A major survey focusing on safety in the boating community was conducted in mid-2010 to ascertain the level of boater awareness of and participation in their navigation data updates.
The survey was conducted by the newly-formed Alliance for Safe Navigation (ASN), a public-private partnership (NOAA is a partner). ASN aims to raise awareness of safe boating practices and offers a web site with resources.
In June, 2010 ASN undertook a survey of customers and contacts of ASN partners to study members usage of the various types of navigational aids available, as well to study awareness and usage of available updates to navigational tools and data.
An online survey tool was used to poll customers and contacts of the members (with the exception of NOAA.). The survey took place in June and July, 2010. There were 15 questions in the survey. There were 7,570 total responders.
The questions posed to mariners dealt primarily with: the type and size of vessel sailed; types of navigational aids used (both as primary aid and backup); concerns re accuracy of navigational data; awareness and usage of available navigational aid updates; and age group demographics.
Continual education of recreational mariners regarding the importance of keeping navigational data up to date is necessary. The data is clear: Its not that mariners dont use nav aids; they clearly do, even on smaller vessels. Its that in general they dont pay attention to keeping their data current.
Keeping navigational aids up to date, whether the aids are electronic or paper, is not a big priority to most recreational mariners.
For example, when asked If you use electronic charts, how often do you purchase updates?, 29% of responders said never and 25% said once every 2-3 years, and when it came to those who use NOAA paper nautical charts as their mainnav aid, the responses were 42% (never) and 27% (once every 2-3 years).
Only 36% of respondents stated that they Are concerned about the accuracy of the data used for navigation where they update nav data regularly. Note, however, that 25% stated that they are Not very concerned because I dont boat too far from shore or in familiar waters.
Awareness of readily-available LNMs (Local Notice to Mariners updates which enable manual updates of charts) seems to affect the propensity to keep nav aids up to date. LNM-aware boaters are much more concerned about nav data and about updates. 68% of those aware of LNMs are concerned and update their charts, versus 36% of all respondents. Moreover 30% of those aware of LNMs buy new chart editions while 13% of all respondents answered accordingly. When it comes to updating navigational data, the percentage of all respondants who do not update their nav aids was 29%, compared to the LNM-aware segment at 14%.
Age affects data awareness and update habits. 24% of a younger segment (30-49) is likely to use GPS or handheld systems as backup to their primary navigational system versus the 20% that use traditional NOAA charts as back up. The reverse is true of the 50+ age group; 17% use GPS or handheld and 25% use traditional NOAA charts as backup. The elder age group is also more concerned with navigational data recency and updating their data on a regular basis (50+ at 38% vs. 30-49 at 27%).
Chartplotter / GPS is by far the primary navigation guidance tool on recreational vessels, regardless of vessel size. Paper charts are used more so by sail boat mariners. For those who do use chartplotter / GPS as their main nav aid and carry a backup system, paper charts (25%), chart kits (19%) and handheld GPS (19%) are the top three backups.