The Triton


Nautical paper charts are not going away


By John Mann

On Nov. 8, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Office of Coast Survey announced plans to change the database and format from which traditional paper nautical charts for the U.S. are printed.

Unfortunately, the announcement was misinterpreted and broadly reported that over the next five years, paper charts would be phased out and no longer available. 

Not true. 

Rest assured, paper charts will continue to be available through the online NOAA Custom Chart application or third-party providers such as Bluewater Books and Charts.

NOAA is in the midst of a multi-year program to improve Electronic Navigation Chart (ENC) coverage and will ultimately stop supporting the raster chart database from which its more than 1,000 paper charts of U.S. waters are derived. 

The ENCs are a vector format that allows multiple layers of data to source information; the raster data is only two-dimensional. So paper charts created from ENC-sourced data are more robust, have more information, and are simply better. Think about it as new technology being employed to ultimately provide improved paper charts.

So NOAA is reaching out to chart users and companies that provide products and services based on the raster data to figure out how best to phase them out – not phasing paper charts out completely, just this format from which paper charts are made. NOAA wants input from mariners to help it choose the layers of ENC information that will be applied to paper charts moving forward. And it wants to be sure the move from raster data does not occur until the new ENC-derived process is proven.

To that end, NOAA is seeking comments to be made by Feb. 1 and submitted via NOAA’s Assist feedback tool at, or by mail to: NOAA (NCS2) , ATTN. Sunset of Raster Charts, 1315 East-West Highway, Silver Spring, MD 20910-3282. A Federal Register Notice soliciting comments has also been released.

I would encourage all mariners who so passionately hold fast to paper charts to help us make them the best they can be. 

John Mann is president of Fort Lauderdale-based Bluewater Books and Charts, a provider of digital and paper charts for worldwide cruising. Comments are welcome below.

Share This Post

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Please answer the question below to leave a comment. * Time limit is exhausted. Please reload CAPTCHA.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Editor’s Picks

Recent yacht fires a warning: Know your insurance details

Recent yacht fires a warning: Know your insurance details

By Dorie Cox No one wants to burn through a $20 million loss like the 102-foot M/Y Polar Bear in a San Diego shipyard in 2014. The …

France, Italy change Med charter VAT laws

France, Italy change Med charter VAT laws

By Sara Ammannati and Camille Penquerch January was a month of significant changes for charter activity in the Mediterranean following …

Crew Eye: A successful catch and release, times three

Crew Eye: A successful catch and release, times three

Chef Chris Parthemore, left, and First Mate Tom Robertson at anchor just outside Gustavia, St. Barts, in February. “Tom got the first …

Triton networks with Lewis Marine

Triton networks with Lewis Marine

Nearly 250 yacht captains, crew and industry folks stopped by Triton Networking with Lewis Marine Supply last night to check out the …