or it may end up on the stock shelves! For questions regarding automatic distribution of DNC and TOD you can call DLA at (804) 279-6539 or DSN 695-6539

Correspondence Address

Defense Supply Center Richmond

Attn: JNA or JNB*

8000 Jefferson Davis Highway

Richmond, VA 23397-5516

* JNA for CONUS Requests

JNB for OCONUS Requests

DSN 695


JNA (804) 279-6545

JNB (804) 279-6524

Crisis or Emergency. There have been questions as to whether DLA can handle "Crisis" or "Emergency" requisitions. The capability is exercised on a daily basis, when a ship, or system is covered by a CASREP which can be used to express a high priority requisition. "Crisis," as defined by JCS, puts lots of assets to work on solving the current situation, and procedures are in place during crisis planning and execution phases to deliver whatever materials required to the appropriate players. "Emergency" is defined as short notice operations, such as a deployment to support humanitarian operations or other without-notice contingencies. Routine deployments are not considered crisis or emergency.

3. Portfolios of charts for deployment. Ships requisitioning a portfolio of charts for exercises or deployments cannot use the series all- designator with NSN. However, the series all- designator may be used with NIMA standard stock numbers. The Use document- identifier must be coded as A0D- for the DLSS to accept the NIMA stock number. A ship must be in a pre-commissioning status or getting ready for deployment to request permanent or deployment allowance activation IAW fleet directives.

4. NIMA COMBAT ELEMENTS. NIMA combat elements will become DLA facilities with NIMA personnel working Remote Replication System (RRS) and other issues. You will still be able to get limited distribution though these elements.

Where to find it:

Voice fleet concerns with the transition to your METOC/MC&G officers. For a complete list call NIMA(COTN). Selected FLT CINC POCs; CLF N37, CAPT Roman, (757) 322-5791 [DSN 836]; CPF S3WX2 Mr. Morris, (808) 474-6901; CNE N39, CDR Barker, 011441715144085 [DSN 314-235-4085]; NAVCENT NIMALO L O'Brien 0119737224050 [DSN 318-439-4050] or CDR Vic Addison ext. 4585. Key catalogs you for ordering Hydrographic Products Part 2 Hydrographic NSN 7642014014119 this you want to be on automatic distribution and Part 5 Submarine Navigation (confidential)

Section VI

How To Get MC&G Training

1. DEFENSE MAPPING SCHOOL. The Defense Mapping School (DMS), located at Ft Belvoir, Virginia is a training asset of NIMA. NIMA is a combat support agency of the DoD, and is charged with providing direct support on matters concerning MC&G and GI&S to the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Unified and Specified Commands, Military Departments, and Defense Agencies.

DMS is tasked to meet the needs of the Services for training personnel in GI&S, and enhancing individual and unit skills in the application of GI&S as a force multiplier.

2. Mission of dms. DMS trains to standard GI&S skills identified by the Services as essential for technically related occupational specialties or ratings required by officers and enlisted personnel in entry and advanced level GI&S functional areas.

3. Organization of dms. DMS is organized into 2 branches, the Warrior Support Branch and Printing Branch. The Warrior Support Branch teaches terrain analysis, geodetic and hydrographic survey, photogrammetry, geographic information systems, remotely sensed imagery and multispectral imagery, as well as, specialized GI&S management topics. The Printing Branch teaches courses in photolithography, the remote replication system, printing and associated equipment repair.

4. Resident training. Dms offers the following courses:

MC&G Staff Officer Course (1 week) provides an understanding of key GI&S organizations, concepts, systems and procedures involved in the production and use of printed or digital maps, charts and information. Focused for staff officers, planners and supervisors who need to use NIMA products.

MC&G for the Warrior (2 days) provides the basic GI&S needs of the warfighter. Classes include: datums and projections, product accuracy, intro to GPS, crisis support, catalogs and distribution, and digital software.

MC&G Officers Course (7 weeks) trains officers and senior NCO's in GI&S technical, leadership and managerial skills. Curriculum encompasses both traditional hard-copy mapping concepts and modern digital applications, to include NIMA's concept of GI&S.

Hydrographic Survey Course (3 weeks) trains Marine surveyors to conduct hydrographic surveys from 10 meter mark to the high water mark IAW Navy standards for amphibious operations.

Remotely Sensed Imagery/Geographic Information System Course (2 weeks) provides warfighters the skills needed to accomplish basic tasks in imagery preparation, interpretation, analysis and product generation. Topics include using GIS software to import vector data using ERDAS IMAGINE and ARC/INFO.

