NOAA hosts third annual workshop on nautical chart adequacy

Nautical Chart Adequacy Workshop 2017 participants and instructors.
Nautical Chart Adequacy Workshop 2017 participants, representing 12 countries, and their instructors.

This week, NOAA’s Office of Coast Survey hosted its third annual workshop on nautical chart adequacy. Twelve students participated in the training and learned techniques to evaluate the suitability of nautical chart products using chart quality and publicly available information. This year’s workshop emphasized cartography and the ability to transfer NOAA procedures to the students’ charting products. The workshop provided a theoretical background on:

  • Chart production at NOAA
  • Review of NOAA charted symbols and abbreviations
  • Review of automatic identification systems (AIS) and satellite-derived bathymetry (SDB)
  • Overview of the chart adequacy procedure

In addition, participants had a hands on experience (in the ArcGIS environment) on:

  • Land/water separation using satellite imagery
  • Identifying navigationally significant areas based on AIS
  • Deriving near-shore bathymetry using SDB
  • Conducting chart adequacy evaluation

Participants came from Egypt, Israel, Japan, Madagascar, Mauritius, Nigeria, Panama, Philippines, Russia, Spain, Taiwan, and Thailand. The workshop followed NOAA’s open house on nautical cartography on July 7, an event held in conjunction with the 28th annual International Cartographic Conference 2017 (ICC) in Washington, D.C.

Workshop participants attend a session in Coast Survey’s computer lab.

Next year’s nautical chart adequacy workshop is scheduled for July 2018. Individuals interested in attending should be nominated by their home hydrographic office, have previous experience in ocean bathymetry (minimum two years in hydrography or cartography), be proficient in the English language, and have future opportunities to work on bathymetric projects. Travel costs for the selected candidates will be covered by the GEBCO.

Rear Adm. Shepard M. Smith elected to chair the International Hydrographic Organization Council

Rear Adm. Shepard M. Smith, director of NOAA’s Office of Coast Survey and the U.S. national representative to the International Hydrographic Organization (IHO), was elected as the chair of the newly established IHO Council.

The council was established in November 2016 as a result of the adoption of amendments to the Convention on the International Hydrographic Organization. It is composed of 30 leading hydrographic nations from the membership of the IHO, and functions much like a corporate board of directors, overseeing performance management and the business side of the IHO.

One of the first tasks that the IHO assigned to the council at their meeting this spring was a comprehensive review of the organization’s strategic plan—its first thorough review since 2009. If warranted, the council will prepare a new strategic plan for the IHO. The first annual meeting of this council session is scheduled for October 2017.

The council will bring more regular executive-level focus to the needs of today’s changing global hydrographic environment. The global hydrographic community is addressing a rapid emergence of new technologies and techniques to collect and use hydrographic data as well as the application of that data to uses beyond “just charting.”  Satellites, autonomous vehicles, recreational and other maritime stakeholders all promise to play increasing roles making navigation safer.

“I am humbled to have been selected by so many of our international peers. It speaks well for NOAA and the nation that we are looked upon to provide the leadership to help the global community realize its goals in a new era in navigation and to help demonstrate hydrography’s critical role in national development,” said Admiral Smith.

The 30 members of the council are selected from among the 87 member states of the IHO and represent the world’s leading national hydrographic authorities. According to the IHO, among its membership, the U.S. maritime tonnage ranks 7th in the world.  According to the NOAA Report on the U.S. Ocean and Great Lakes Economy, marine transportation contributes 17.8% to the U.S. gross domestic product annually and provides 13.9% employment. NOAA is a global leader in hydrography, cartography, and nautical charting standards and processes. The worldwide maritime transportation system depends on nations issuing up-to-date nautical charts compiled to common standards. This is accomplished through the IHO and through participation in its Regional Hydrographic Commissions and numerous technical committees.

RDML Smith (fifth from left) with the Arctic Regional Hydrographic Commission (October 2016, Iqaluit, Canada).
RDML Smith (fifth from left) with the IHO Arctic Regional Hydrographic Commission (October 2016, Iqaluit, Canada).

