NOAA Custom Charts

What is the NOAA Custom Chart application?

NOAA Custom Chart (NCC) is an online application that enables users to create their own customized nautical charts directly from the latest official NOAA electronic navigational chart (NOAA ENC®) data.

Depths can be displayed in meters, feet, or fathoms and there are a few 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.

NCC outputs geospatially referenced Portable Document Format (PDF) files using the paper size, scale, and location selected by the user. A new feature released in NCC version 2.0 enables NCC users to save these custom chart parameters in a "personal chart catalog" that can be reloaded into NCC at a later date to refresh the chart with ENC data that NOAA updates weekly. Chart catalogs are GeoJSON files composed of text in a format used for encoding a variety of geographic data structures using JavaScript Object Notation. These small text files (about 1KB for each chart saved in a catalog) can be emailed to easily share one or more chart designs with others.

Custom charts created for letter (8.5" x 11") or legal (8.5" x 14") size paper may easily be printed on an ordinary home printer. For larger formats, commercial printers are able to print large format NCC charts. NOAA maintains a listing of vendors that have experience in printing and shipping copies of custom charts.

The data portrayed on NCC charts is referenced to the World Geodetic System 1984 (WGS84) and charts are created in the Mercator projection. The best output is produced when the scale of the custom chart matches the scale of the available ENC data. NCC charts are composed in a standard rectangular format featuring a single chart panel (there are no insets). The data on the chart is presented in a manner similar to traditional paper nautical charts, showing soundings, buoys, beacons and other aids to navigation, compass roses and the like, although some chart symbology may differ slightly. A graphic and a representative fraction scale, and other marginalia appear below the chart panel. Separate 8.5" x 11" PDF pages contain notes and a zone of confidence or CATZOC diagram, similar to the survey source diagrams seen on traditional nautical charts.

NOAA custom charts do not have numbers and U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) Local Notice to Mariners (LNM) are not issued for NCC charts. The USCG continues to provide information about changes to aids to navigation and newly identified dangers to navigation in the LNM. Any references to NOAA traditional chart numbers will eventually be replaced in LNMs as NOAA discontinues production of these Charts. Standard, "harmonized" waterway and other place names will be used to provide the general location of changed features in addition to the precise longitude and latitude of the changes.

Coast Survey's Weekly Chart Updates website can be used to identify the location of corrections applied to the ENCs that are used to create NCC charts (and traditional paper charts that have not yet been canceled). These include critical corrections published in the LNM, as well as routine non-critical corrections that are regularly released by NOAA. These corrections are displayed in a map and can be queried by the user to obtain more information.

NOAA Custom Chart of Nantucket Island, Massachusetts

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Added Personal Chart Catalog functionality, which allows users to save their custom chart parameters to an exported Chart Catalog file. Users can then recreate a chart or multiple charts repeatedly as NOAA releases ENC updates by uploading the file in a new session of the NOAA Custom Chart in their web browser.
  • The portrayal of data on NCC charts now more closely follows the symbology used on traditional NOAA nautical charts including symbology for maintained channels, natural/manmade coastline, marsh/mangrove areas, low water line, and other features.
  • The chart notes output is more complete, with local, regional, and global notes exported for the exact extent of the chart. Expanded notes can be found in areas where traditional paper charts have been canceled.

  • NCC charts still depict some features with symbols that are more familiar to those using the Electronic Chart Display and Information System (ECDIS) navigational equipment typically used by large commercial vessels.
  • More of these ECDIS symbols will be replaced with the symbols and colors used on traditional NOAA paper charts.
  • More improvements to labels for aids to navigation and other features.
  • Currently, compass roses sometimes appear at the edge of a chart or are not spaced appropriately for the scale of the chart being created.
    An upcoming version of NCC will enable users to place compass roses manually in locations that best suit the chart being made. In the meantime, users can toggle the display of compass roses off in the NCC Layer Settings and use a protractor aligned to the chart latitude/longitude grid to plot bearings. If compass roses are toggled off, a small magenta arrow is displayed with the magnetic variation from true north. Variation to the east is indicated with a positive number (as shown below), variations to the west are indicated with a negative number. Users should be careful not to confuse this number with a sounding, which looks similar, especially if the variation is a whole number, as is the case in the example below.
  • Displaying swing circles for anchor berths are not currently depicted.
  • Display of text associated with some features, such as Code of Federal Register (CFR) references for anchorages and restricted areas, which are not depicted.
    Improved display of labels and other text within the chart, including text related to aids to navigation will be provided in an upcoming enhancement of NCC.
  • Improving the logical order in which chart notes are listed on separate 8.5" x 11" pages in the NCC output and other chart note related improvements.
  • The mathematical rounding used by NCC when converting depth units in meters to feet or meters to fathoms will usually result in displaying a sounding or other depth value that is one unit shallower than the same depth shown on the corresponding traditional paper nautical chart. Rounding of depths on nautical charts is not as straightforward as the rules that are taught in elementary school. Special considerations are taken to always round "on the side of safety" which complicates the conversion of depth units provided by NCC.
    We are working on ways to resolve this so that the same maximum safe depths can be shown on all NOAA chart products.
  • The magenta "Data extent" boxes that are displayed in the NCC map window show the minimum bounding rectangle (MBR) of the individual ENC cells that are used to create NCC custom charts. If an ENC cell is rectangular and is aligned with lines of longitude and latitude, then the extent of the ENC and its MBR will match. However, if the ENC is irregularly shaped, skewed, or composed of noncontiguous parts, then the MBR for the ENC will enclose areas which are not covered by the ENC data at the scale indicated, as shown in the examples below.
    We are exploring different ways to make it easier for users to determine the exact extent and scale of the underlying ENC data that NCC uses to build custom charts
  • Depth contour labels are sometimes spaced too closely or too far apart. We are working on ways to improve the scale appropriate placement of contour labels.
  • Occasionally, the latitude and longitude labels associated with the chart grid may overlap each other. We hope to resolve this problem soon.

