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NOAA Offers Free Navigational Charts on Web

NOAA image of NOAA Raster Navigational Chart.Jan. 6, 2006 Mariners can now get free electronic downloads of NOAA Raster Navigational Charts or RNCs. A raster chart is a digitally scanned image of a paper nautical chart used by mariners for navigation. (Click NOAA image for larger view of NOAA Raster Navigational Chart. Click here for high resolution version. Please credit “NOAA.”)

"The raster navigational charts contribute to safe, efficient and environmentally sound marine transportation," said Charles Challstrom, acting assistant administrator for NOAA's oceans and coasts. "By providing these charts for free, NOAA offers easy access to mariners to make navigation safer in U.S. waters."

Before the 1990s, NOAA's paper nautical charts were created and maintained by hand engraving photographic images. NOAA electronically scanned all of its paper charts in the 1990s. Recently, the raster charts were incorporated into international standards for electronic chart systems and are now accepted as meeting international chart regulations for Safety of Life at Sea vessels. SOLAS is a designation of the International Maritime Organization and usually is reserved for large merchant ships.

NOAA will produce official raster charts and deliver weekly updates with Notice to Mariners—notices containing changes in local navigational information. The NOAA Web site will contain a fully updated raster chart for each chart in NOAA's suite. A cumulative file of updates with Notice to Mariner information for each chart edition will be posted on the Web site.

NOAA will distribute the free raster charts and updates the same way it distributes NOAA electronic navigational charts online.

The NOAA Coast Survey anticipates establishing a program where commercial value-added providers may download the raster charts for free, compress, encrypt, and/or package them with additional data or services, and then may sell that product. By adhering to a set of NOAA-specified practices, these raster charts will retain their official status and their original high quality and accuracy. No date has been set by which the value-added redistributors program will be in place.

NOAA also plans to make the raster charts available on the Web site in an easy-to-view format for non-navigational purposes, such as port security and management, marine boundary delineation, coastal zone management, and environmental assessment and spill response.

NOAA, an agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce, is dedicated to enhancing economic security and national safety through the prediction and research of weather and climate-related events and providing environmental stewardship of the nation's coastal and marine resources.

Through the emerging Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS), NOAA is working with its federal partners and nearly 60 countries to develop a global monitoring network that is as integrated as the planet it observes.

Relevant Web Sites
NOAA Raster Navigational Charts

NOAA Coast Survey

Media Contact:
Ben Sherman, NOAA Ocean Service, (301) 713-3066