Archive for the ‘Nautical charts’ Category

NOAA wants to learn from you   Leave a comment

Coast Survey is in a constant conversation with chart users, marine electronics firms, and maritime officials, listening to the ideas and observations of the people we serve. We want to hear from you!

There are several ways to make a request or suggest an improvement to Coast Survey’s navigational products. You can let us know about a chart discrepancy. You can ask a question online, or call us at 888-990-6622. You can meet with one of our regional navigation managers who are stationed around the U.S. coasts. Or, you can get involved through the Hydrographic Services Review Panel, a federal committee – with public members – who interact with NOAA experts and advise the NOAA administrator.

There are two opportunities coming up for HSRP involvement

JOIN US AT THE NEXT MEETING – The panel meets twice a year to examine navigational and geodetic challenges in specific U.S. regions. In April, they will meet in Seattle, and will hear directly from Pacific Northwest maritime industry representatives, governmental agencies, academics, and recreational boater groups. The two-day meeting will be held on April 18-20, and is open to the public.

The meeting agenda has time set aside every day for public comments in an open forum. If you cannot be there in person, you may sign up to participate in the webcast. You may want to provide written comments in advance (email to, or you can comment using the chat or questions function during the webinar.

APPLY TO JOIN THE PANEL – People who attend panel meetings, and particularly those who have worked with NOAA’s navigation products, know the importance of offering their expertise, time, and experience to discussions about product improvements. These people (and you!) can apply to join the Hydrographic Services Review Panel. Applications are being accepted until May 30. The Federal Register Notice tells you all about it.

Why get involved in the HSRP?

The perspectives of the people who depend on NOAA maritime products – especially for safety or commercial efficiency – are essential to planning improvements of NOAA’s navigational data, services, and products. As we determine future priorities, the Hydrographic Services Review Panel is a vital part of our information gathering process. Panel members have a wide range of expertise and experience, and so the HSRP can bring a diverse set of opinions to NOAA’s decision-making process.

We want to learn from you.

Maybe you would like to join the HSRP for an extended involvement in a range of issues. On the other hand, you may have a particular issue that you would like to bring to the panel’s attention, or you just have a question that one of Coast Survey’s experts can answer. We hope you’ll join in the HSRP’s conversation, in person or via the webinar, in April.

Whether your maritime experience comes from steering a vessel with a paper chart, or setting your course with the next generation of navigation products, we look forward to hearing from you.

Coast Survey joins Florida to survey sensitive site   Leave a comment

One of Coast Survey’s navigation response teams (NRT) recently responded to a request by the State of Florida, who needed help surveying a submerged prehistoric archaeological site located offshore of Sarasota County. Last week’s survey and investigation were necessary to map the full extent of the site and the surrounding area.

Florida’s Division of Historical Resources learned of the possible offshore site several months ago, and began working with their contacts at BOEM. The combined federal/state team, working with their resources and experts, then contacted NOAA for assistance. After a series of consultations, Coast Survey and the state’s team of archaeologists planned to use various imagery resources to look at the possible historical site. The NRT, which is conveniently based in Fernandina Beach, Florida, has multibeam and side scan sonar capabilities that could be deployed in the field effort.

The Florida and Coast Survey teams met last week in the Sarasota area. Working on the water for two long days, the NRT and the Historical Resources experts obtained high-resolution data and imagery across the site. With the data in hand, Florida can pursue future efforts to preserve the site and protect its artifacts.

NRT and FL team

The NRT and the State of Florida archaeologists depart for survey operations. Pictured in the NOAA boat are NRT members James Kirkpatrick (acting hydrographer-in-charge) and Lucas Blass. The archaeologists with the Florida Division of Historical Resources are Ryan Duggins, Melissa Price, and Tim Parsons, in the boat on the right.

“The collaboration between NOAA and the State of Florida was exemplary,” observed Tim Osborn, Coast Survey’s navigation manager who arranged NOAA’s resource allocation on the project. “For important endeavors like this, bringing experience and expertise together in a teamwork approach strengthens everyone’s ability to protect important cultural resources.”