NOAA hosts first open house on nautical cartography

NOAA’s Office of Coast Survey hosted the first NOAA open house on nautical cartography on Friday, July 7th. The event featured posters, presentations, and tours focusing on nautical cartography, highlighting the field of charting and GIS. Industry partners such as ESRI, CARIS, Fugro Palegos, Inc., and IIC Technologies, international mapping groups such as Cartography and Geographic Information Society (CaGIS) and General Bathymetric Chart of the Oceans (GEBCO), government agencies such as U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Navy, and many international charting offices were in attendance. The open house welcomed a total of 200 visitors, representing 24 countries.

Karen Marks, a geophysicist with NOAA’s Center for Satellite Applications and Research, and Rochelle Wigley, project manager for the GEBCO at the University of New Hampshire’s Center for Coastal & Ocean Mapping/Joint Hydrographic Center, kicked off the event with an overview on current and future ocean mapping projects. Sessions that followed fell within four main themes: From Hydrography to Cartography, Nautical Products, Marine Spatial Data Infrastructure and Databases, and Innovative Cartography. Sessions provided a forum to report on current and future activities within these themes. A highlight of the day was the lightening round poster sessions where participants had the opportunity to present their projects as well as establish connections with other cartographers in the field of nautical charting.

John Nyberg (right), acting director of Coast Survey and Coast Survey’s Marine Chart Division chief, fields questions with Robert Greer (left), U.S. Navy, and Denise LaDue (center), U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, during the From Hydrography to Cartography session.
John Nyberg (right), acting director of Coast Survey and Coast Survey’s Marine Chart Division chief, fields questions with Robert Greer (left), U.S. Navy, and Denise LaDue (center), U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, during the From Hydrography to Cartography session.
Over 25 posters were displayed along with NOAA current and historical nautical charts, and NOAA Chart Tile Service in NOAA’s Science Center.
Over 25 posters were displayed along with NOAA current and historical nautical charts, and NOAA Chart Tile Service in NOAA’s Science Center.

Coast Survey values the work being done through our private sector partners, other government agencies, and international counterparts,” said John Nyberg, acting director of Coast Survey and Coast Survey’s Marine Chart Division chief. “It is events like these that allow us to share ideas, learn from each other, and better prepare for the future.”

NOAA Administrator, Ben Friedman, was also in attendance and noted to Dr. Shachak Pe’eri, chief of Marine Chart Division’s Chart Standards Branch and organizer of the event, that the open house was a great way to bring international colleagues together and he hoped to see this for years to come.

Dr. Shachak Pe’eri guides Ben Friedman, NOAA Administrator, through the poster session.
Dr. Shachak Pe’eri guides Ben Friedman, NOAA administrator, through the poster session.
Sean Legeer talks about NOAA nautical charts past, present, and future with Ben Friedman, NOAA Administrator.
Sean Legeer talks about NOAA nautical charts past, present, and future with Ben Friedman, NOAA administrator.
Dr. Shachak Pe’eri, Sladjana Maksimovic, and Megan Bartlett of Coast Survey’s Marine Chart Division, demonstrate Coast Survey data on Science on a Sphere.
Dr. Shachak Pe’eri, Sladjana Maksimovic, and Megan Bartlett of Coast Survey’s Marine Chart Division demonstrate Coast Survey data on Science on a Sphere.

This one-day event, held in the Science Center on NOAA’s Silver Spring, MD, campus, was planned in conjunction with with the 28th annual International Cartographic Conference 2017 (ICC) in Washington, D.C. where NOAA also had a presence with an exhibit booth and presentations. Following the open house, many international participants plan to stay for a 3-day chart adequacy workshop similar to the workshop held at this time last year.




Surveying, rescue drills, and an open house—NOAA Ship Rainier has been busy!

by ENS Michelle Levano

NOAA Ship Rainier continues hydrographic survey operations in Chiniak Bay, near Kodiak, Alaska. As of June 1, 2017, Rainier and her survey launches have surveyed 2,025 nautical miles in the Spruce Island, Long Island, Middle Bay, Kalsin Bay, Isthmus Bay, and offshore Cape Chiniak areas. The total distance surveyed is about as long as the Mississippi River.

