NOAA plans to stop paper chart production

Saw this article in Maritime executive:

3rd party companies will apparently still offer print on demand.

I can’t wrap my head around all the possible implications; probably more an indication of my lack of intelligence.

Will I need ECDIS endorsement? How will Pilots test? Is there an ENC tool for celestial navigation? Or for determining set and drift, or CPA? What record keeping for chart corrections?
(Edit: thinking of exams, here)

Why should they though? No one wants them, everyone wants print on demand so they don’t have to correct a new chart.

They want to get rid of paper charts. NOAA stopped printing a few years back. The way I read it was only ENC no more raster charts.

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That’s what I get for not actually reading the article.

I think print on demand ENCs will be an option If you absolutely need paper. I guess this moment had to happen, but I will miss the option of swapping back and forth between ENC and raster on the ECS. There is just something more reassuring to me to see the familiar look of a paper chart even if it is on an LCD display.


I’ll take as many sources of information as I can get.

Yes but they will not be raster charts. They will be ENC based charts. I tried out the “custom chart application” they have in prototype phase. It’s a pretty neat tool.



Raster navigational chart (left) and electronic navigational chart of the same area at the mouth of Chesapeake Bay. NOAA produces raster navigational charts by scanning electronically at high resolution the original color separates that are used to print the paper charts. Electronic navigational charts are created from a database of chart objects and their attributes. The objects may be turned on and off when the chart is displayed on a computer screen.

Growing up with paper charts may have something to do with feeling more comfortable with raster charts than with ENCs. They may appear unnecessarily cluttered to someone who started playing with electronic devices in their crib.

Maybe, but I suspect you’d see the see the same "discomfort’ for some switching between say NOAA and BA or DMA charts.

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It looks like NOAA is seeking public comments. But it doesn’t sound like keeping traditional charts is one of the options. Just seeking comments on timing of implementing the change.

From, “Sunsetting Traditional NOAA Paper Charts” (linked in the various articles)

traditional charts and chart numbers will no longer exist. Defining a standard set of references, such as the extents of inlets, bays, harbors, etc., that are associated with the physical environment in lieu of chart numbers might be one way to order the listings of notifications in the other remaining sections. NOAA will work with the USCG and NGA to help define an appropriate method.

So we may be choosing charts in a much different way in the future. That for me would be a problem, because I know the numbers pretty well for areas I navigate, as most mariners do. They are also not sure how LNM corrections will be disseminated, if at all. So why bother having a paper copy if the only way to update it is to print a new one. That is unless you like having one that is “not for navigational” purposes for voyage planning. I lean in that direction because it’s nice to have a full sized version to reference instead of staring at the monitor and scrolling around.

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It’s my view that switching from paper to ECDIS is like sky diving. You have to either jump or stay on the plane.

You have to fully commit. Just jump, it’s the only way. It’s not going to work to stand in the door of the plane asking “what if my chute doesn’t open.” etc.

Of course the paper charts had some advantages but it’s not worth it trying to maintain two systems.

That is me! I literally started learning paper charts around 3rd grade. I instantly translate paper/RNC to reality and vice versa. I am really going to miss the paper and RNCs.

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I see a major flaw in printing from ENCs - who decides how to set the options.
The RNC is what it is.

The ENC probably has 100 different settings, the depth color coding not the least of it!

You can either fight it or embrace it. With the ECDIS the various depth contours can be set at the desired depths. Ships with different drafts have differing “good water”.

Presumably the yahties drawing 1 meter would purchase paper charts reflecting that draft while the deep-draft ships could use more appropriate parameters.

Which would entirely suck if the charts got mixed up somehow. “Hey, did you just mail all the charts for Bill’s Boston Whaler to Bob the tanker captain”
Flying went this way some time ago, although you still can buy paper charts. It helped that the paper charts for airplanes sucked on electronic displays, so the “ENC” versions are all anyone ever wanted.

I understand your point but paper charts aren’t much use aboard a Boston Whaler, a boat too small to have a dedicated chart table, consequently Bill is likely to already be using a chart plotter preloaded with ENCs. Bob, the tanker captain relies on ECDIS and ain’t got time for no stinkin’ paper charts.
Kindle devices haven’t killed paper books and I expect that if there is a demand for large scale paper charts whether in raster or ENC format, independent vendors will fill the void.
I’m more concerned with the inaccuracies in both types that become evident with the acquisition of local knowledge.

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What about overlaid charts? Granted it may be a paid option that I haven’t seen on ECDIS in my company, but I’m curious about block charts for the GOM. I’ve always used paper charts for that.

So I have been inspired to learn more about the topic. CherSoft offers a Raster vs Vector comparison.

Some quotes:
“[Paper charts] are created to the best scale, cover the best area, display just the right amount of data, with just the right level of detail and so on. We can make this claim because they have been refined over many years (sometimes 200 years) to give the mariner exactly what they need for certain purposes.”
Regarding being able to tune detail in an ENC,
“For SOLAS type use it is hard to argue that any feature should be optional. Either the navigator needs to be aware of an item on the chart or they do not.”

I imagine, like so many safety rules, the library of US navigation charts have been written in blood. Any transition away from offering charts identical to those designed by NOAA cartographers is probably a bad idea.