Posted March 7, 2017 by NOAA Office of Coast Survey in Nautical charts

Collaborative effort to create new nautical chart returns recreational boaters to Haverhill, Massachusetts   4 comments

NOAA’s Office of Coast Survey released a new electronic navigation chart (NOAA ENC®) of Haverhill, Massachusetts, and the Merrimack River (US5MA1AM). With this new chart, recreational boaters now can safely navigate the Merrimack River from the entrance at Newburyport all the way to Haverhill, just in time for boating season.

Haverhill is a historic New England town that has recently undergone an urban renewal with new federal, state, and private investment in the downtown and waterfront areas. Until now, this area of the river was not depicted at an appropriate scale on a nautical chart for recreational boaters to navigate safely. The community of Haverhill recognized the importance of recreational boaters to their local economy and led a grassroots effort to have a new chart created.

“When NOAA laid out the previous chart of the Merrimack River in the early 1970s, the river did not attract much boating and recreation. I have seen the beauty of today’s river and the Haverhill community–the result of decades of hard work–and I am proud that NOAA can support the communities’ effort to restore the economic vitality of a working waterfront along the Merrimack.”


“This is a great example of public and private partners coming together to advance economic development goals for the region. I commend the Greater Haverhill Foundation for realizing the need for better navigational charts to encourage tourism and I was happy to bring this to the attention of NOAA,” said U.S. Representative Niki Tsongas. “I greatly appreciate NOAA’s responsiveness and dedication to Haverhill and communities all along the Merrimack River.”

Full ENC of the Merrimack River at 1:12,000 scale

Recreational boaters rely on nautical charts for safe navigation. Natural features, man-made objects, and the positions and descriptions of buoys, beacons, and lights are critical pieces of the chart. Nautical chart coverage of the Merrimack River from the Atlantic Ocean to just beyond the I-95 bridge was historically depicted at a 1:20,000 scale, while coverage west of this area was historically depicted at a 1:80,000 scale. Boaters had been reluctant to navigate beyond the I-95 bridge and travel up river to Haverhill because the chart did not depict a dense selection of soundings and features to safely navigate.


New 1:12,000 scale ENC coverage compared to existing smaller-scale coverage of the Merrimack River and nearby coast.

Recognizing the need for a more detailed chart of the area, the Greater Haverhill Foundation (GHF), a group of local and state stakeholders concerned with the economic revitalization of the area, contacted NOAA to create a new, larger-scale chart.

In order to address immediate concerns regarding safe navigation, the foundation held stakeholder meetings that included representatives from the River Cities Initiative, a multi-city effort led by Senator Kathleen O’Connor Ives. The GHF also privately funded a hydrographic survey of the river using single beam and side scan sonar to collect data for the new chart.

Coast Survey used the privately funded survey data to provide a buoy relocation proposal to the U.S. Coast Guard who re-aligned multiple buoys in the navigation channel of the river. The new, larger-scale ENC was compiled using U.S. Army Corps of Engineers data, NOAA lidar data, and the privately funded survey data. When shown in detail, the combined data provides mariners with a clearer picture of the overall conditions and dangers to navigation.

The final product, a robust NOAA ENC® at a scale of 1:12,000 made from both federal and community data sources, will serve the recreational boaters on the Merrimack River and the community of Haverhill for years to come. The new ENC can be viewed in NOAA ENC® online.


New 1:12,000 scale ENC (a) compared to the existing 1:80,000 ENC (b) of the Haverhill area on the Merrimack River.

“The Merrimack River is an important asset to the region whose recreational potential has been relatively untapped. NOAA’s updated Electronic Navigation Chart (ENC) will allow recreational boaters to safely navigate the Merrimack River from Newburyport to Haverhill’s transforming downtown, fulfilling one of the important goals of the River Cities Initiative. This joint effort to update the chart, spearheaded by local stakeholders, will allow for greater connectivity between communities along the river, and encourage residents and tourists alike to explore the local businesses, eateries, and recreational attractions that dot the riverbanks between the two cities. Thank you to LCDR Meghan McGovern, NOAA’s Northeast Region Navigation Manager, NOAA’s Office of Coast Survey, the Greater Haverhill Foundation, Mark Cutter, Assistant Branch Chief, Waterways Management Division of the United States Coast Guard, Mass Development’s Transformative Development Fellow Noah Koretz, and business and community members for all of your efforts in creating this powerful resource,” said State Senator Kathleen O’Connor Ives.


