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.
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 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.
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.
In November 2013, we introduced NOAA ENC Online – a continuous viewer for our electronic navigational charts. You can click on the web map and zoom to selected features or locations, to see the information contained in over a thousand electronic charts of NOAA-charted waters. Each zoom moves you through an ENC depiction that takes into account the ENC scale and other attributes that are encoded in the ENC, allowing features to become visible or invisible as you seamlessly zoom in and out of the data.
NOAA ENC Online is based on Esri’s Maritime Chart Server.
Now this latest release of NOAA ENC Online lets you:
- Set a shallow and deep depth contour, which changes the shading to those parameters
- Set a safety contour (In electronic charting systems, the safety contour is set based on the ship’s draft changes the depiction of rocks, wrecks and obstructions to isolated dangers depending on if the water is “safe” or “unsafe” for vessel navigation.)
- Change between S-52 simplified and S-52 traditional symbols
- Change the background colors of the display based on the S-52 color palette for different light conditions on the bridge of a ship
- Turn off certain features based on different categories such as buoys and traffic routes
NOAA ENC Online is not certified for navigation. It does NOT fulfill chart carriage requirements for regulated commercial vessels under Titles 33 and 46 of the Code of Federal Regulations.
The rebuilt “magenta line” will be a directional guide to help assure navigation safety.
The Office of Coast Survey announced today that future editions of nautical charts of the Intracoastal Waterway will be updated to include an improved “magenta line” that has historically aided navigation down the East Coast and around the Gulf Coast. Additionally, Coast Survey will change the magenta line’s function, from the perceived “recommended route” established more than a hundred years ago, to an advisory directional guide that helps prevent boaters from going astray in the maze of channels that comprise the route.
The decision comes on the heels of a year’s investigation into problems with the magenta line. In early 2013, after receiving reports of groundings by boaters who followed the line into shoals, Coast Survey started to remove the magenta line from Intracoastal Waterway nautical charts.
“We cannot deliberately include chart features that we know may pose a danger to navigation,” explained Rear Admiral Gerd Glang, director of NOAA’s Office of Coast Survey. “The problems of the magenta line’s misplacement, which had been developing over the past seven decades, were aggravated when some boaters assumed that the line indicated a precise route through safe water – although it actually went over land, shoals, or obstructions.”
This 1938 Coast Survey chart shows the Intracoastal Waterway Route after it was updated using funds from the New Deal’s Public Works Administration.
The U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey, a NOAA predecessor agency, first installed the line on nautical charts in 1912, when the advent of motor boating produced a demand for charts of the inland waters and shallower waters along the East Coast. The magenta line on Intracoastal Waterway charts received major updates in 1935, thanks to an influx of funding from the Great Depression’s Public Works Administration projects. Charts rarely recorded updates of the magenta line in the ensuing 70 years.
Boating public wants directional guidance
In 2013, while Coast Survey cartographers were removing poorly placed lines from charts that were undergoing regularly scheduled updates, Glang ordered a cartographic review of the magenta line’s function and maintenance. Simultaneous with an internal review of the issues, Glang issued a Federal Register Notice asking for public comments. Almost 240 individuals and organizations offered comments, saying that the line helped safe navigation on the Intracoastal Waterway.
“We asked Intracoastal Waterway users to let us know if they need the route designated on nautical charts, and the response was 99.9 percent in favor of keeping it on charts,” Glang said. “Many of the commenters explained how the magenta line saved them from dangerous or costly navigation errors. They also confirmed that we need to clear up any misunderstanding about what the magenta line is – and what it isn’t.”
The internal review and public comments confirm that the magenta line needs to be removed where it poses a danger to navigation, rebuilt to avoid shoals and other dangers, and reinstated to all the Intracoastal Waterway nautical charts. Importantly, Coast Survey will add notes to the Intracoastal Waterway charts, emphasizing that vessels transiting the waterway should be aware of changing conditions and always honor aids to navigation.
Improvements will take years to fully implement
“Today’s decision to reinstate the magenta line is not a quick fix,” cautions Captain Shep Smith, chief of Coast Survey’s Marine Chart Division. “It will take at least three years to fix problems that were 70 years in the making.”
Of Coast Survey’s 1052 nautical charts, 52 depict the magenta line. As charts are rotated through the update process, Coast Survey will evaluate and update the magenta line using charted information. When no depth soundings are on the chart, the line will generally be positioned in the centerline of dredged channels and natural waterways, avoiding shoals or obstructions less than the controlling depth. When the chart data is insufficient for determining the line’s preferred route, Coast Survey will attempt to gather additional data from partner agencies and reliable crowdsourcing.
“Most of the magenta line can be re-drawn by using the charted information, and we hope to get it done by mid-2015,” Smith explains. “On the other hand, resolving discrepancies between charted information and the line will require research, and new data acquisition and processing, with support from other federal agencies.”
Resolving chart discrepancies is a longer-term challenge, Smith says, and can conceivably take up to five years, or even longer. In cases where information is lacking and the line depiction can lead to risky navigation, Coast Survey will remove the line.
Background on the Intracoastal Waterway
The Intracoastal Waterway, extending about 3,000 miles, is essentially two waterways along the Atlantic and the Gulf Coast.
The Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway (AIWW) extends 1,200 miles from Norfolk to Key West, and is home to ports, Coast Guard bases, and a dozen military facilities. Plied by tugs and barges, passenger vessels, maritime businesses and recreational boaters, the waterways consist of a series of artificial canals and natural waterways. The AIWW will be the center of Coast Survey’s initial focus.
The Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway Association estimates that the AIWW generates billions of dollars of commercial, recreational, and personal income annually. According to a 2006 report to the North Carolina Sea Grant Program, the AIWW produces $257 million in annual sales, over 4,000 jobs, $124 million in wages, $35.6 million in federal taxes and fees and $21.4 million in state taxes and fees in North Carolina. A similar survey in Georgia claims $33 million is total revenue generated by the AIWW. A study by the Florida Inland Navigation District shows $18 billion total economic output attributed to the AIWW.
The Gulf Intracoastal Waterway (GIWW) is a 1,100-mile-long shallow draft man-made protected waterway that connects ports along the Gulf of Mexico from St. Marks, Florida, to Brownsville, Texas. The Texas Department of Transportation reports that the GIWW is the nation’s third busiest inland waterway, with 91 percent of the cargo classified as petroleum and chemical related products. According to Texas A&M Transportation Institute’s Center for Ports and Waterways, 90 percent of Gulf Intracoastal Waterway barge traffic consists of petroleum products and petrochemical-related materials.