Regular blog readers are aware of NOAA chart transformations over the last year, as we transition our nautical products to a wide range of paper and digital formats, print-on-demand services, and web mapping ‒ providing updated information that is easy to access. Next up for consideration is the traditional chart catalog. In a Federal Register Notice published on November 28, we ask for your opinion.
Until April 2014, the Federal Aviation Administration had printed NOAA’s nautical chart catalogs on oversized paper sheets (up to 35 inches by 55 inches), folded them, and made them available to the public for free. Since the printing was done in bulk, and stored prior to distribution, the information on the reverse side of the catalogs was often out of date by the time catalogs reached customers. When the FAA ceased printing NOAA nautical charts in April, they also stopped printing the catalogs.
Since then, NOAA’s Office of Coast Survey has privatized paper chart production by expanding the number of chart printing agents through the NOAA “print-on-demand” program. Questions remain on whether to transition the catalogs to a similar paper “print-on-demand” system where customers would pay for the catalogs.
We have now transformed the chart catalogs into letter-sized PDF documents that users can print at home. Produced with digital technology, the catalogs are easy-to-see, easy-to-use, easy-to-print, and are updated as changes occur. The new format has a higher resolution and more geographic names than the large-format catalog, and heavily trafficked waterways covered by multiple charts have their own dedicated pages.
If users prefer a web-based search for charts, the interactive chart catalog, established in early 2014, lets you point, choose, and download.
Even with the two new catalog products, however, we understand some people may still prefer the big traditional catalog ‒ and so we’re considering a reinstatement of the front page. We could re-start the updating process if there is a market demand and if commercial printing firms decide to carry the catalogs as for-sale products. The updated chart catalogs would only have the front side showing the areas covered by the catalog, with chart outlines and their corresponding chart numbers. They would not show anything on the reverse side. (We consider the reverse side, which lists chart agents, as obsolete and will not continue it. The Coast Survey website now carries regularly updated information about NOAA-certified chart printers.)
Before making the decision, we want to know if demand remains for the large-format chart catalogs, and if users are willing to purchase these from commercial providers, such as NOAA-certified printing companies, subject to their decision on whether to carry the product. Tell us what you think. Comments about the new letter-sized PDF catalogs and the interactive web catalog are also welcome.
Written, faxed, or emailed comments are due by midnight, April 30, 2015. You can email comments to email@example.com, or fax to 301-713-9312. Written comments may be mailed to Frank Powers, Office of Coast Survey, 1315 East-West Highway, #6254, Silver Spring MD 20906.
By the way, you will always have digital access to the chart catalogs of 2014 and earlier, as we are archiving current and historical chart catalogs in Coast Survey’s Historical Map & Chart Collection.
Read the full Federal Register Notice here.