Counterfeit Nautical Charts Warning by UKHO

The United Kingdom Hydrographic Office has issued a warning over the dangers posed to the safety of vessels, crews and cargoes by counterfeit nautical charts and publications and has produced a simple guide to help identify genuine Admiralty products.

2013.04.18 - Counterfeit Nautical Charts Warning by UKHO

The UK Hydrographic Office (UKHO) has recently observed an increase in the number of counterfeit versions of its Admiralty charts and publications in circulation. Counterfeit documents do not satisfy the carriage requirements of the International Convention on the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS), as they have not been issued officially by or on the authority of a Government, authorized hydrographic office or other relevant government institution.

Their carriage may also fail to satisfy (and may be contrary to) the laws of Flag State Authorities and Port State Control, as well as increasing the safety risk for vessels, crews and cargoes. Furthermore, carriage of counterfeit documents is against the law in all countries that have signed the Berne Convention on copyright, which includes the vast majority of nations.

UKHO has produced a simple guide to help users and inspectors to distinguish official Admiralty charts and publications from counterfeit versions. 

The UKHO has produced this following simple guide to help identify genuine Admiralty products:


  • Suspicious charts can be compared to existing stock. Genuine charts bear the Admiralty  “Flying A” watermark within the paper, which can be seen by holding the chart up to the light. 
  • A suspicious chart may not be folded correctly. This can be checked by comparing its folds to  a similar sized Admiralty chart. 
  • The ‘look and feel’ of a suspicious chart can be compared to a genuine Admiralty chart. If the  ink on a chart looks to be a different colour tone, weight or feel then it is probably a counterfeit copy. 
  • Every Admiralty chart carries a ‘thumb label’ strip on the reverse of the chart that contains the Admiralty logo, the chart number, the geographic area featured, a barcode and date.


  • Check the height – all Admiralty publications within the same category are the same height (e.g. all Sailing Directions are all the same). The height of a book can be compared to others in the same Admiralty category. 
  • All Admiralty publications are printed to identical print standards. If a publication looks different to a genuine publication, it is almost certainly a counterfeit. Please note that the Admiralty branding is changing and so comparisons need to be made between publications carrying the same branding. 
  • The quality of the print can be inspected. If a book has uneven pages, inconsistent margins, variable ink strength or unfamiliar paper it is almost certainly counterfeit. 
  • The binding can be checked. Genuine publications are tightly bound. 
  • Counterfeit publications may have a weak spine and even text on the inside of the spine. 
  • The cover can be checked. All genuine Sailing Directions are hardbound and all genuine Lights Lists are limp bound. 
  • A new edition can be compared to the previous edition to see if there are differences in look and feel.

Anyone with suspicions over the authenticity of their Admiralty charts and publications is asked to contact the UKHO by emailing

Copies of the UKHO’s guide to identifying genuine Admiralty products can also be downloaded from

Source: UKHO

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