NOAA welcomes local and international attendees at 2018 Nautical Cartography Open House

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.

Capt. van der Donck spoke on the past, present, and future of cartography.
Capt. van der Donck (Netherlands) spoke on the past, present, and future of cartography.

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.

Coast Survey employees speak with Rear Adm. Gallaudet (Navy, Ret.) about cartographic processes before computers.
Coast Survey employees speak with Rear Adm. Gallaudet (Navy, Ret.) about cartographic processes before computers.

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.

Open house attendees interact during the poster session.
Open house attendees interact during the poster session.

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.


NOAA hosts 2018 Chart Adequacy Workshop

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 participants of the 2018 Chart Adequacy Workshop.
Participants and instructors of the 2018 Chart Adequacy Workshop.

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.

An attendee shares information about her home cartographic offices with other participants.
An attendee shares information about her home cartographic offices with other participants.

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).

Rear Adm. Shep Smith greets the workshop attendees as they begin a tour of the Coast Survey offices in Silver Spring, Maryland
Rear Adm. Shep Smith greets the workshop attendees as they begin a tour of the Coast Survey office in Silver Spring, Maryland

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.

Poster symposium marks milestone for inaugural class of the NOAA certification program in nautical cartography

NOAA’s Christie Ence (left), Megan Bartlett (third from left), and Noel Dyer (right) explain their posters to attendees of the poster symposium at the University of Maryland.
NOAA’s Christie Ence (left), Megan Bartlett (third from left), and Noel Dyer (right) explain their posters to attendees of the poster symposium at the University of Maryland.

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 Colby Harmon (center) and Craig Winn (right) talk nautical charting with capstone course instructor Dr. Jonathan Resop at the poster symposium.
NOAA’s Colby Harmon (center) and Craig Winn (right) talk nautical charting with capstone course instructor Dr. Jonathan Resop at the poster symposium.
Lt. Cmdr. Matt Forney (right) explains nautical chart discrepancies and their importance to NOAA’s navigation response teams.

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.





Online NOAA Custom Chart lets boaters create their own charts

A prototype version of a powerful new online tool, NOAA Custom Chart, is now available for boaters and other nautical chart users. The application enables users to define the scale and paper size of custom-made nautical charts centered on a position of their choosing. Once the functionality of this prototype is fully developed, NOAA Custom Chart will be an easy way for boaters to create a paper or digital back-up for the electronic chart system or other GPS-enabled chart display that they are using on board.

NOAA Custom Chart creates a geospatially referenced PDF (GeoPDF) from the NOAA electronic navigational chart (NOAA ENC®) database. In the final operational version of the application, chart notes and other margin notes will be placed at the bottom, below the chart neatline, similar to USGS topographic (US Topo) maps. The user may download, view, and print the output.

NOAA Custom Chart makes it easy for users to create a personalized chart.
NOAA Custom Chart makes it easy for users to create a personalized chart.

There are several options for customizing the appearance of the chart data. The prototype creates charts with either the “traditional” or “simplified” symbology of the Electronic Chart Display and Information Systems (ECDIS) used by professional mariners. Future versions of NOAA Custom Chart will add a full paper chart symbology option.

Simple interface lets users choose a scale, paper size, and the center of their own chart.

If you are interested in customizing your own nautical charts, visit NOAA Custom Chart. Then tell us your ideas for improving it through NOAA’s Nautical Inquiry & Comment System. 


NOAA Office of Coast Survey wraps up a busy 2017 hurricane season

The 2017 Atlantic hurricane season was powerful, with the strongest storms occurring consecutively from late August to early October. The sequential magnitude of four hurricanes in particular—Harvey, Irma, Maria, and Nate—made response efforts challenging for NOAA’s Office of Coast Survey. Coast Survey summarized this season’s response efforts along with the efforts of NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson (operated by NOAA’s Office of Marine and Aviation Operations) in the following story map.


