NOAA’s paper nautical charts are here to stay   4 comments

New certified printing agents bring buying options

It won’t be long before mariners and the boating public will have a wider choice of options and special services when they purchase NOAA paper nautical charts, thanks to NOAA’s expanded “print-on-demand” chart production and distribution system, Coast Survey officials announced on April 4. Coast Survey recently certified new print-on-demand chart printing agents, and gave them the flexibility to offer different color palettes, various papers, a cleaner margin, and a range of services.

Rear Admiral Gerd Glang and Capt. Shep Smith inspect sample charts submitted by new print agents.

Rear Admiral Gerd Glang and Capt. Shep Smith inspect sample charts submitted by new print agents.

NOAA has now authorized seven companies to sell NOAA’s paper nautical charts that are printed when the customer orders them — or “on demand.” The information on the charts is still maintained by NOAA, and the charts are corrected with Notices to Mariners up to the week of purchase.

“Last October, we announced that NOAA would stop using the government printing and distribution system we originally adopted in 1861,” explained Rear Admiral Gerd Glang, director of NOAA’s Office of Coast Survey. “We asked private companies to help us transition from the government-run system to a robust and competitive market for paper nautical charts, and we are pleased with the results.”

Five companies have now joined the original “print-on-demand” distributor OceanGrafix and the more recently certified East View Geospatial. The newly certified companies are Frugal Navigator, Marine Press, Paradise Cay Publications, The Map Shop, and Williams & Heintz Map Corporation.

Glang is confident that the expansion of the print-on-demand program will lead to new options for all who purchase U.S. nautical charts. As a premium service, for example, print agents are authorized to customize charts with user-specified overlays.

“With more chart printing agents, we hope to encourage competition and ensure fully up-to-date charts are widely available. Buyers can shop around and find different types of paper, or choose between traditional or new color palettes. Our printing agents can offer delivery or in-shop service, and customers can have their navigation track lines or other information printed as overlays on their chart,” Glang pointed out.

Rear Admiral Glang certified one of the new printing agents for NOAA's paper nautical charts.

Rear Admiral Glang certifies one of the new printing agents for NOAA’s paper nautical charts.

“All charts sold by NOAA-certified printing partners are NOAA charts and fully meet navigational requirements.”

For the last 150 years, the federal government produced nautical charts using lithographic printing presses. Although chart-making techniques advanced from the 19th century’s delicate hand-applied etchings on copper plates to a process that is now completely computer-based, the system remained based on printing large volumes of charts, then selling them from stock for years. Charts for sale were gradually more and more outdated until a new edition was printed. The print on demand system allows the changes made by Coast Survey cartographers to reach mariners much faster.

Coast Survey continues to examine applications from additional companies wishing to become certified as NOAA chart printing agents. The examination process includes testing of applicants’ sample charts, to make sure they stand up to normal onboard usage conditions.

The paper charts sold by the NOAA-certified printing agents meet carriage requirements for ships covered by Safety of Life at Sea regulations, specified in Title 33 of the Code of Federal Regulations.

UPDATE (4/18/2014):

Coast Survey added three more printing companies to its roster of certified agents for paper charts, bringing the total to ten companies authorized to sell NOAA nautical charts that are printed when the customer orders them ‒ or “on demand.” Companies with histories going back decades, and even centuries, support a firm foundation for the continuing production and delivery of U.S. paper nautical charts. Iver C. Weilbach & Co. A/S, which became a certified printing agent this week, is one of oldest private owned companies in the maritime industry ‒ established in 1755 in Copenhagen, Denmark. Granville Printing has provided services since 1988, and East End Blueprint has also been in business for over 25 years.

4 responses to “NOAA’s paper nautical charts are here to stay

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  1. What an awesome thing you do! thank you – I look forward to availing this source in the new future and have shared you on Facebook. Hope people appreciate the value of what you do.

  2. Pingback: NOAA’s paper nautical charts are here to stay | Boating Safety Tips, Tricks & Thoughts from Captnmike

  3. Reblogged this on Boating Safety Tips, Tricks & Thoughts from Captnmike and commented:
    The changing to all Print on Demand Charts is starting to have side effects. In the past with a very few printing agents the price was about the same no matter what. Now with five more Print on Demand certified companies being certified there are the first hints of competition with some companies lowering their prices a bit. It remains to be seen the effect the change will have on companies that used to only stock a few NOAA charts of the area around their store, not sure how they will cope with the changes & still provide charts to their customers and not drive good business to another chart retailer that can print the charts on site.

  4. Thank you very much for keeping the print copies up and running! You all are the best on the planet and some navigators still do real navigation as we know that salt water and electricity do not work well togather!

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