New 1:12,000 scale ENC (a) compared to the existing 1:80,000 ENC (b) of the Rocks Village area on the Merrimack River.

“It is a great feeling of accomplishment to finally have a new chart of the river after the many years of work that have gone into its creation. I would like to thank you for all your support, work and time you have put in on this project. I also want the thank James Miller for the work he has done in buoy positioning, Rear Admiral Shepard Smith for approving the new chart and having the staff at NOAA Office of Coast Survey finishing the task. Thousands of boaters on the Merrimack River and visiting yachtsmen will be confident cruising the twenty miles of the Merrimack River from the mouth to downtown Haverhill,”  Said Dave Goodwin, Greater Haverhill Foundation’s River Committee.

The request to develop the Merrimack River electronic navigation chart was unique and was submitted with strong stakeholder support. Coast Survey receives multiple requests for new charts but is only able to produce an average of three new charts per year. Creating a new chart is a time intensive process and there is a backlog of dozens waiting to be created.

To address the backlog of new chart requests and prepare for future requests, Coast Survey developed the National Charting Plan. The plan explains the need to improve the way nautical charts are produced and distributed to keep up with modern methods of marine navigation. The plan also outlines Coast Survey’s approach to improve NOAA charts, including changes to chart formats, scales, data compilation, and symbology. Professional mariners, recreational boaters, data providers, navigational equipment manufacturers, and other users of NOAA charts are invited to review and comment plan.

Posted March 2, 2017 by NOAA Office of Coast Survey in Nautical charts

NOAA releases 2017 hydrographic survey season plans   Leave a comment

NOAA’s Office of Coast Survey maintains the nautical charts and publications for U.S. coasts and the Great Lakes. This is over a thousand charts covering 95,000 miles of shoreline and 3.4 million square nautical miles of waters. Measuring depths and determining new dangers to navigation in this large area is a monumental job given the seafloor is constantly changing.

One of NOAA Coast Survey’s biggest tasks during the winter months is to plan hydrographic survey projects for the coming field season. Survey planners consider requests from stakeholders such as marine pilots, local port authorities, the Coast Guard, and the boating community, and also consider other hydrographic priorities in determining where to survey and when.

This year, Coast Survey has compiled a “living” story map outlining these plans. The story map will continually be updated as progress is made with each project.


Story map of planned NOAA hydrographic survey projects in 2017.


2017 planned survey projects:

