Last week NOAA Coast Survey welcomed approximately 170 attendees representing 17 countries to the 2018 Nautical Cartography Open House. Industry partners, members of the public, and other government agencies attended, including the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Naval Hydrographic and Oceanic Service (SHOM) from France, Canadian Hydrographic Service, Dalian Naval Academy, National Taiwan Ocean University, and the Joint Hydrographic Center/Center for Coastal and Ocean Mapping (JHC/CCOM).
This one-day event featured posters, presentations, tours, and exhibits centered around four themes: Applied Cartography within the U.S., International Cartography, Electronic Navigational Chart Production and Validation, and Capacity Building. Capt. Marc van der Donck from the Royal Netherlands Navy gave the keynote speech, and Coast Survey’s Rear Adm. Shep Smith welcomed the attendees.
The 2018 open house built on the success of last year’s inaugural event. This year, the event included informational stations on historic pen and ink cartographic processes as well as modern cartographic techniques and displays. Attendees were also able to join tours of NOAA Science on the Sphere® and see cartographic visualizations of oceanic and atmospheric data.
The goals of open house were to report on current and future activities in cartography and GIS, establish a regional and international network of cartographers in the field of nautical charting, create collaborative activities between international members, and identify challenges in generating, producing, maintaining, and distributing nautical charts. The open house provided the opportunity for international colleagues in marine cartography to network and share ideas.
The open house followed the International Cartographic Association (ICA) Working Group on Marine Cartography meeting and a three-day Chart Adequacy Workshop hosted by NOAA.
On July 23, NOAA Coast Survey hosted a three-day Chart Adequacy Workshop that included participants from 13 countries. This is the fourth Chart Adequacy Workshop held at NOAA’s Silver Spring, Maryland campus.
The main goal of the workshop is to provide training for professional cartographers and hydrographers on techniques for assessing nautical chart adequacy using publicly-available information, such as satellite images and maritime automatic identification system (AIS) data. The participants received an overview on Coast Survey datasets, processes, and requirements for nautical charts. They also learned about preprocessing hydrographic data, such as loading charts, uploading imagery, and applying electronic navigation charts (ENCs) and AIS point data. Through a series of lab units, the attendees practiced performing the concepts they learned.
Unlike previous years (2017, 2016, 2015), the focus of this class was on networking and support for the upcoming International Cartographic Association (ICA) Working Group on Marine Cartography meeting held on July 26 and in preparation for next year’s International Cartographic Conference (ICC). During the 2019 ICC in Tokyo, Japan, a key focus for the Working Group on Marine Cartography will be to return to the status of a Commission on Marine Cartography.
The 2018 participants were from Australia, Greece, Ireland, Japan, Latvia, Madagascar, Mexico, Nigeria, Peru, Poland, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Taiwan, and Trinidad and Tobago. The international nature of the event allows the participants to meet and learn from cartographers from a variety of backgrounds and expertise. The individuals were nominated by their home hydrographic offices and their travel was sponsored by the General Bathymetric Chart of the Oceans (GEBCO).
The workshop was developed in part to address the need to improve the collection, quality, and availability of hydrographic data world-wide, and increase the standardization of chart adequacy evaluations across the globe. Coast Survey is currently working with the International Hydrographic Organization (IHO) to recommend participants for next year’s workshop.
The U.S. federal channel in the Delaware Bay is vital to maritime commerce, leading deep draft vessel traffic to and from the major ports of Wilmington, Delaware, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and Camden, New Jersey. To navigate this federally maintained waterway safely and efficiently, mariners rely on the surveyed depths displayed on nautical charts. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) Philadelphia District regularly surveys this area, utilizing sophisticated techniques and equipment to map the depths of the seafloor. NOAA’s Office of Coast Survey, in turn, adds quality classifications to these channel depths and displays them on the nautical chart.
The portion of the federal channel from Newbold Channel Range down to the mouth of the Delaware Bay is the first waterway in the U.S. to have an improved quality classification assigned to USACE survey data—category of zone of confidence (CATZOC) A2. Improving survey quality and upgrading the CATZOC classification allows operators to accommodate smaller margins of error while still ensuring that navigating maritime approaches and constrained environments remain safe. These decreased tolerances allow ships to maximize their loads, ultimately increasing inbound and outbound cargoes.
“This is a huge leap forward toward the sophistication of nautical charts, and will help the maritime sector along the Delaware River. I want to commend the men and women at NOAA’s Office of Coast Survey and the Army Corps of Engineers District Philadelphia for working together to provide safer timely high-quality data for maritime commerce. I applaud Commerce Secretary Ross for recognizing the vital role that NOAA’s Coast Survey provides to the maritime industry and thank him for this outcome. This synergy between NOAA and the Army Corps is exciting to see, and I support efforts to replicate this pilot project in other ports and waterways around the country.”
U.S. Senator Chris Coons (D-DE)
Allowing additional draft. What’s it worth?
