Hydrographic surveying and nautical charting

The ICG Hydrographic Department is responsible for both hydrographic surveying and nautical charting. Updated nautical charts are essential for safe navigation; it is mandatory for all ships to carry such charts. 

The ICG/Hydrographic Department issues a monthly publication of notices to mariners with information on amendments that need to be added to the nautical charts. The ICG Hydrographic Department constantly reviews ocean areas that are covered by older surveys.

Hydrographic surveys are carried out over the summer months by the survey vessel Baldur, and during the winter months, the crew works on the processing of data together with the nautical cartographers. Iceland_modern_hydrographic_surveys

The Icelandic Coast Guard (ICG) is responsible for hydrographic surveying according to clause 17 of law No. 52/2006. The Hydrographic Department (ICG-HD) executes this task. ICG-HD works in two sections, survey section and chart section. Employees are 12. ICG-HD makes nautical charts and publishes other nautical publications for mariners around Iceland. The main objective is to complete a series of costal charts at scale 1:100 000 and update harbour plans.

Each and every vessel must carry latest edition of necessary charts i.e. transit charts and coastal charts. Furthermore a ship must carry necessary instruments to plot positions on a chart and Lists of Lights, Tide Tables and Pilots covering relevant sea areas. Charts must be corrected and up to date according to latest Notices to Mariners. Other corrections should be made where applicable.

Danes carried out hydrographic surveying and production of nautical charts of Icelandic waters until the fifth decade of the 20th century. In the year 1960 Icelanders took fully over. Icelandic charts fall into the following categories:

Transit charts, scale: 1:200 000 - 1:3 500 000 9 charts
Coastal charts, scale: 1:70 000 - 1:160 000 20 charts
Approach - and harbour charts, scale: 1:10 000 - 1:50 000 51 charts

Other publications are:


  • Icelandic Sailing Directions (in Icelandic only) published in 1991.
  • INT 1 - Symbols and abbreviations used on charts, published in 2012.
  • Icelandic List of Lights , Icelandic Tide Tables and Tide Graphs (pub. yearly).
  • Icelandic Notices to Mariners (pub. every second month) .
  • Iceland has been a member of the International Hydrographic Organization (IHO) since 1957. IHO was formed by 19 states in 1921. Member states today are 80. IHO publishes specifications that are followed when Icelandic charts are made. Further information on IHO can be found at: www.iho.int


Charts are different from other maps and are used differently. One of the things contributing to this fact is that changes and corrections are issued in Notices to Mariners (NtM´s), which ICG-HD publishes monthly. The NM´s contain information on items that need to be amended in a chart and it is the user's responsibility to keep the charts updated. The NM´s are sent to chart users upon request, free of charge. Furthermore a digital version can be obtained at ICG-HD site on this web: NtM's.

Information on depths or other matters concerning navigation are updated with a new edition of a chart or with a new print if changes are minor. On each chart there is information on date of first edition. If a new edition has been published it is shown separately.

Icelandic charts are in the Mercator projection. All new charts are referred to the WGS-84 datum, but two older charts are referred to Reykjavik-datum. Depths are reduced to mean low water springs (MLWS). Depths and heights are in metres.

Charts alone can not carry all information necessary for mariners and therefore special nautical publications are printed. See list on p. 13 in the Catalogue of Charts.

Agents, within Iceland and abroad, sell Icelandic charts and other nautical publications. See list of agents on this web and on p.14 in the Catalogue of Charts.

Notices to Mariners (NtMs)
Catalogue of Chart