NAVTEX On Ships: Working, Types Of Messages And Advantages

It is of utmost importance that every navigating officer ensures the safety of the vessel and its crew. Accidents can happen to the most cautious and prudent of navigator.

Right from the start of voyage planning, the navigator needs up to date information that will affect the passage of the ship. The most important information to vessels is information related to safety including Maritime Safety Information.

Maritime Safety Information includes navigational and meteorological warnings, meteorological forecasts, warnings about dangers to navigation, warnings of missing vessels and other urgent messages pertaining to the safety of the vessel and its crew.

Constant monitoring to pick up wanted information among a vast volume of messages is not very practical with a limited radio system. The NAVTEX system provides all navigating officers with up to the minute information automatically.

navtex

NAVTEX, an acronym for navigational telex (navigational text messages) is a device used on-board the vessels to provide short range Maritime Safety Information in coastal waters automatically.

It can be used in ships of all types and sizes. The area covered by Navtex can extend as far as 400 nautical miles from the broadcast station. A NAVTEX receiver onboard prints out navigational and meteorological warnings and forecasts as well as urgent Marine Safety Information to ships.

It forms a vital element of the Global Maritime Distress Safety System (GMDSS). Navtex uses the feature of radio telex or Narrow Band Direct Printing (NBDP) for the automatic broadcast of information.

HOW NAVTEX WORKS?

The Navtex works on a frequency of 518 kHz in the medium frequency band. 490 kHz frequency is also used by some countries for broadcasts in the national languages, also known as national navtex.

Where medium frequency reception is difficult, transmissions are made on 4209.5 kHz. The default setting in a Navtex is 518 kHz. The entire world is divided into 21 areas known as NAVAREAS (including 5 areas recently introduced for the Arctic region) for the purpose of distributing this information.

Each Navarea has multiple navtex stations which further helps in transmitting the messages.

SELECTION OF STATIONS

All navtex receivers are programmable to enable the navigating officer to ensure that only messages from selected Navtex Stations are displayed or printed.

The SELECTING STATION menu under the Menu option in a Navtex Receiver allows the officer to select the desired stations he/she wants to receive automatically or manually.

On automatic selection, the navtex receives Marine Safety Information for the area the ship happens to be in continuously and without any user involvement.

If a ship’s position data is fed from any navigating equipment like GPS, the Navtex will automatically decide in which NAVAREA the ship is navigating presently and thus select the appropriate Navtex Stations.

In the manual mode, the navigating officer can select what stations he/she wishes to receive.

A list of Navtex Stations can be found in the Admiralty List of Radio Signals Volume 3 Part 1 and in the List of Coast Stations and Special Service Stations (List IV) for reference.

TYPES OF MESSAGES

The Navtex receives the following kind of messages:

A= Navigational Warning

B= Meteorological Warning

C= Ice report

D= Search and Rescue Information/ piracy and armed robbery

E= Meteorological forecast

F= Pilot messages

G= AIS messages(formerly Decca messages)

H= Loran C messages

I= Omega messages

J= Satnav messages (GPS or GLONASS)

K= Other electronic navigational aid system messages

L= navigational warnings (additional)

M to U= Reserve

V= Notice to fisherman

W to Y= Reserve

Z= No messages on hand

The navtex receiver can be set to ignore certain types of messages, however, messages A,B,D and L because of their importance cannot be rejected by navigating officers.

Audible alarms can also be generated when message type A,B,D or L is received. It should only be possible to reset this alarm manually.

We should also note that when programming the type of messages to receive, it is wise to ensure that only those which are required and necessary are programmed for the reception.

Otherwise, a good deal of paper will be wasted or one will have to scroll through a mass of messages if the broadcasts are received in soft copy.

NAVTEX

THE FORMAT OF THE MESSAGE

The message in a Navtex Receiver appears in the following format:

ZCZC   b1 b2 b3 b4     MAIN MESSAGE     NNNN

ZCZC: It is the start code. It indicates the beginning of the message.

B1: This character represents the Station ID.

B2: This character is called the Subject Indicator. It is used to represent the type of message. (A to Z)

The characters B1 and B2 are used by the navtex receivers to reject messages from stations of concerning subjects of no interest to the officer.

B3 and B4: B3 and B4 is a 2 digit serial number for each message.

NNNN: This indicates the end of the message.

The characters B3 and B4 are used by receivers to keep already received message from being repeated.

