Friday, November 1, 2013


Office of Coast Survey

Effective April 13, 2014, government stops lithographic printing of NOAA nautical charts

Frequently Asked Questions

Editor's Note this was forwarded to us my MAGI (Baltimore's wise men of maritime-PH: 410-284-8175.)  Surveyor Bill Riley.  It gives the final date for final lithographed charts ( the ones we predict will become something of a collectors item) and answers questions about the change over to electronic operations. Below is an exact copy of some of the questions and answers; above and below are hyper links to the original NOAA post in its entirety.

I buy my nautical charts at my local boating store. Why should I care whether the government prints NOAA charts? 

The federal government prints the NOAA lithograph nautical charts, and then sells them to commercial chart agents who sell them to the public. As of April 13, 2014, these charts will no longer be printed.

Why won’t the government print nautical charts after April 13, 2014?

NOAA's Office of Coast Survey and its predecessor agencies have been printing lithograph charts since the Civil War. Taking the long view, over the last decade NOAA has been building the systems, products, partnerships, and distribution system to support the industry’s evolution from stock paper charts to digital files.

In 1999, NOAA formed it first partnership with a Print-on-Demand (POD) chart distributor to print
nautical charts that are up-to-date at the time of printing. Since that time, most of our non-government customers have switched to POD for printed charts, and even more customers are using our charts digitally. As much as we’d like to continue the tradition of lithography, it is no longer justified as a use of tax dollars. This is the right way to go.

Are federal budget constraints factors in the decision to end lithograph charts?

This change has minimal budget impact on NOAA. NOAA’s lithographic charts have been printed by the Federal Aviation Administration, and the FAA decided to stop printing nautical charts “as a direct result of the federal government’s constrained fiscal environment and the FAA’s need to reduce all avoidable or unnecessary costs to the agency.” NOAA has neither the facilities, nor the budget, nor the appropriate authority, nor the expertise to stand up or contract for a print-stock-sell operation. Additionally, we believe the private sector is better suited to printing and selling charts -- and we look forward to seeing how smart entrepreneurs tackle new opportunities in chart sales.

Is NOAA getting out of chart production altogether?

Absolutely not. While we regret that circumstances are such that the government will no longer print lithograph charts, we are still the nautical chartmaker for U.S. coastal waters. Two companies will continue to print “Print-on-Demand” charts under agreement with NOAA. (We are open to more companies participating in the POD program.) We continue to improve NOAA electronic navigational charts (for display on computers, mobile apps, and electronic chart display systems) and NOAA raster navigational charts (used in a variety of electronic charting systems). We are also testing a new product: during a trial period from Oct 22, 2013 to Jan 22, 2014, we are making about a thousand nautical charts available in printable PDF format for free download. We plan to issue a Federal Register Notice asking for comments on continuing free public access to PDFs after the trial period.

What is the difference between a “lithograph” chart, a Print-on-Demand chart, and a PDF chart?
● The NOAA lithograph chart is the traditional paper chart. The federal government prints each
chart in large print runs at the time of a new edition, and keeps it in stock until purchased. After
a mariner buys a lithograph chart, they must make corrections by hand to continue click here:

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