Nautical chart (NOAA)

NOAA modernizing nautical charts

Just as mapping and management of the nation’s airspace has become more complex, so too have the nautical charts that ensure safe shipping and national defense on America’s coastal waters and in the Great Lakes -- an area covering about 3.4 million square nautical miles and 95,000 miles of coastline.

With the size and number of commercial vessels increasing, modern navigational systems have become more sophisticated.  Commercial shippers and recreational boaters now use electronic chart displays for navigation and expect easy access to more precise, higher-resolution charts that deliver the most up-to-date information possible.

To address the need for more detailed and up-to-date information, the Coast Survey -- an office within the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration -- has released a draft National Charting Plan that describes its strategy to improve the entire suite of NOAA charts, including changes to chart formats, scales, data compilation and symbology.  

According to NOAA, the plan seeks to

  • Reduce unwarranted alarms in the electronic chart display and information system (ECDIS) used by large commercial vessels and improve the differentiation between dangerous and non-dangerous wrecks.
  • Resolve uncertainties about dangers described as “reported,” “existence doubtful” and “position approximate.”
  • Create an orderly layout for electronic navigation charts that will replace the current set of 1,182 irregularly shaped cells compiled at 131 different scales.
  • Strengthen partnerships with the Coast Guard by developing methods to ingest changes to the database of USCG maintained aids to navigation directly into Coast Survey’s chart production system.

Comments are due by June 1, 2017.

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