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Contact: Ben Sherman
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NOAA Offers Free Navigational Charts on Web

Mariners can now get free electronic downloads of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Raster Navigational Charts. A raster chart is a digitally scanned image of a paper nautical chart used by mariners for navigation.

“The raster navigational charts contribute to safe, efficient, and environmentally sound marine transportation,” said Charles Challstrom, acting assistant administrator for NOAA’s oceans and coasts. “By providing these charts for free, NOAA offers easy access to mariners to make navigation safer in U.S. waters.”

Before the 1990s, NOAA’s paper nautical charts were created and maintained by hand engraving photographic images. NOAA electronically scanned all of its paper charts in the 1990s. Recently, the raster charts were incorporated into international standards for electronic chart systems and are now accepted as meeting international chart regulations for Safety of Life at Sea vessels. SOLAS is a designation of the International Maritime Organization and usually is reserved for large merchant ships.

NOAA will produce official raster charts and deliver weekly updates with Notice to Mariners -- notices containing changes in local navigational information. The NOAA Web site will contain a fully updated raster chart for each chart in NOAA’s suite. A cumulative file of updates with Notice to Mariner information for each chart edition will be posted on the Web site:

NOAA will distribute the free raster charts and updates the same way it distributes NOAA electronic navigational charts at:

NOAA Coast Survey anticipates establishing a program where commercial value-added providers may download the raster charts for free, compress, encrypt, and/or package them with additional data or services, and then may sell that product. By adhering to a set of NOAA-specified practices, these raster charts will retain their official status and their original high quality and accuracy. No date has been set by which the value-added redistributors program will be in place.

NOAA also plans to make the raster charts available on the Web site in an easy-to-view format for non-navigational purposes, such as port security and management, marine boundary delineation, coastal zone management, and environmental assessment and spill response.

Coast Survey is part of the National Ocean Service which is an office of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, an agency of the U.S. Commerce Department. 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 our nation’s coastal and marine resources. Through the emerging Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS), NOAA is working with its federal partners and nearly 60 countries to develop a global monitoring network that is as integrated as the planet it observes.

On the Web:


Office of Coast Survey charts: