NOAA Announces The End Of Production For Paper Nautical Charts

“These chart backup files will look somewhat different than traditional paper nautical charts, but will provide a similar functionality…” – NOAA

The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is undertaking a five-year program to cease all raster and paper nautical chart production including production of all NOAA paper nautical charts, raster navigational charts (NOAA RNC), and all related products such as BookletChartsTM.

The plan to transition away from paper nautical charts to electronic charts dubbed as “Sunset Plan” is to gradually and permanently end paper charts and PDFs of those charts (Raster Charts).

A previous incarnation of NOAA’s Office of Coastal Survey began generating paper charts at the direction of President Jefferson in 1807, but in the present day, the Office of Coastal survey has deemed making paper products and their Raster offshoots while also making electronic charts to be an exercise in redundancy. The Office of Coastal Survey states in sunsetting traditional NOAA Paper Charts, “ENCs provide the most efficient means of delivering updated navigational information to the public, while paper and raster charts products have become out of sync with their corresponding ENCs. Ending paper and raster chart production will enable NOAA to improve and expand ENC coverage beyond what would be possible otherwise.”

ENC sales increased 425% since 2008, while sales of paper charts are now half of 2008 levels. The current NOAA nautical chart product suites comprise 1,258 electronic navigational charts (NOAA ENC®) and 1,007 NOAA raster/paper nautical charts. NOAA has started a multi-year program to create a standard gridded layout and increase the scale of ENCs. This will increase the number of detailed NOAA ENCs to about 9,000.

The International Maritime Organization (IMO) now mandates that all large commercial vessels on international voyages use electronic navigational charts (ENCs). In 2016, the USCG started allowing regulated commercial vessels on domestic voyages to use ENCs instead of paper charts. Recreational boaters are also increasingly using electronic chart displays.

NOAA is taking steps to provide a NOAA Custom Chart web-based application that will enable users to download and print raster chart backup files created from the most up-to-date ENC data.

NOAA now seeks comments from the public regarding the raster and paper chart product sunset transition and is particularly interested in:

  • Suggestions for improving the NOAA Custom Chart web application
  • Understanding other non-navigational uses for paper or raster nautical charts

Comments are due by midnight, February 1, 2020. Submit comments on the Sunsetting of Raster Nautical Charts through NOAA/s ASSIST feedback tool at or via mail to National Ocean Services, NOAA (NCS2), ATTN: Sunset of Raster Charts, 1315 East-West Highway, Silver Spring, MD 20910-3282.