Starting April 13, 2014, the federal government will no longer print traditional lithographic (paper) nautical charts, but will continue to provide other forms of nautical charts, including print-on-demand charts and versions for electronic charting systems.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Office of Coast Survey, which creates and maintains more than a thousand nautical charts of U.S. coastal waters, announced the change Tuesday.
"Like most other mariners, I grew up on NOAA lithographic charts and have used them for years," said Rear Adm. Gerd Glang, director of NOAA's Office of Coast Survey, in a statement. "We know that changing chart formats and availability will be a difficult change for some mariners who love their traditional paper charts, but we're still going to provide other forms of our official charts."
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, NOAA explained.
"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 were 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 will also announce a new product: full-scale PDF nautical charts, available for free download on a trial basis
NOAA's Office of Coast Survey is the nation's nautical chart maker. 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.