  • Approaches to Savannah, Georgia, survey project will update nautical charting products in the approach to the Savannah Outer Harbor Channel, to allow for deeper draft ships and to address concerns about migrating sand shoals.
  • Approaches to Jacksonville, Florida, is in need of updated survey data to meet the needs of larger, fully loaded ships (e.g. NeoPanamax ships) transiting into the Port of Jacksonville.
  • Approaches to Houston, Texas, survey project will address the numerous wrecks and obstructions with their positions reported as approximate on the chart. This poses a danger to navigation particularly for the large traffic volumes in this area of high oil production activity.
  • Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary, California, is a collaborative survey effort among Coast Survey’s Integrated Ocean and Coastal Mapping Program, Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary, and partners. The data from this project will provide seafloor habitat information to support fishery and resource protection mandates and to update nautical charting products within the area.
  • Puget Sound, Washington, needs updated survey data in areas with primary traffic lanes for the large, deep draft vessels transiting to and from the region’s busiest ports–Seattle, Tacoma, and Everett.
  • West of Prince of Wales Island, Alaska, needs updated survey data to ensure safe navigation for smaller vessels that use the Televak Narrows as an alternate passage during foul weather. These waterways are also economically significant to the coastal delivery of goods to the nearby towns and villages, and also important to recreational boaters.
  • North Coast of Kodiak Island, Alaska, will have another year of a multi-year surveying campaign in this critical area for increasing fishing and tourism.
  • Approaches to Yukon River, Alaska, area has not been surveyed since 1899 and is the most cost effective route to deliver goods to coastal and inland villages of Western Alaska. Although satellite data was used to update the shoreline, the entrances and mouth of the river need to be surveyed to modern standards to provide safe navigation options to vessel traffic.
  • Yakutat Bay, Alaska, survey project will update the area adjacent to the famous Hubbard Glacier, a popular cruise ship destination. Updated survey data will benefit Safety of Life at Sea concerns of visiting tour boats and cruise ships, and researchers studying the advancing glacier.
  • Lisianski Strait, Alaska, survey project will update this navigationally complex inlet that is heavily trafficked by passenger vessels, smaller tug and tow traffic, and recreational boaters. The current survey vintage dates back to 1917, when data were acquired using lead line instrumentation.
  • Tracy Arm, Alaska, is regularly transited during summer months by smaller commercial cruise ships and sightseeing vessels. New survey data will address the hazards that have been reported near the retreating Sawyer glacier, especially within the uncharted area at the glacier terminus.
  • Deer Passage, Alaska, is used by the fishing fleet in Bristol Bay and the Bering Sea and by tug and tow traffic delivering goods to the Aleutian Islands, western Alaska, and the Arctic. This project will update survey data from 1911 and 1941.
  • Port Clarence, Alaska, survey project will update depths in one of the only safe refuges from the famous storms of the Bering Sea. This area has also been identified as a major development priority for Alaska and the Arctic region.

The 2017 field season will begin in April. That is when NOAA’s four hydrographic survey ships–Thomas Jefferson, Ferdinand Hassler, Rainier, and Fairweatherand private survey companies on a contract with NOAA will tackle their assigned survey projects.

The NOAA ships are operated and maintained by the Office of Marine and Aviation Operations, with hydrographic survey projects managed by the Office of Coast Survey.

Posted February 23, 2017 by NOAA Office of Coast Survey in Nautical charts

Do you need a new chart?   2 comments

New update information service makes decisions easier

NOAA privatized printing of paper nautical charts in 2014 and, in the ensuing years, focused on modernizing chart compilation and production. Those recent changes allow us to update both paper and digital charts on a weekly basis. However, mariners still have had to deal with a cumbersome Local Notice to Mariners process to get important (or less than important) updates to the charts that they already own. Coast Survey is now making life a little easier for chart users.

Prior to 2014, when the government printed paper charts, it was easy to decide when to purchase a chart: when NOAA issued a “new edition.” Until that new edition came out, users just penciled in the updates as provided in the Local Notice to Mariners. Now, however, we are updating the actual charts before issuing new editions, on a weekly basis. Obtaining the latest updated chart, either by downloading a digital/electronic version or by purchasing a new paper chart from NOAA-certified vendors, is much easier. But is it necessary? Do the chart updates justify a cash outlay for the latest version?

How do you know when it is time to get a new chart?

Coast Survey is making a fundamental change in how we inform users about chart updates. The idea is to give users the ability to visually identify where all changes are occurring on their charts each week. With that information, you can make your own determination about when you may want to purchase an updated paper chart or download an updated raster or electronic navigational chart.

The new weekly chart updates webpage provides users with weekly information about specific changes in water depths, shoreline, obstructions, or other features on NOAA’s nautical charts.

One glance will tell you if the chart in your area has been updated. Click on the red dot for more info, and scroll back through the weeks to see prior changes.

One glance will tell you if the chart in your area has been updated. Click on the red dot for more info, and scroll back through the weeks to see prior changes.

Progressing past the legacy

This improvement reflects a basic shift in how we update the charts and how the public learns about those changes.

Since the mid-1850s, Coast Survey would collect updates for each chart, for one, five, or ten years, and would then create a new edition of that chart. Hundreds or thousands of copies would be printed and shipped out to sit on the shelves in boat shops and marine centers – until the next edition came out in one or five or ten years.

