NOAA's National Charting Plan – A Strategy to Transform Nautical Charting

TitleNOAA's National Charting Plan – A Strategy to Transform Nautical Charting
Publication TypeConference Abstract
AuthorsNyberg, J, Harmon, C, Pe'eri, S, Brown, M
Conference NameInternational Cartographic Conference (ICC)
Conference LocationWashington, DC
Conference DatesJuly 2 - 7

The U.S. Coast Survey was established in 1807 to provide nautical charts to support safe shipping, national defense, and maritime boundaries for the young nation. More than two centuries later, Coast Survey – now an office within the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) – continues to provide navigational products and services that ensure safe and efficient maritime commerce on America’s oceans, coastal waters, and in the Great Lakes. This comprises an area of about 3.4 million square nautical miles and 95,000 miles of coastline. The first complete nautical chart published by the Coast Survey was of New York Harbor in 1844. The format, information, and intended uses of this first chart were quite similar to the raster charts that NOAA continues to make today and mariners continue to use paper charts in much the same way they did in the age of tall sailing ships.

Although NOAA still produces "traditional" raster nautical charts, a sea-change in chart production methods and the practice of marine navigation began in the mid-1990s when Global Positioning System (GPS) technology and electronic navigational charts (ENCs) became available to the public. Since the introduction of ENCs thirty years ago, the size of commercial vessels has increased more than four-fold, modern navigational systems have become more sophisticated, and recreational boaters have joined professional mariners in using electronic chart displays to ply the nation's waters. Users of all types are expecting more precision in the charted positions of features, higher resolution of depth information on electronic charts, and the greater timelines and ease of access to charts and chart updates.
The National Charting Plan (currently under development) briefly describes the evolving state of marine navigation, data collection, and chart compilation and explains how changes in technology will affect both the raster and vector NOAA marine chart suites. The plan also describes some of the steps that NOAA will be taking to improve our chart products in the short term, including changes to chart formats, scales, data compilation, as well as some considerations on the future of NOAA navigational products beyond the short term.

This presentation will explain what to expect regarding the future of nautical charts, navigation systems, and value-added data providers. It will also discuss services and products that will be changed or discontinued and the introduction of completely new products and services optimized for modern technology and techniques.

Coast Survey’s goal is to deliver products that are more useful, more up-to-date, and safer to navigate with, and at the same time optimize the use of the government resources employed to maintain the navigational products and services that are increasingly required to support higher levels of precision and timeliness.