A new resolution on energy-efficiency regulation of ships was adopted at the 65th session of the Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) of the International Maritime Organization (IMO),...
All depths indicated on charts are reckoned from a selected level of the water, called the sounding datum, (sometimes referred to as the reference plane to distinguish this term from the geodetic datum). The various sounding datums are explained in Tides and Tidal Currents. On charts produced from U.S. surveys, the sounding datumis selected with regard to the tides of the region. Depths shown are the least depths to be expected under average conditions. On charts compiled from Non-US charts and surveys the sounding datum is that of the original authority. When it is known, the sounding datum used is stated on the chart. In some cases where the chart is based upon old surveys, particularly in areas where the range of tide is not great, the sounding datum may not be known.
For most US National Ocean Service charts of the United States and Puerto Rico, the sounding datum is mean lower low water. Most NIMA charts are based upon mean low water, mean lower low water, or mean low water springs. The sounding datum for charts published by other countries varies greatly, but is usually lower than mean low water. On charts of the Baltic Sea, Black Sea, the Great Lakes, and other areas where tidal effects are small or without significance, the sounding datum adopted is an arbitrary height approximating the mean water level.
The sounding datum of the largest scale chart of an area is generally the same as the reference level from which height of tide is tabulated in the tide tables. The chart datum is usually only an approximation of the actual mean value, because determination of the actual mean height usually requires a longer series of tidal observations than is usually available to the cartographer. In addition, the heights of the tide vary over time.
Since the chart datum is generally a computed mean or average height at some state of the tide, the depth of water at any particular moment may be less than shown on the chart. For example, if the chart datum is mean lower low water, the depth of water at lower low water will be less than the charted depth about as often as it is greater. A lower depth is indicated in the tide tables by a minus sign (–).