NOAA to nix traditional nautical charts

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The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has announced a plan to transition away from paper nautical charts to electronic charts. Dubbed a “Sunset Plan,” the initiative will “gradually and completely end” paper charts and PDFs of those charts (Raster Charts), according to a bulletin from the NOAA Office of Coastal Survey.

“NOAA is initiating a five-year process to end all traditional paper nautical chart production and is seeking the public’s feedback via a Federal Register Notice published on Nov. 15, 2019,” the bulletin states in part. “Chart users, companies that provide products and services based on NOAA raster and electronic navigational chart (NOAA ENC®) products, and other stakeholders can help shape the manner and timing in which the product sunsetting process will proceed. Comments may be submitted through NOAA’s online ASSIST feedback tool, and are due on Feb. 1, 2020.” 

A previous incarnation of NOAA’s Office of Coastal Survey began generating paper charts at the direction of President Jefferson in 1807, according to a Coastal Survey webpage. But in the present day, the Office of Coastal Survey has deemed making paper products and their raster offshoots while also making electronic charts to be an exercise in redundancy. The Office of Coastal Survey states in Sunsetting Traditional NOAA Paper Charts, “ENCs provide the most efficient means of delivering updated navigational information to the public, while paper and raster chart products have become out of sync with their corresponding ENCs. Ending paper and raster chart production will enable NOAA to improve and expand ENC coverage beyond what would be possible otherwise.”