Rainier took advantage of its proximity to the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) Air Station Kodiak and performed two days of helicopter evacuation drills, while simultaneously conducting survey operations.

The drills were performed with the USCG’s MH-60T Jayhawk and a MH-65 Dolphin helicopters. Each helicopter practiced dropping and lifting a rescue basket, or litter, onto Rainier’s bow. Upon arrival, the MH-60T Jayhawk lowered a rescue swimmer aboard who held a safety briefing, and then demonstrated how to maneuver the tether and basket to the deck. Crew members rotated through to manage the tether and retrieve the basket. These drills provided the Coast Guard and Rainier’s crew with a valuable opportunity to practice rescue techniques.

NOAA Ship Rainier and USCG Air Station Kodiak performed rescue drills off the bow of the ship.

Additionally, Rainier held a two-day open house as part of the Kodiak Chamber of Commerce’s yearly Memorial Day Crab Festival celebration. The ship was alongside in downtown Kodiak offering public tours, with over 300 individuals attending. This was a great opportunity for the public to see what the large white vessel in Chiniak Bay has been doing.

Levano VIP tour
ENS Levano provided a tour for members from the local Kodiak community.

As the season pushes on, so does the ship. Rainier has plans to open more survey areas around Cape Chiniak and William’s Reef area. So if you happen to be in the area and see a white hull with S-221 painted on her bow, please do not hesitate to contact the ship to acquire more information. Rainier monitors VHF channels 13 and 16.

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

rainier update
Surveys completed by Rainier and Fairweather from the 1960-present around Kodiak, Alaska (left). Rainier’s updated coverage as of June 10, 2017 (right).

NOAA Ship Fairweather uses new technology to improve survey efficiency

By ENS Peter Siegenthaler

Following the scheduled winter repair period, Fairweather is kicking off the 2017 field season in Tlevak Strait; the waterway between Dall Island and Prince of Wales Island in Southeast Alaska. This area was last surveyed between 1900 and 1939, and the lead-lines used at the time to determine depths were susceptible to omission of rocks and other features in an area. Using the latest innovations in hydrographic technology, Fairweather will be resurveying these areas with complete coverage multibeam echo sounder bathymetry. This allows Fairweather to identify any rocks or shoal features missed in prior surveys, increasing the safety for local communities, whose economies and livelihoods are dependent on maritime transportation of goods.

One of the new developments Fairweather’s survey department in particular is excited about is a new software program affectionately named “Charlene.” Charlene was developed by PS Eric Younkin at Coast Survey’s Hydrographic Systems and Technologies Branch (HSTB) to automate the night processing workflow. This simplifies hours spent each night converting and correcting raw sonar data into an automated script which takes in raw data at one end and generates products at the other. Initial results are promising, and the ship is looking forward to fully integrating Charlene into the processing workflow.

Another new development for the 2017 field season is new multibeam sonars for the ship’s survey launches, which were installed during the winter repair period. The preliminary data acquired by these sonars has shown vast improvement over their predecessors’ data, which will go a long way towards reducing data processing timelines. The new sonars do this by automating most of the acquisition parameters in real-time, far faster and more effectively than could be achieved manually. They also take advantage of a multitude of hardware and software advances that have taken place over the past several years, resulting in systems that are quieter, smaller, and easier to operate.

Fairweather is continuing to use and develop the launch-mounted lidar systems (lasers) for the acquisition of shoreline data. This was another HSTB-developed process that was validated during the 2016 field season. This year, Fairweather is using those lessons learned in order to further improve our acquisition workflow. These systems create accurate real-time point clouds of features above the waterline and have revolutionized the way hazards to navigation are documented. Before the use of lasers, shoreline verification frequently required physically touching rocks and obstructions above the water surface for accurate measurement and placement. This process involved increased risk, took more time, and produced less accurate data. The new laser workflow addresses all these limitations. By scanning the shoreline at a distance with calibrated equipment, efficiency, accuracy, and safety are all greatly improved.

Overall, Fairweather is enthusiastic about being back at work in Alaska. With her new software, sonar systems, and dedicated crew, the stage is set for and productive field season!