Advanced Remotely Sensed Imagery (1 week) provides an overview of the fundamentals of advanced spectral imagery processing techniques, production generations of radar, hyper and ultra spectral imagery.

Introduction to Geospatial Information (2 days) a basic overview of geospatial information concepts and applications using remotely sensed imagery and geographic information systems.

Geographic Digital Data Users Course (8 days) introduces NIMA's standard digital products accompanied by government and commercial manipulation software used to support geospatial analysis. Classes include: ARC projections, raster and vector data, downloading from the GATEWAY, remote replicator, NIMAMUSE, VPFView, Falcon View, MADTRAN, TERRABASE II, GeoLink, Arc View and JMTK.

Precision Geopositioning Orientation Course (3 days) introduces target planners to NIMA's digital point positioning databases for determining a mensurated geo coordinate. This course replaces the Analytical Point Positioning System (APPS) class.

5. Mobile Training Teams. DMS deploys mobile training teams to selected formal service schools and units to deliver tailored GI&S classes to expose the Operating Forces to relevant issues which can impact successful mission planning, navigation or targeting. Mobile training teams are available to support units worldwide, with requesting units providing travel and per diem costs.

Where to find it:

For the latest course descriptions and schedules, contact the NIMA (COTN), (703) 264-3002 or call the DMS Registrar, Ms. Keleher, at (703) 805-3213 [DSN 655] Submit GI&S training applications to the Director, DMS, 5825 21St., Suite 106, Ft. Belvoir, VA 22060.


This handbook got its it start from the Naval Aviation Systems Handbook, which I co-authored in my previous job. In large measure, this was due to the inspiration of NAVAIR's NIMA (then DMA) Liaison Officer, Mr. Jay Harden. We found a formula that worked and we plagiarized it for this handbook.

We would like to thank RADM Paul Tobin, Jr, as Oceanographer of the Navy who has kept the pressure on to advance this capability into the Fleet. A strong believer in electronic charts, he has asked the hard questions and provided us the support to complete this project. Good luck as you retire from a very distinguished Navy career.

Mr. Jim Ayres, the champion of DNC and ECDIS, for the Navy. As he retires from NIMA, his service as a Captain, United States Navy; Director, International Hydrographic Bureau, and as Chief Hydrographer of NIMA has been greatly appreciated. We would not be here without his efforts. THANK YOU. Welcome to RADM(Ret) Chris Andreasen, the new HIMA Chief Hydrographer, who comes to from President, IHB, and provided superb input on this second volume.

Dr. Ed Whitman, the champion of GI&S, took time for careful review of each draft and we appreciate his improvements.

CDR Brett Sherman and Mr. Tom Hunter of NIMA; MAJ Martin Bryant of Defense Mapping School, NIMA; Mr. Terry Tielking of BBN Technologies; and Mr. Doug McCusker NIMALO to SPAWAR, and COTN for their help in writing sections and review.

Thanks to CDR Paul Willis and LCDR Charles Berdar for providing a user's view and editing contributions.

A very special thanks to Ms. Chris Wright of PSI Inc. who did the layout and designed the wonderful cover.

However, every error belongs to us.

So, how did we do? Does this handbook add any value to your work? Do you think it was worth the effort? Thanks in advance for your comments, questions and improvements. Keep sending them to:

CDR Zdenka S. Willis

Mr. James C. Goodson

Mr. Edwin O. Danford NIMALO

Appendix A

Appendix B


Ser N00/8U5000076

17 Mar 98

From: Chief of Naval Operations



Ref: (a) CNO/CMC ltr Ser 09/1U500942 of 1 Aug 91 "U.S. Navy/U.S. Marine Corps

Positioning/Navigation Policy"

(b) OASD (C3I) memo "Development, Procurement, and Employment of DoD

Global Positioning System (GPS) User Equipment" of 30 Apr 92

(c) IMO Resolution A.817(19) adopted on 23 Nov 95

(d) IEC 61174 "Maritime navigation and radio communication equipment and

systems - ECDIS - Operation and performance standards, methods of testing

and required test results" draft of Mar 97.

Encl: (1) ECDIS-Navy

1. Purpose. To transition primary support of navigation and piloting on U.S. Navy vessels from paper charts to an electronic charting environment. This policy provides planning guidance for the Electronic Chart Display and Information System - Navy (ECDIS-N) consistent with reference (a).