Now, Coast Survey constantly applies updates to the charts, and those updated charts are issued and available for sale on a weekly basis.  They are not “new editions,” however. Constantly issuing “new editions” would force commercial mariners to constantly purchase the editions (since many mariners are required to carry the latest edition on their voyages). We needed to hit the happy medium.

Although we are moving past the legacy of “new editions,” Coast Survey has developed an algorithm that periodically will identify a chart that meets the basic criteria for issuance as a new edition, which we post at weekly chart updates along with our normal notification in the DOLE.  This service allow users to see both LNM-based chart updates (for critical information) and non-LNM-based chart updates (which are non-critical).

Basic instructions

When the interface comes up, enter a chart number or an ENC cell number. As you begin to type a number in the box, you will be able to access a drop down of applicable charts or ENCs. 

The program allows the user to view data in one-week increments, and you may begin at any week. You can cycle through, week by week, by clicking the up or down arrows next to the date in the “week ending” box.

The right side of the screen shows the list of charts with corrections for the selected week. The first number is the number of LNM (critical) corrections, and the second number represents chart updates that were made but do not appear in the LNM. Red dots represent critical items while brown polygons show the limits of non-critical updates.

Clicking on any chart in this list will open that chart. Clicking on those dots or polygons will provide information about the correction itself.   

Currently, an item may fall in both the critical and non-critical categories if the LNM was originated on the NOAA side (i.e., if NOAA evaluated and compiled a piece of information and then provided the information to the U.S. Coast Guard for publication in the LNM).

You can create a csv file for corrections on any week. Use the download icon next to the question mark icon (info).  When you click on the downloaded file it will default to open in Microsoft Excel.

Posted February 14, 2017 by NOAA Office of Coast Survey in Nautical charts

It wasn’t just Jefferson. Congress initiated Coast Survey legislation, approved #OTD 210 years ago   1 comment

On this date in 1807, President Thomas Jefferson approved an act to provide for surveying the coasts of the United States. NOAA has long honored Jefferson — but what of the legislators who saw the need, wrote the bill, and sent it to the president?

On December 15, 1806, Samuel W. Dana (CT) introduced a resolution instructing the House of Representatives’ Committee of Commerce and Manufactures to “inquire into the expediency of making provision for a survey of the coasts of the United States, designating the several islands, with the shoals and roads, or places of anchorage, within twenty leagues of any part of the shores of the United States.” Dana was joined in debate by Jacob Crowninshield (MA-2), the chair of the Committee of Commerce and Manufactures.

Samuel Dana (left) represented Connecticut in Congress from 1797 to 1821. Jacob Crowninshield, of the famed American maritime family, chaired the House Committee on Commerce and Manufactures in the 9th Congress.

Samuel Dana (left) represented Connecticut in Congress from 1797 to 1821. Jacob Crowninshield, of the famed American maritime family, chaired the House Committee on Commerce and Manufactures in the 9th Congress.


The contemporary report of the House debate gives us some understanding of the act’s provisions. (From the History of Congress, H. of R., pages 151 and 152)

Mr. Dana, of Connecticut. – In 1802, an act was passed, authorizing a survey of Long Island Sound. In pursuance of that act, the Secretary of the Treasury caused a survey to be taken by two men, who appear to have been, what the act intended, intelligent and proper persons. And there has since been published a chart of the Sound, handsomely executed, on a large scale, which must, I presume, be regarded as convenient and valuable by those concerned in that branch of navigation.

At the last session of Congress, an act was passed for another survey. It made provision for surveying the coast of North Carolina between Cape Hatteras and Cape Fear, with the shoals lying off or between those capes. I understand that measures have been taken for executing this act, but that the vessel employed in the service, and all the papers respecting the survey which had been made, had been lost near Ocracoke Inlet, in one of the desolating storms experienced on the coast in the course of the present year.

