When the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Charting Plan was released earlier this spring, many boaters were concerned that it was the beginning of the end of paper navigational charts.
After taking a closer look at the plan, the BoatUS Foundation for Boating Safety and Clean Water found that NOAA was taking a forward-looking approach that will let the Office of Coast Survey’s Marine Chart Division continue to meet the needs of boaters.
“The way we access data today is different than how we accessed it 10 years ago and we believe there’s a good chance it will be different 10 years from now,” BoatUS Foundation vice president Susan Shingledecker said in a statement.
Shingledecker serves on the 15-member NOAA Hydrographic Services Review Panel, which advises the agency on the nation’s navigational charting needs.
“The National Charting Plan shows that NOAA is looking to evolve its products and use its resources efficiently to meet the changing needs of its users,” Shingledecker added. “Having nautical charts available in a range of formats is key to boating safety, and we don’t expect paper charts to go away anytime soon.”
BoatUS did note that charts will likely move to the metric system, which will require boater education. When that occurs, the BoatUS Foundation expects to increase its educational outreach.
Among the proposed boater-friendly changes in the National Charting Plan are weekly chart updates instead of the traditional longer intervals, Shingledecker said. She also said there will be better integration of data with agencies such as the Army Corps of Engineers and the Coast Guard, which could mean integrating the latest channel depths and aid-to-navigation positions.
The plan also allows NOAA to focus attention on underserved waterways, doing such things as resolving chart discrepancies in areas of importance to recreational boaters.
“We see a more efficient chart production that allows more frequent updates of obstructions, discrepancy resolution and exploration using crowd-sourced data,” Shingledecker said.
“Boaters on the Intracoastal Waterway, for example, need to know what the channel depth is today — not what it was last year. The plan is simply a starting point to get us there.”