Area surveyed by Fairweather May 30- June 10, 2017.
Area surveyed by Fairweather May 30- June 10, 2017.

New commemorative chart marks the Battle of Midway’s 75th anniversary

NOAA’s Office of Coast Survey and Office of National Marine Sanctuaries created a commemorative nautical chart for the Battle of Midway’s 75th anniversary. This nautical chart was first published in 1943, and the commemorative chart includes the original depth soundings surrounding the islands overlaid with historical photos from the battle.

The Battle of Midway was fought from June 3–7, 1942, at and around the island of Midway in the central Pacific Ocean. Today, it is considered to be the decisive battle of the war in the Pacific. Over the next few days, we will mark the 75th anniversary of the battle. The battle resulted in the loss of four Japanese aircraft carriers and their accompanying aircraft and crew, accounting for two-thirds of Japan’s fleet carrier force. Despite sinking the American aircraft carrier USS Yorktown during the battle, the Japanese Navy’s severe losses would never be fully replaced, forcing them to fight a strategic defense for the rest of the war. While the primary carrier fleet engagement occurred to the north of Midway Atoll, much of the secondary action originated from the atoll itself. Midway is a tiny, remote atoll which was, 75 years ago, one of the most strategically important few square miles of land in the world. On September 2, 1945, the Japanese officially surrendered to end WWII.


Today, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service administers Midway Atoll as a National Wildlife Refuge.  The refuge lies within Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument, a marine protected area encompassing all of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. In 2000, the Secretary of the Interior designated Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge as the Battle of Midway National Memorial. This was the first national memorial designated on a National Wildlife Refuge, reminding us of the heroic courage and sacrifice of those who fought against overwhelming odds to win an incredible victory.

Within Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument, Midway Atoll is known as Pihemanu, which is a Hawaiian word for loud din of birds, and Kuaihelani, which is a Hawaiian word meaning back bone of heaven. The Monument’s intrinsic cultural and natural heritage value assured its place as a World Heritage Site. 2016 marked the 10th anniversary of the establishment of the monument, the 5th anniversary of its World Heritage inscription, and on August 26, 2016, President Barack Obama expanded the monument to become one of the world’s largest marine conservation areas.

NOAA clarifies National Charting Plan vision for production of NOAA paper charts and RNCs

Whether navigating an oil tanker, cruise ship, fishing vessel, sailboat, or any craft, the mariner requires a suite of navigation charts that are consistent and easy to use. The public feedback we received to the National Charting Plan regarding the “sunset of paper” charts (p. 26) highlights two navigation products in particular, NOAA paper nautical charts and raster navigational chart (RNC).

We recognize the continued popularity and dependence of many of our users on our paper and raster charts, and NOAA will continue to update these charts with all critical information. Despite some reports to the contrary, the draft plan does not offer a timeline for ending the production of NOAA paper charts or RNCs. We expect this process may take decades to complete, as user communities continue to adopt electronic navigation and our production system and products continue to improve. However, we do want to start the conversation and solicit feedback to focus our improvement on electronic navigational charts (ENC). In response to a surge of interest in the past few weeks, although the official comment period ends June 1, 2017, as stated in the Federal Register Notice, we will continue to accept comments on the National Charting Plan through July 1, 2017.

The ENC vector chart is still relatively new and needs some improvement. We recognize that in many cases, the ENC is not as easy to use as its paper equivalent, even though it satisfies all requirements for safe navigation. The long-term goal at NOAA is for ENCs and charts derived from them to surpass paper charts in all categories and for all mariners to prefer them to paper.

The Merrimack River (US5MA1AM) provides an example of how a new NOAA ENC® fulfilled a local request for larger scale data. Historically, charts did not depict the river from Newburyport to Haverhill, MA, at an appropriate scale for recreational boaters to navigate safely. NOAA created a robust 1:12,000 scale ENC (without corresponding large-scale paper and RNC charts) to allow recreational boaters to navigate safely on the river. NOAA intends to increase its large-scale coverage in recreational areas but does not believe that it is always practical to offer corresponding traditional paper chart coverage. Large-scale data across large areas is better suited for use in electronic navigation systems for both regulated and recreational mariners.