All charts have errors

News that the Sea Empress oil disaser in Milford Haven in February 1996 was caused and exacerbated because the crews of the tanker and rescue fleet were referring to charts that had “incorrect information” came as a surprise to many, but not the Admiralty or the Federal Court of Australia.

The Admiralty in its ‘Manual of Navigation’ clearly warned its navigators: “No chart is infallible. Every chart is liable to be incomplete.”

Meanwhile in Australia, Italian electronics firm Navionics were taken to court by the Australian Hydrographic Service (AHS) who wanted them to stop selling electronic charts.

The AHS argued that electronic charts were unsafe because they had errors and that only official Hydrographic Service charts charts were safe to use. However, the Federal Court ruled that all charts, including those of the AHS, had errors, and that Navionics electronic charts, on balance, contributed to the safety of navigation.

The AHS took the decision badly, saying it would continue to try and stop the sale of Navionics’ electronic charts – this time on the grounds of copyright infringement.

As part of’s 10th anniversary we’re going to be trawling the archives to see what news stories were making the headlines a decade ago. Don’t forget to join the celebration by entering our £40,000 competition – just click here to go to the competition page.