The surveys, which have thus been authorized, were perhaps of the most urgent necessity; but other surveys of the coast are desirable. What has already been done may be regarded as introductory to a general survey of the coasts of the United States under authority of the Government. With a correct chart of every part of the coast, our seamen would no longer be under the necessity of relying on the imperfect or erroneous accounts given of our coast by foreign navigators. I hope the lives of our seamen, the interest of our merchants, and the benefits to the revenue, will be regarded as affording ample compensation for making a complete survey of the coasts of the United States, at the public expense.

The information which may be obtained will also be useful in designating portions of territorial sea to be regarded as the maritime precincts of the United States, within which, of course, the navigation ought to be free from the belligerent searches and seizures.

It is proposed to extend the survey to the distance of twenty leagues from the shore. This distance is mentioned with a view to the second article of the treaty with Great Britain in 1783, which describes our boundaries as “comprehending all islands within twenty leagues of any part of the shores of the United States.”

The resolution, which I propose for the consideration of the House, is expressed in these words:

Resolved, That the Committee of Commerce and Manufactures be instructed to inquire into the expediency of making provision for a survey of the coasts of the United States, designating the several islands, with the shoals and roads or places of anchorage within twenty leagues of any part of the shores of the United States.

[end Dana]

Mr. Crowninshield, of Massachusetts, was very glad to see the resolution offered, but he should like it better if it were more extensive. He believed there were many shoals on the coast lying at more than twenty leagues distance from the shore. Among others, St. George’s Bank was at more than this distance. He wished that the resolution might be varied so as to comprehend all the shoals on the coast, from St. Croix to the southern extreme of Louisiana.

Mr. C. had always thought it important that an accurate survey should be made of our coast. Holland’s chart, though the best, is very inaccurate.

Mr. Dana accorded with the chairman of the Committee of Commerce and Manufactures (Mr. Crowninshield) in respect to the utility of an accurate survey of the shoal which he had mentioned, but was against altering the resolution so as to include any islands at a greater distance than twenty leagues from the shore. The treaty of 1773 (sic) authorizes us to consider islands within that distance as appertaining to the territory of the United States. There is, therefore, peculiar propriety in extending the proposed survey to the distance of twenty leagues along the whole of our coast. If any shoals at a greater distance from shore are to be surveyed, special provision for this purpose may be made in the details of a bill which the committee may report. It would be more convenient to specify the details in a bill than in a general resolution for inquiry.

Mr. Crowninshield then moved to strike out twenty and insert fifty in the resolution. He was confident that there were shoals lying more than twenty leagues distant from the shore, and he thought it important to have them surveyed. It might be that there are no islands beyond that distance. He was not certain in regard to them, but he was sure that there were extensive shoals.

Mr. Dana suggested that the gentleman (Mr. Crowninshield) might designate, by way of amendment, particular shoals which he wished to be surveyed.

Mr. Cook, of Massachusetts, doubted whether all of St. George’s Bank was within even fifty leagues of the shore. If it were in order, he would move to strike out twenty and insert seventy.

A division of the question on striking out twenty and inserting fifty was called for.

Mr. Crowninshield at length withdrew his motion, and it was agreed that the resolution should lie on the table.

Dana’s resolution was referred to Crowninshield’s committee the next day and, on January 6, 1807, the committee introduced H.R. 21, authorizing and requesting President Jefferson to “cause a survey to be taken of the coasts of the United States.” After some amendments, the House passed the bill on January 20, and sent it to the Senate. The Senate also had some amendments, which the House concurred with. Both Congressional chambers approved the final bill on February 9, and the bill was “laid before the President of the United States.”

Public Acts of Congress, Annals of Congress, 9th Congress, 2nd Session, pages 1254 and 1255

An Act to provide for surveying the coasts of the United States

Be it enacted &c., That the President of the United States shall be, and he is hereby, authorized and requested to cause a survey to be taken of the coasts of the Untied States, in which shall be designated the islands and shoals, with the roads or places of anchorage, within twenty leagues of any part of the shores of the United States; and also the respective courses and distances between the principal capes, or head lands, together with such other matters as he may deem proper for completing an accurate chart of every part of the coasts within the extent aforesaid.

