NOAA 2005-031
Contact: Glenda Powell
NOAA News Releases 2005
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Updated Charting Data Promotes Safe Navigation

NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration today announced the release of the NOAA Hydrographic Survey Priorities (NHSP) for 2004. The NHSP identifies and prioritizes navigationally significant areas within the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and U.S. territorial waters. Created by NOAA’s Office of Coast Survey, the revised NHSP also provides the dates of previously charted hydrographic surveys and is part of a continuing effort to support the navigational needs of the maritime community. NOAA is an agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce.

Available at, the NHSP is a consolidated “snap shot” of generalized area outlines depicting the current hydrographic needs of the nation. Covering over 500,000 square nautical miles, each region was prioritized for hydrographic survey based on input from the marine transportation community, date of survey, technology and procedures used to obtain current charted hydrography in the area. Marine traffic volume and typical ship clearance conditions as well as potential for unknown obstructions and hazards to navigation were also considered.

The NHSP is used as the basis for long term planning and scheduling for NOAA's hydrographic survey efforts. The NHSP also identifies the 15,000 square nautical miles of area surveyed over the last 10 years with modern technology by NOAA's in-house platforms and through outsourcing to the private sector. Over 64,000 square nautical miles of area remain in urgent need of hydrographic survey.

“Addressing the hydrographic needs of this nation is critical to the safety and prosperity of the maritime community that contributes over $740 billion to the U.S. Gross Domestic Product,” said retired Navy Vice Admiral Conrad C. Lautenbacher, Jr., Ph.D., under secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator. “Updating the NOAA Hydrographic Survey Priorities is a part of NOAA’s effort to maintain and produce accurate and reliable navigational charts.” One of the agency’s primary missions is to support the Nation’s commerce with information for safe, efficient and environmentally sound transportation.

Many existing nautical charts do not meet current navigational needs due to limitations of older surveying technology. Nearly half of the depths published on current charts were acquired using lead line techniques before 1940. The spatial distribution of these historical depth measurements can exceed 1,650 feet on nautical charts, potentially missing obstructions.

The prioritization of the nation’s survey requirements will be periodically revised due to changing trends in waterborne commerce; the increasing size and draft of commercial vessels; navigational hazards, such as sea-floor changes due to natural and man-made processes; and the need for more highly detailed hydrographic survey coverage utilizing modern technologies. NOAA will review the priority assignments in the NHSP and publish new editions every three years.

The Office of Coast Survey, a component of NOAA’s National Ocean Service, has a long history as the oldest scientific organization in the United States, dating to 1807. Today the Office of Coast Survey is known for the useful and necessary navigational products that are required for the safe and efficient maritime commerce in and out of our nation's ports.

NOAA’s National Ocean Service is dedicated to exploring, understanding, conserving and restoring the nation’s coasts and oceans. NOAA’s National Ocean Service balances environmental protection with economic prosperity in fulfilling its mission of promoting safe navigation, supporting coastal communities, sustaining coastal habitats and mitigating coastal hazards.

NOAA is dedicated to enhancing economic security and national safety through the prediction and research of weather and climate-related events and providing environmental stewardship of the nation’s coastal and marine resources.

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