2. Applicability. This policy applies to the development and procurement of systems that support ECDIS-N, and all U.S. Navy vessels that will use an ECDIS-N in support of navigation, piloting, and accurate positioning. While the interim use of ECDIS-N systems for enhanced situational awareness is acceptable, U.S. Navy vessels may not use ECDIS-N systems in lieu of the requirement to maintain paper charts until the ECDIS-N systems are tested, certified, and approved for fleet introduction (initial operational capability) by the appropriate authority.

3. Background. Electronic databases, operating systems, and computer technology have advanced, and the widespread deployment of digital display systems to the fleet has now made it possible to employ electronic charts at sea. In addition, the advent of continuous and automated positioning systems, such as the Global Positioning System (GPS) and Inertial Navigation System (INS), has made it possible to take maximum advantage of electronic charting, eliminating many constraining aspects of navigation by paper chart while significantly advancing safety of navigation.

4. Policy. This policy directs a Navy transition from navigation by means of paper charts to navigation by means of digital charts within the ECDIS-N standards. This policy promulgates the minimum ECDIS-N standards (enclosure (1)) and delineates specific responsibilities of OPNAV, Fleet Commanders in Chief, and Commander, Operational Test and Evaluation Force (COMOPTEVFOR). ECDIS-N capability begins limited Fleet introduction in FY98 to enhance situational awareness and initiate the transition to a certified ECDIS-N system. The goal is full fleet implementation by FY07. The Navy requirement for paper charts from the National Imagery and Mapping Agency (NIMA) as the primary means of navigation will continue until all U.S. Navy vessels implement ECDIS-N. The Navy may also retain a limited requirement for paper charts beyond FY07 as one means of satisfying ECDIS-N backup requirements (appendix 6 to enclosure (1)). The Navy must ensure interoperability among various ECDIS-N systems and between ECDIS-N systems and other systems. Navy will achieve interoperability by mandating standards and functional requirements for ECDIS-N and associated electronic charts:

a. Navy standard automated and continuous positioning systems and approved navigation and piloting procedures shall be used for position reference. In addition to accepting continuous position systems for navigation and piloting, EDCIS-N shall accept radar and visual navigation fix information. This policy is consistent with references (a) and (b).

b. Department of Defense (DoD) standard products and datum will be employed as follows:

c. The standard products that support navigation onboard U.S. Navy vessels are defined as follows:

Digital Product

Paper Equivalent


Digital Nautical Chart (DNCtm)

General, Coastal, Harbor, & Approach


Tactical Ocean Data (TOD) 0

OPAREA, Range markings

Distribution Limited

Tactical Ocean Data (TOD) 1

Bottom Contour


Tactical Ocean Data (TOD) 2

Bathymetric Navigation Planning Chart (BNPC)


Tactical Ocean Data (TOD) 3


As required

Littoral Warfare Data (LWD)

Combat Chart


Vector Database Update (VDU)

Notice to Mariners

Depends on product

d. ECDIS-N must incorporate safe navigation and piloting functionality at a minimum. Enclosure (1) defines the performance standards for ECDIS-N, which in conjunction with standard DoD digital navigation products will replace the use of paper charts. ECDIS-N functionality is based on reference (c), which is the International Maritime Organization (IMO) performance standards for the Electronic Chart Display and Information System (ECDIS) as established for civil shipping. U.S. Navy vessels are not required to comply with IMO resolutions. In setting standards in keeping with safe maritime operations, however, Navy will follow DoD mandates to use commercial standards wherever possible. Therefore, deviations from the civil guidance will be limited to those required for unique military applications and approved naval navigation and piloting procedures. All electronic charting data used for navigation must be maintained using the most current NIMA databases and updates available. Reference (d), IEC 61174, with modifications to bring it into compliance with enclosure (1), is the acceptable standard for testing ECDIS-N. Reference (c), and reference (d) (modified) are available from CNO(N096).

e. This policy letter does not take precedence over any DoD and Navy policy with regard to the Joint Technical Architecture (JTA) and the Defense Information Infrastructure-Common Operating Environment (DII-COE) compliance. At a minimum, ECDIS-N shall be DII-COE Level 5 compliant. Further, ECDIS-N shall be compliant with the DOD JTA.


a. The Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Resources, Warfare Requirements and Assessments (N8), shall:

(1) Serve as the resource sponsor for ECDIS-N systems;

(2) Identify programmatic requirements for implementation of ECDIS-N capability;

