Tuesday, October 22, 2013

NOAA to end printing paper nautical charts

Electronic navigational charts are increasingly popular with commercial pilots around the world.
Still, NOAA sells about 60,000 of the old 4-by-3-foot lithographic maps each year
for about $20 apiece, the same amount it costs to print them.

From NOAA (NOAA news)

NOAA's Office of Coast Survey, which creates and maintains the nation's suite of a thousand nautical charts of U.S. coastal waters, has announced major changes ahead for mariners and others who use nautical charts.
Starting April 13, 2014, the federal government (actually the FAA Federal Aviation Administration which took over federal chart-making in 1999) will no longer print traditional lithographic (paper) nautical charts.

 Most mariners now use Print-on-Demand nautical charts
that are up-to-date to the moment of printing.

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:
  • the declining demand for lithographic charts,
  • the increasing use of digital and electronic charts,
  • and federal budget realities. 
"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 paper charts."
"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."

Most mariners now use Print-on-Demand nautical charts that are up-to-date to the moment of printing.
These charts will continue to be available from NOAA-certified printers.

It costs NOAA about $100 million a year to survey and chart the nation's waters.
NOAA will still spend the same money but 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 (through OceanGrafix or East View Geospatial).

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 benefitting 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.

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