Sec. 2. And be it further enacted, That it shall be lawful for the President of the United States to cause such examinations and observations to be made, with respect to St. George’s bank, and any other bank or shoal and the sounding and currents beyond the distance aforesaid to the Gulf Stream, as in his opinion may be especially subservient to the commercial interests of the United States.

Sec. 3. And be it further enacted, That the President of the United States shall be, and he is hereby authorized and requested, for any of the purposes aforesaid, to cause proper and intelligent persons to be employed, and also such of the public vessels in actual service, as he may judge expedient, and to give such instructions for regulating their conduct as to him may appear proper, according to the tenor of this act.

Sec. 4. And be it further enacted, That for carrying this act into effect there shall be, and hereby is appropriated, a sum not exceeding fifty thousand dollars, to be paid out of any money in the Treasury, not otherwise appropriated.

Approved, February 10, 1807



Posted February 10, 2017 by NOAA Office of Coast Survey in History, Nautical charts

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NOAA homeports navigation response team at Stennis Space Center, Mississippi   Leave a comment

NOAA’s Office of Coast Survey announced that they will homeport one of their six navigation response teams at the John C. Stennis Space Center, Mississippi. The team will be co-located with NOAA’s National Data Buoy Center (NDBC) and adjacent to other federal and state partners involved in seafloor mapping and unmanned hydrographic survey systems.

“Coast Survey strategically places navigation teams around the country, and having a team permanently based at Stennis will speed our response to navigational emergencies in the Gulf,” said Rear Admiral Shepard Smith, Coast Survey director. “We are also looking forward to potential collaboration on emerging hydrographic technologies with our partners there.”

NOAA plans to grow the navigation response team at Stennis initially to include five people and a suite of mobile survey equipment, including unmanned systems, that can perform a variety of coastal mapping missions and respond to urgent hydrographic survey needs.


Helmut Portmann, director of the National Data Buoy Center, and other NDBC staff provide Rear Admiral Shepard Smith and Lt. Cmdr. Jason Mansour a tour of NDBC at Stennis.


“The NOAA Data Buoy Center sees value in collaborating with Coast Survey’s navigation response team as the center is interested in broadening its activities from predominantly moored buoys to all manner of ocean observation tools, including maritime unmanned systems,” said Helmut Portmann, director of NDBC.

This long term facilities arrangement at Stennis will support the team’s basic operations and will also be conducive to the research, development, and implementation of unmanned systems. The use of these systems greatly increases survey efficiency, and their flexible deployment options make them a valuable tool for marine incident response.


NDBC staff demonstrate hourly buoy observations and other system capabilities at the center to Rear Admiral Smith and Lt. Cmdr. Mansour.


“Coast Survey has over a decade of experience working with unmanned systems, using both small and large vehicles – underwater and on the water’s surface. We are working toward increasing this capability with our navigation response teams,” Smith said.

In addition to the synergies with the NOAA’s Buoy Center, the Navy has unmanned maritime systems operations based out of Stennis, and the University of Southern Mississippi is developing unmanned systems training classes.

“Placing NOAA’s Coast Survey Navigation Team at Stennis strengthens the expertise and partnership that already exists between NOAA, Navy and the University of Southern Mississippi,” said Deputy Commander Bill Burnett, Naval Meteorology and Oceanography Command.  “Obviously, Stennis is the place you want to be as they continue to lead the nation in the employment of unmanned systems to conduct hydrography.”

In the years since Deepwater Horizon, the Gulf coast has emerged as a regional unmanned systems hotspot, with several commercial companies designing and manufacturing unmanned maritime systems.

NOAA’s navigation response teams, part of Coast Survey, survey the seafloor in ports and harbors that have undergone infrastructure updates, shoreline alterations, or seafloor changes. They measure depths and look for underwater hazards that could endanger vessels, to update nautical charts for commercial and recreational mariners.

Posted January 4, 2017 by NOAA Office of Coast Survey in Nautical charts

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