(3) Certify that ECDIS-N systems comply with the standards set forth in this policy prior to authorizing use of ECDIS-N systems in lieu of paper charts. The certification will be based on Operational Test and Evaluation results and implementation of Integrated Logistics Support. (This does not preclude the use of ECDIS-N systems prior to certification, provided that use is restricted to situational awareness only. Uncertified ECDIS-N systems may not be used in lieu of paper charts);

(4) Ensure that appropriate training is established for officers and enlisted personnel;

(5) Approve Fleet introduction and Initial Operational Capability for ECDIS-N systems under their cognizance; and,

b. The Director, Space, Information Warfare, Command and Control Directorate (N6) shall commit research, development, test and evaluation (RDT&E) funds to an ECDIS-N initiative that is a derivative of any existing N6 navigation program.

c. The Oceanographer of the Navy (N096) shall:

(1) Establish and maintain minimum standards for ECDIS-N and review future IMO resolutions and standards. Incorporate changes to this policy as appropriate;

(2) Support N6, N8, and all developmental activities in matters relating to Navy's use of standard navigation products defined by this policy;

(3) Validate all new Geospatial Information & Services (GI&S) requirements and coordinate the development of new standard DoD products, and;

(4) Support the Judge Advocate General of the Navy (N09J), in coordination with NIMA, in matters concerning international regulations and maritime law as related to navigation matters.

d. The Judge Advocate General of the Navy (N09J) shall ensure that uses of ECDIS-N prescribed by the Navy for its ships comply with applicable international legal obligations related to safe navigation. N09J shall apprise the Chief of Naval Operations and Fleet Commanders of changes to international law and regulations which are relevant to the Navy's use of electronic charts.

e. Fleet Commanders in Chief shall:

(1) Incorporate ECDIS-N into Fleet navigation Instructions;

(2) Develop ship's ECDIS-N certification plans; and,

(3) Serve as certifying authority for areas where ECDIS-N can be employed in lieu of paper charts. The policy authorizes Fleet Commanders to approve the use of ECDIS-N within geographical areas covered by GI&S products that meet ECDIS-N standards and updates.

f. COMOPTEVFOR shall evaluate the operational effectiveness and operational suitability of ECDIS-N systems and associated products and make recommendations regarding fleet introduction as appropriate.

6. The Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Development, and Acquisition concurs with the policy contained herein.

