NOAA announces end of traditional paper nautical charts.
NOAA's Office of Coast Survey, which creates and maintains the
nation's suite of over a thousand nautical charts of U.S. coastal
waters, today announced major changes ahead for mariners and others
who use nautical charts. Starting April 13, 2014, the federal
government will no longer print traditional lithographic (paper)
nautical charts. Coast Survey will continue to create and distribute
other forms of nautical charts, including Print-on-Demand paper charts
as well as electronic and digital formats.
"Like most other
mariners, I grew up on NOAA lithographic charts and have used them for
years," said Rear Admiral Gerd Glang, director of NOAA's Office of
Coast Survey. "We know that changing chart formats and availability
will be a difficult change for some mariners who love their traditional
Since 1862, those lithographic nautical charts — available in
marine shops and other stores — have been printed by the U.S.
government and sold to the public by commercial vendors. The decision
to stop production is based on several factors, including the
declining demand for lithographic charts, the increasing use of
digital and electronic charts, and federal budget realities.
"With the end of traditional paper charts, our primary concern
continues to be making sure that boaters, fishing vessels, and
commercial mariners have access to the most accurate, up-to-date
nautical chart in a format that works well for them," said Capt. Shep
Smith, chief of Coast Survey’s Marine Chart Division. "Fortunately,
advancements in computing and mobile technologies give us many more
options than was possible years ago."
NOAA will continue to create and maintain other forms of nautical
charts, including the increasingly popular
Print on Demand (POD) charts, updated paper charts available from
NOAA-certified printers. NOAA electronic navigational charts (NOAA
ENC®) and raster navigational charts (NOAA
RNC®), used in a variety of electronic charting systems, are also
updated weekly and are available for free download from the Coast
Survey website. NOAA announced a new product as well: full-scale
PDF (Portable Digital Format) nautical charts, available for free
download on a trial basis.
The world of navigation is benefiting from advances in technology,
Smith explained. He said that NOAA will consult with chart users and
private businesses about the future of U.S. navigation, especially
exploring the use of NOAA charts as the basis for new products.
“Customers frequently ask us for special printed features, such as
waterproof charts, special papers, or chart books containing
additional information,” he explained. “We are investigating new
opportunities for companies to fill these market niches, using the
most up-to-date information directly from NOAA.”
For more information, see the
Frequently Asked Questions.
NOAA Office of Coast Survey is the nation’s nautical chartmaker.
Originally formed by President Thomas Jefferson in 1807, Coast Survey
updates charts, surveys the coastal seafloor, responds to maritime
emergencies, and searches for underwater obstructions that pose a
danger to navigation.