NOAA will stop printing traditional nautical charts

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The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced the end of traditional paper nautical charts, but NOAA-certified print-on-demand partners will continue to sell up-to-date paper charts.

NOAA’s Office of Coast Survey, which creates and maintains the nation’s suite of more than 1,000 nautical charts of U.S. coastal waters, announced major changes ahead for mariners and others who use nautical charts.

Starting April 13, the federal government will no longer print traditional lithographic nautical charts, but will continue to provide other forms of nautical charts, including print-on-demand charts and versions for electronic charting systems.

“Like most other mariners, I grew up on NOAA lithographic charts and have used them for years,” Rear Admiral Gerd Glang, director of NOAA’s Office of Coast Survey, said 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, 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 a declining demand for lithographic charts, the increasing use of digital and electronic charts and federal budget realities.

“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,” Capt. Shep Smith, chief of the Coast Survey’s Marine Chart Division, said in a statement. “Fortunately, advancements in computing and mobile technologies give us many more options than was possible years ago.”

NOAA will continue to create and maintain other forms of nautical charts, including the increasingly popular Print on Demand charts — updated paper charts available from NOAA-certified printers. NOAA electronic navigational charts and raster navigational charts, used in a variety of electronic charting systems, are also updated weekly and are available for free download from the Coast Survey website.

NOAA also will provide a new product, full-scale PDF nautical charts, available for free download on a trial basis online.

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