Below is an example of a message:

ZCZC OA20

WZ 1593

Scotland, West Coast

The North cardinal light buoy 58.01.2N 005.27.1W

have been permanently withdrawn.

Cancel WZ 1562

NNNN

Every Navtex message has information within the message header. In the above message:

The letter “O” indicates a broadcast from the Navtex station, here Portpatrick radio.

“A” indicates a Navigational warning category message.

‘20’ indicates the navigational warning message priority sequence.

ADVANTAGES OF HAVING NAVTEX ONBOARD THE SHIPS:

Navtex is a form of extra insurance and aid in the peace of mind. It is a very convenient way of monitoring navigational warnings, meteorological warnings, search and rescue information and other data for ships sailing within 200 to 400 nautical miles off the coast. It thus provides pertinent navigational and weather-related information in real-time.

As Navtex receiver receives messages automatically it is quite a user friendly. An officer of the watch does not have to monitor it regularly or be physically present at a fixed time.

There is also no requirement for retuning of the receiver. This not only saves time but also stops an officer from being distracted on the bridge.

With the information received from the Navtex receiver, passage plan can be amended as required for the safety of the vessel.

An officer of the watch can attend to any distress warning in the vicinity. He is also aware of the expected weather and can plan accordingly. Thus a Navtex forms an integral part of the bridge navigational equipment.

NAVTEX RECEIVER CHECKLIST

  1. Every officer should make sure that there are sufficient rolls of Navtex paper available onboard at all times.
  2. It is important to check that there is paper in the receiver so that one does not miss out any important messages.
  3. It is advisable to leave the Navtex ON at all times to avoid the chance of losing vital information that might affect the vessel during its voyage.
  4. Make sure that the operating manual is available on the bridge.
  5. A plastic copy of the NAVAREAs/METAREAs in which the vessel is likely to sail, showing the Navtex stations, their coverage ranges and their respective time schedules should be made available next to the equipment.
  6. A handy guide for programming, status and auto testing procedures can be made and kept with the equipment.
  7. Routine tests should be carried out to check the performance of the equipment.
  8. Extra care should be taken not to confuse the programming of B1 characters (station designators) with those of B2 characters (type of messages).

Navtex is mandatory to be carried by all SOLAS approved vessels. It is small but powerful equipment. It provides safety information that can be tailored as per one’s particular needs.

Over to you..

Do you know any other important points on NAVTEX that can be added to this article?

Let’s know in the comments below.

11 Comments

  1. Interfacing with ECDIS is very useful, it will automatically shows “warning areas” on map.

    A modern solution (also MED approved) is paperless Navtex.

    Great article!

  2. Thanks for the article mate, I’ve found it very informative and useful. Although, I’d appreciate if someone could tell me how you read the time “280500” UTC and also what does WWJ71 RJTD 28000 stand for?

  3. @Joel: 280500 UTC means the 28th of the month at 05:00 Greenwich time.

    Similarly, right about now would be 162330 UTC December – meaning the 16th of December, at 23:30 Greenwich time.

  4. Can someone tell me that 280500UTC NOV “15” as the picture showed above ?
    I don’t know what does “15” mean exactly.

  5. @Li Jung : 280500UTC NOV “15 is read in this format DDHHMM TIMEZONE MONTH YEAR

    So 280500UTC Nov 15 is 28th Nov 2015, 0500 Zulu time, or Greenwich time.

    Navtex integration is available very nicely in ChartWorld eGlobe G2 ECDIS. Check them out!

  6. Thanks for this article it is really very useful und also can help us with our prresenation ,but i think when the article have more pictures to illustrate more details and short videos how is work but definitely it is great …..

    Best regards

  7. Congaratulations. Very proffessional! In some cases, due to interferences of ground waves and direct waves, mistakes (non received characters) are possible. Mainly close to the coast line. This system was designed mainly for sea outside coast lines. That’s some boats are not impressed by NAVTEX. But as you accented it very, very useful. Maybe, in near future, will be changed to NAVDAT, maybe not. It depends on IMO. decisions. Best Regards. Stefan Dimitrov.

  8. Does anyone know anything about the INS Output Mask? If my RCV Mask is set to ABDL, however my INS Output Mask is set to A-Z, will my ECDIS receive all of the messages, or only the ones that the actual NAVTEX unit are set to?

  9. Can someone please advise, Within How many Nautical mile range from the route, the Navtex messages are to be plotted?

  10. Hi, We are currently in navarea 1. Can anyone tell me why our navtex is not receiving any messages?

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