Upgrading how NOAA encodes USACE channel depth data reduces additional safety margins applied to the draft of large ships during transit and berthing operations. The USACE District Philadelphia is in the process of deepening the Delaware River from Philadelphia to the sea, with a controlling depth in the federal channel from 40 feet to 45 feet (from Beckett Street Terminal north the channel remains authorized at 40 feet). Every foot of draft represents a significant dollar amount in the shipping industry depending on the type of cargo the ship is carrying. For instance in Long Beach, California, for every extra foot of draft allowed by the port, tank vessels can add $2 million of extra product. As ships load cargo, the draft of the ship increases—in the case of the Delaware River, the draft cannot exceed the 45-foot controlling depth (once USACE completes dredging) or the ship will run aground.
Shipping companies and insurance underwriters determine the maximum draft allowed for a vessel during transits of waterways in U.S. ports, adding a margin of error to the draft for safety. In some cases a safety margin of 25-30% may be added, ultimately resulting in dollars lost for the shipping and terminal operators. Not to mention, negating the expense and time involved in dredging a channel. The navigational tolerances are determined using guidelines that include the known quality of survey data in a particular waterway. The better the quality of the survey, the lower the risk associated with the ship transit, resulting in additional cargo loading per transit.
What is CATZOC?
Survey data within an electronic navigation chart (ENC) is encoded with a data quality indication known as CATZOC. CATZOC quality helps the mariner determine the accuracy of charted conditions on the seafloor at the time of the last survey. In particular, the mariner should understand that nautical chart data, especially when displayed on navigation systems and mobile apps, possess inherent accuracy limitations. CATZOC quality designations, A1-D, are the specifications that were met at the time of the survey.
Currently all federal channels are designated as a CATZOC B if the USACE has collected the data. This a recent development as previously all federal channels were designated as a CATZOC ‘U’ for Unassessed. Rear Adm. Shep Smith, Director of NOAA’s Office of Coast Survey, was asked by Intertanko, a maritime association that represents the interests of the tanker industry, to remove the ‘U’ designation on ENCs as it was impeding the industry’s ability to do a proper risk model assessment of ships entering U.S. ports. Nationwide, the USACE is the federal authority for maintaining federal channels; NOAA does not normally assess USACE surveys and as such designated all surveys as a CATZOC B.
USACE survey techniques factor into CATZOC quality
The maintenance of all federal channels falls under the jurisdiction of the USACE, and as such, Coast Survey recognizes the USACE as the authority for survey data acquired in these active waterways. USACE districts around the country help the flow of commerce in and out of the nation’s busiest ports and Coast Survey applies data from 22 of these districts to nautical charts for safe navigation by deep draft vessels. The USACE districts use sonar equipment to measure sediment movement within the channel to maintain channel-controlling depths and determine dredging needs.
The USACE Philadelphia District is unique in that it is fully utilizing its multibeam sonar equipment, which has the capacity to survey large swaths of the seafloor and detect features and obstructions that might be harmful to deep draft vessels. As vessels in the nation’s waterways continue to grow in size, USACE districts that are utilizing their multibeam systems are helping to ensure that the general bathymetry of the seafloor bottom is well known at the time of the survey. This is particularly important as vessel drafts are nearing the seafloor bottom in port areas across the country, running higher risk of hitting a feature or object in the waterway.
“The Delaware River port community is taking steps to utilize the planned deepening of the main channel. We are already seeing arrivals of post-Panamax sized vessels that require special transit considerations and planning. Our valued partnerships with USCG, USACE, and NOAA are critical to the safe movement of deep-draft commercial traffic in our waterway. As the USACE nears completion of the project to deepen the main shipping channel, improvements in sounding data quality have enabled NOAA to provide safety assurances to shippers in the form of improved CATZOC designation for the estuary. This has real-world relevance to ship owners and charterers who move vessels on the Delaware and will allow them to more effectively utilize the full channel depth upon completion of the deepening project.”
Capt. J. Stuart Griffin, Chair of the Mariners’ Advisory Committee (MAC) and Delaware River & Bay Pilot
Updating NOAA nautical charts
Coast Survey is exploring various ways of changing and improving charted information for the mariner as outlined in the National Charting Plan. Coast Survey is working with USACE Philadelphia District to determine the CATZOC quality of the survey data acquired in the Delaware River. The CATZOC value of the surveys collected over the past year by USACE District Philadelphia have been designated by Coast Survey as meeting a CATZOC A2 standard. There is a significant improvement in survey quality designation from a CATZOC B to a CATZOC A2. CATZOC A2 seafloor coverage indicates that the full area was surveyed and allows for the detection of significant seafloor features. CATZOC B seafloor coverage does not have sufficient quality or resolution, indicating that while hazardous objects are not expected, they may exist and may be undetected because of the survey quality.