7. Coordination. This letter has been coordinated with NIMA.


Appendix C

Those Inevitable Acronyms


Above Ground Level


American National Standards Institute


Automatic Digital Network


Bottom Contour


Bathymetric Navigation Planning Chart


Compressed ARC Digitized Raster Graphic


Casualty Report




Compact Disc - Read Only Memory


Circular Error Probable




Central Imagery Office


Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff


Cable New Network


Chief of Naval Operations


Commander, Naval Meteorology and Oceanography Command


Commercial Satellite


Commercial Off The Shelf


Digital Aeronautical Flight Information File


Digital Bathymetric Data Base


District of Columbia


Defense Data Network


Department Standardization Officer


Differential Global Positioning System


Defense Intelligence Agency


Defense Logistics Agency


Defense Logistics Standard System


Defense Mapping Agency


Defense Mapping School


Digital Nautical Chart


Department of Defense


Department of Defense Activity Address Code


Dilution of Precision


Defense Switched Network


Digital Terrain Elevation Data


Date Time Group


Electronic Chart Display and Information System


Electronic Chart Display and Information System - Navy


Full Utility Navigation Demonstration


Fiscal Year




Geospatial Symbology


Geospatial Information and Services


Geographic Information System


Government Off The Shelf


Navstar Global Positioning System


Hydrographic Office


Hydrographic Source and Assessment System


International Electrotechnical Committee


Interferometric Synthetic Aperture Radar


International Hydrographic Organization


International Maritime Organization


Joint Chiefs of Staff






Thousand Square Nautical Miles




Littoral Warfare Database




Mapping Datum Transformation


Mapping, Charting, and Geodesy




Military Grid Reference System


Military Handbook


Military Specification


Military Standard


Military Standard Requisitioning and Issue Procedures




Microsoft Disk Operating System


Mean Sea Level


Message Text Format


Mobile Training Team


Mapping, Charting, and Geodesy Utility Software Environment


Oceanographer of the Navy


Not Applicable or Not Available

NAD 27

North American Datum 1927


North Atlantic Treaty Organization


Naval Sea Systems Command


Navigation Information Network


National Imagery and Mapping Agency


NIMA - Customer Office Team - Navy


NIMA Liaison Officer


National Imagery Transmission Format


National Marine Electronics Association


National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration


National Ocean Service


National Photographic Intelligence Center


Naval Surface Fire Support


National Stock Number


Navigation Safety System


Notice To Mariners


Office of the Chief of Naval Operations Instruction


Operations and Maintenance Navy


Office of the Secretary of Defense


Personal Computer


Portable Document Format


picture element


Precise Lightweight Geopositional Receiver


Senior Chief Quartermaster


Raster Product Format


Remote Replication System


Remotely Sensed Imagery


Spherical Error Probable


Safety Of Life At Sea


Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command


System To Estimate Latitude and Longitude Astronomically


To Be Determined


Tactical Ocean Data


Text Product Format


Unit Identification Code


United Nations


Universal Polar Stereographic


United States


United States Coast Guard


United States Navy


United States Imagery and Geospatial System


United States Ship


Universal Transverse Mercator


Vector Product Format Database Update


Vector Product Format


World Geodetic System


Warrior Support Center


World Vector Shoreline Plus

The Fine Print

This fine print is for you who like to read fine print. This fine print is not to be construed as a legal agreement between you and yourself covering your use of the GI&S Maritime Navigation Handbook (hereafter called the handbook). It is not necessary to read the following agreement before using the handbook, unless you are looking for mindless relief from your real work or a wordsmithing diversion, which is what it is.


This is not a copyrighted handbook. We don't know how. You may use this handbook for 15 days or more (also less) without any charge or guilt. The handbook is not protected by United States copyright laws and international treaty provisions. Therefore, you may not treat the handbook like any other copyrighted material (e.g., a solar-powered toaster or musical recording).

If you would like to continue to use the handbook for as long as you wish, don't forward a fee to the deserving authors. We are more than happy to allow you to benefit without payment, but we ask that you tell someone else about your delight. Contact the authors for details on how to do this and WHO TO TELL.

Admiring the handbook allows you the right to one additional copy of the handbook in digital form for use on a single computer. You may not network the handbook or otherwise use it or make it available for use on more than one computer at the same time unless it feels good. You may not rent or lease the handbook, but you may modify, adapt, translate, reverse engineer, decompile, or disassemble it to your heart's content just like we did. If you violate any part of this agreement…oh, shucks.

We tried to get the handbook right the first time we really did however, the handbook is provided "AS IS" and without warranty of any kind, expressly disclaiming all other warranties, express or implied, including, but not limited to, the implied warranties of merchantability and fitness for no particular purpose. There is no tag to remove under penalty of law and no player to be named later. Only under statistically impossible circumstances shall the authors be liable for any incidental, special or consequential damages that result from the use or inability to use the handbook by the inept. Of course, we don't mean YOU! In no event shall our liability exceed our inability to pay, as if we could, which we can't, so we won't!

This agreement shall be governed by the laws of intended or unintended consequences. If for any reason a court of some competence and/or jurisdiction finds any part of this handbook, or portion thereof, to be unintelligible, consider the relative accuracy of the source. This agreement may or may not be enforced to the maximum extent permissible commensurate with the full indifference of the parties involved and its residual force and effect on a nonchalant world.

The handbook is provided with RIGHTS. It has the right to be read, left behind, or thrown away as the case may be. Or it has the right not to be, if that is the question. Use, duplication, or disclosure is subject to no restrictions we know of, as not set forth in subdivision 2 (b)R (ii) of The Rights Of The Possibly Wronged, clause 22.243-OIC. If you have read this far, you could have too much time on your hands. Since we are now finished with this project, so could we.

This fine print was LIBERATED AND SYNTHESIZED from those ubiquitous generic software license agreements proliferating with all deliberate speed throughout humanity and accidentally anesthetizing the world's already fully loaded brains. If you fail to see the humor in this fine print, there may or may not be hope for you. If we caught you on one of your GOOD days, this fine print may leave you smiling; it sure won't make our lawyers happy, if we had any, and that may be satisfaction enough for us. Paper to Digits is culturally like Sails to Steam. See you in the fleet on an ECDIS-N equipped bridge!

je i & es

What is it?

  1. Gouge for the alphabetically challenged
  2. The latest release from OSAA (Office of the Secretary for Acronym Activity)
  3. The lost letters of Atlantis
  4. The way of the future for charts and maps
Don't know?

Then call the CNO GI&S team for help (better yet your nearest MC&G officer in the fleet)!

CDR Zdenka Willis

Phone (202) 762-0265


James Goodson

Edward Danford

[The correct answer: d]

Administration provided by
South Carolina, USA.