NOAA Ship Rainier surveys the waters around Kodiak Island

Concentration of automatic identification system (AIS) traffic around Kodiak Island. Green is a low concentration, yellow is medium concentration, red is high concentration. Notice the approaches to Port of Kodiak show high traffic.
by ENS Michelle Levano

Kodiak Island is the 2nd largest island in the United States; it is part of the Kodiak Island Archipelago, a group of islands roughly the size of Connecticut. Due to the island’s location in the Gulf of Alaska and North Pacific Ocean, Kodiak is ranked as third in commercial fishing ports in the U.S. in terms of value of seafood landed. In 2015, the Port of Kodiak was responsible for 514 million pounds of fish and $138 million of product. More than one-third of the jobs in Kodiak are related to the fishing industry.

The Port of Kodiak is home to more than 700 commercial fishing vessels, and has more than 650 boat slips and three commercial piers that can dock vessels up to 1,000 feet. In addition to fishing, Kodiak is the hub of the Gulf of Alaska container logistics system, serving the southwest Alaskan communities with consumer goods and outbound access to the world’s fish markets.

In order to access all the Port of Kodiak has to offer, vessels must first travel through Chiniak Bay, which was last surveyed as far back as 1933 via wire drag (see details in the Descriptive Report for the Wire Drag survey of Women’s Bay and St. Paul Harbor).

Today, we are going over the same areas and surveying them utilizing multibeam echo sounders to collect bathymetric soundings that measure the depth of the seafloor.

This year, Rainier is surveying the approaches to Chiniak Bay, covering the following areas: South of Spruce Island, Long Island, Middle Bay, Kalsin Bay, Isthmus Bay, Cape Chiniak, and offshore of Cape Chiniak.

Since arriving on project, Rainier has been busy surveying these areas, confirming what has already been charted, updating with more accurate depths, and finding some new features for the charts along the way!  So far Rainier has patch-tested her launches to ensure survey accuracy, started work on Long Island and Kalsin Bay surveys, and established a global navigation satellite system (GNSS) base station to gain a higher positioning accuracy.

Rainier will continue to survey this area of Kodiak until mid-June. Check back on the Coast Survey blog for more status updates. Interested in visiting the ship? Rainier‘s crew will be offering tours on May 27, from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. and May 28, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., at the city pier in downtown Kodiak.

Please contact NOAA Ship Rainier’s public relations officer at for more information.

Rainier‘s bathymetric survey coverage since March 29, 2017. The multicolored areas show where Rainer surveyed using multibeam bathymetry. The blue dashed areas show where Rainier intends to survey this year.

Introducing NOAA’s new ENC Direct to GIS

ENCDirectFeatures in an electronic navigational chart represent thousands of pieces of data describing the coastal and marine environment. This data includes coastal topography, bathymetry, landmarks, geographic place names, and marine boundaries for the specific geographic region encompassed by the chart. What if we could aggregate the ENC features into a geospatial database? Such a product would provide a continuous depiction of the U.S coastal and marine environment.

Well, welcome to that product. Coast Survey now translates NOAA ENC® data into a GIS-friendly format, expanding uses of ENC information beyond the traditional navigational purposes.

In November 2012, Coast Survey launched an experimental version of ENC Direct to GIS, using ESRI ArcGIS 10.0 technology, and we asked site users to provide feedback. We can now report that we listened to your suggestions and made several new enhancements, using the 10.1 version of ESRI ArcGIS. With these changes, we have removed the “experimental” tag and can now provide an official NOAA product.

Those of you who have been using the experimental version will appreciate several new features.

  • Additional scale bands (4 to 6) keep each scale band seamless
  • A note on the bottom of the screen reminds viewers that all soundings are in meters
  • Improved functionality identifies features when users point and click on the features
  • Search functionality is improved
  • Measurement tool now includes “nautical miles”
  • Improved visualization reduces clutter
  • Additional base maps have been added
  • Textual extraction form has been updated for easier access
  • Metadata records are streamlined, with multiple records for a single item compressed into a single record
  • More information is available in the “frequently asked questions”

This video provides an explanation of many of the enhancements, as well as an overview on how to use various layers of the electronic navigation chart.

The ENCDirect team thanks everyone who provided feedback on the experimental site. They will continue to take your comments and suggestions through Coast Survey’s online inquiry system, continually working to meet the needs of the user community.

The ENCDirect project manager is Mei-Ling Freeman.