Coast Survey has encoded ENCs with the CATZOC A2 quality in portions of the federal channel along the Delaware River that are surveyed by the USACE District Philadelphia utilizing robust multibeam survey methods. There is not a refresh rate or time frame required with international CATZOC standards, however, USACE Philadelphia District typically resurveys the main navigation channel on an annual basis using the same multibeam survey techniques that NOAA used to assess the current CATZOC value.
Potential impact to shipping companies and terminal operators
For the portion of the federal navigation channel from Newbold Channel Range down to the mouth of the Delaware Bay, this designation will decrease the risk margin placed on ships transiting the waterway and make fuller use of the actual controlling depths in this waterway. Additionally, “this could potentially help to lessen the expense and risk of lightering operations,” reports Eric Clarke, marine operations cargomaster at Philadelphia Energy Solutions. Commonly, shipping companies whose risk models are calculated using the CATZOC B quality levels mandate lightering operations before transiting to terminals where water depths are more restrictive.
Through coordination efforts between USACE Districts and Coast Survey, federal agencies are working to serve up better data and information to the mariner so they can make more informed decisions to keep commerce moving effectively and safely in the nation’s busiest waterways.
The author, Rachel Medley, is chief of the Customer Affairs Branch at NOAA’s Office of Coast Survey. She also serves as the NOAA liaison to the Delaware River and Bay for navigation issues. For more information, please contact Rachel.Medley@noaa.gov
Students of NOAA’s certification program in nautical cartography completed their final projects and presented them along with other Master of Professional Studies in GIS students during a poster symposium at the University of Maryland’s Department of Geographical Sciences. At the event, NOAA students explained their capstone projects and described how their research benefits nautical charting at NOAA. Project topics included:
Improving Shoreline Application to NOAA Electronic Navigational Charts, Megan Bartlet
An Automated Approach to Generate Nautical Vector Features from Raster Bathymetric Attributed Grid Data, Noel Dyer
Developing a Rasterization Procedure for Vector Chart Data, Christie Ence
NOAA Chart Discrepancies: A Temporal and Spatial Analysis for Navigation Response Teams, Lt. Cmdr. Matt Forney
Airborne Lidar Bathymetry’s Impact on NOAA Charts, Andres Garrido
Validating and Refining the Proposed Rescheming of NOAA Electronic Navigational Charts, Colby Harmon
High Resolution Bathymetry as an Alternative to Charting Controlling Depths in U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Channels, Craig Winn
Satellite Derived Bathymetry: An Alternative Analysis to Nautical Chart Updates, Aleah Worthem
This inaugural class will complete an internship as part of the program over the summer and receive their certificates in September 2018.
NOAA’s certification program in nautical cartography, recognized and approved by the International Board on Standards and Competence for Hydrographic Surveyors and Nautical Cartographers (IBSC), grants certificates to up to 13 cartographers per year. Students learn through a combination of lectures, hands-on chart production experience, work details to various branches within the Coast Survey, and field trips to working hydrographic survey vessels. The first class began in fall 2017 at Coast Survey headquarters in Silver Spring, Maryland. The duration of the program is 51 weeks and comprises six courses.
The 2018 certification program in nautical cartography starts in August 2018. The class is already full with another 13 students, 12 from NOAA and one from the Nigerian Navy.
NOAA Coast Survey recently released updates for two NOAA electronic navigational charts (NOAA ENC®) in the Port of New York and New Jersey, which added a permanent grid system overlay to anchorages in Bay Ridge, Graves End, and Stapleton. Coast Survey performed the update at the request of the Harbor Operations Steering Committee and collaborated with the Sandy Hook Pilots Association and U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) Sector New York’s Vessel Traffic Services (VTS).
The overlays, created by the Sandy Hook Pilots, consist of parallel and vertical lines that are labeled and charted over the anchorage areas. The VTS adopted this grid system overlay and uses it to assign specific anchorage locations for ship pilots and captains of tug and barge combinations.
“Incorporating these overlays in an ENC will increase safety and efficiency in the port’s limited anchorage space. VTS will be able to clearly direct a vessel to a specific grid location, and that vessel will be able to see the location on their electronic chart system,” said USCG Capt. M.H. Day, Captain of the Port, Sector New York.
Coast Survey prioritizes new data for chart updates as being either “critical” or “routine” (i.e. “non-critical.”) Critical corrections – items that pose an immediate danger to mariners – are published by the USCG in their weekly Local Notices to Mariners. Mariners who purchased a paper copy of a NOAA chart may hand correct their chart or purchase an updated chart from one of NOAA’s certified print agents. Digital versions of the charts are updated each week with items published in the USCG Local Notice to Mariners. Mariners interested in seeing where both critical and routine corrections fall on a given chart each week can use the Weekly Updates Site. Updates to this site are underway which will provide mariners greater flexibility in viewing an accumulation of changes over a specified date range rather than viewing them week by week.