Unlike popular online maps or car navigation systems, which often provide a "seamless" map display as users zoom in, nautical charts only have large scale data in particular areas, such as ports. You can only build a custom chart with the ENC data that is available and at the scale at which it was compiled.

For example, if you wanted to build a 1:20,000 scale chart for a trip from Buhne Point in Humboldt Bay, California to the Pedrazzini Boat Ramp on the Eel River, you might set a chart extent, as shown by the red filled box below, for a 34" x 44" (ANSI E) sheet. A red outline covering Arcata Bay to the northeast to Humboldt Bay to the southwest shows the extent of a 1:25,000 scale ENC cell. This is a bit smaller scale then the 1:20,000 scale that the NCC chart will be created at, but the difference is fairly small and the top right corner of the resulting chart should look fine.

However, the largest scale ENC coverage available for the bottom and left sides of the custom chart is 1:200,000. This provides much less detail than would normally be used for a 1:20,000 scale chart that NCC is being used to create. The extent of the smaller scale, less detailed ENC data that is available to fill in the rest of the chart is shown by the larger red outline in the image below. It has much less detail.

This difference is readily apparent in the resulting chart, shown below. The density of the soundings in the northeast quadrant of the chart is much greater, there are more depth contours shown, and the delineation of the sloughs in Humboldt Bay is more detailed than the banks of the Eel River shown in the southern portion of the chart.

The U.S. Coast Guard has asked that questions and comments regarding nautical chart carriage requirements be directed to the USCG Navigation Center at:

All recreational and professional mariners are encouraged to use NOAA's premier navigational products, the electronic navigational chart for their primary means of navigation. NCC uses the latest up-to-date ENC data to create customized charts and NCC charts are especially useful for voyage planning and situational awareness.

There is a growing demand for ever more detailed nautical charts. To help meet this need, NOAA initiated a program to sunset its traditional paper nautical charts and the corresponding raster chart products and services. This has enabled NOAA to focus on improving the coverage and content of the digital chart format that is used throughout the world for navigation, the electronic navigational chart (ENC). ENC data is produced by over twenty other countries and used by mariners around the world.

Producing and distributing raster charts requires additional, separate computer software and data storage, as well as specialized cartographic training and processing beyond the resources needed to maintain ENCs. NOAA is carrying out an ambitious program to replace much of the existing ENC coverage with more detailed (larger scale) data. When completed, the enhanced ENC product suite will consist of over 7,200 ENCs in twelve standard scales. NOAA has only been able to create and maintain this enhanced suite of ENC products by redirecting resources previously used to update and distribute traditional paper and raster nautical charts. More information is available on the Farewell to Traditional Nautical Charts webpage.

Custom charts created for letter (8.5" x 11") or legal (8.5" x 14") size paper may easily be printed on an ordinary home printer. For larger formats, commercial printers are able to print larger format NCC charts. NOAA maintains a listing of vendors that have experience in printing and shipping copies of custom charts.

The Portable Document Format (PDF) is the only output provided by the NOAA Custom Chart. The PDF is geospatially referenced, but NCC charts are not intended to be used in digital chart displays for navigation.

No, only specific paper sizes shown in the NCC Chart Settings control panel may be used. The placement of the chart grid, graphic scales, notes and other marginalia must be predesigned for each paper size and orientation used by NCC.

Yes. An updated User Guide was released with NCC version 2.0. This explains how the various application settings work and provides tips for creating the best customized charts. There is also a video that explains the basics of creating a custom chart and using the new personal chart catalog feature, and other resources available in the NCC Help Documentation tab.

For further assistance or to suggest improvements for NOAA Custom Chart application, questions or comments may be submitted through the Coast Survey's online ASSIST customer feedback tool.

If you have a question or suggestion concerning a particular NCC chart that you are trying to create, please let us know what area you are trying to build a chart for and attach the NCC chart PDF or a screenshot of the area, if possible.

Once a traditional nautical chart has been cancelled, it (and many other previous editions of the chart) will be available in a JPEG format in the NOAA Coast Survey Historical Map and Chart Collection. Canceled charts do not meet USCG carriage requirements for regulated vessels and should not be used for navigation.