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NOAA Goes POD with Nautical Charts

October 28, 2013  By PrintAction Staff

The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has announced it will stop producing nautical charts, instead offloading the responsibility to Print-on-Demand suppliers.

According to the NOAA, the decision was made based on the declining demand for lithographic charts and the increasing use of digital and electronic charts, combined with “federal budget realities.”

“Like most other mariners, I grew up on NOAA lithographic charts and have used them for years,” said Rear Admiral Gerd Glang, director of NOAA’s Office of Coast Survey. “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.”


The charts have been produced by the NOAA since 1862 and are available in marine shops and other stores. They were printed by the U.S. government. Instead, free PDF downloads will be offered of its raster navigational charts. Full scale nautical charts (as they appear in the currently printed lithographic charts) will also be available for free on a trial basis for three months.

“Customers frequently ask us for special printed features, such as waterproof charts, special papers, or chart books containing additional information,” he said. “We are investigating new opportunities for companies to fill these market niches, using the most up-to-date information directly from NOAA.”

The organization says it will cease providing lithographic charts starting next April. NOAA’s Office of Coast Survey is the U.S. nautical chartmaker. Originally formed by President Thomas Jefferson in 1807, Coast Survey updates charts, surveys the coastal seafloor, responds to maritime emergencies, and searches for underwater obstructions that pose a danger to navigation.

In Canada, nautical charts are produced by the Canadian Hydrographic Service (CHS), a department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada. The CHS offers 946 charts, covering all three of Canada’s coastlines plus major inland waterways. Both Paper and Digital Charts are available.

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