NOAA 50th Anniversary
Office of Coast Survey
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
U.S. Department of Commerce

Future of NOAA Charts


Three Major Efforts Support the Future of NOAA Charts

Three principal elements of the future of NOAA nautical chart production are presented here. These efforts enable ongoing improvements to the quality and detail of the navigational data that NOAA provides, as well as an option for a format to portray that data.

  • Improving Electronic Navigational Charts – The arrangement or layout of a set of charts is called a scheme – a systematic configuration of chart “footprints.” NOAA is creating a new gridded layout of rectangularly shaped charts for its electronic navigational chart (NOAA ENC®) product suite. As new gridded ENCs are created, a number of improvements to the quality and consistency of the data are being implemented. These include providing larger scale (more detailed) coverage in many cases, resolving discontinuities and properly “edge-matching” data between adjacent ENC cells by using just 11 standard chart scales. The use of standard depth contour intervals is improving consistency between adjacent ENCs, and contours are being recompiled in whole metric units. Topographic contours and road networks are also being added in many areas. More information is on NOAA Coast Survey's Rescheming and Improving Electronic Navigational Charts web page.
  • New Options for Paper Nautical Charts – The online NOAA Custom Chart application enables users to create their own customized nautical charts directly from the latest official NOAA electronic navigational chart (NOAA ENC®) data. The tool outputs Portable Document Format (PDF) files set to the paper size, scale, and location selected by the user. Depths can be displayed in meters, feet, or fathoms and there are other display options, such as changing the depth at which a shallow water blue tint is applied and the depiction of a "safety contour" based on a vessel's draft. More information is on NOAA Coast Survey's NOAA Custom Chart web page.
  • Ending Traditional Paper Nautical Chart Production – In a November 2019 notice in the Federal Register, NOAA announced the sunsetting of its traditional paper and raster nautical chart products in a November 2019 notice in the Federal Register. Cancellation of individual charts started in 2021 and will be completed by January 2025. Ending traditional chart production will enable NOAA to devote more resources to improving the electronic navigational chart (ENC) product suite, which is expected to grow from the 1700 ENCs maintained in 2021 to more than 9000, higher quality, more detailed ENC cells. More information is on NOAA Coast Survey's Farewell to Traditional Nautical Charts web page.

Revised: 6/21/2021