What’s Wrong With the National Charting Plan – Part 2


By: Bob Sweet, former USPS National Education Officer

In Part 1 of this blog, I outlined my main concerns with the Office of Coast Survey’s draft National Charting Plan. Namely, that it seems to support a trend toward the elimination of paper charts.

I’m going to run through four key reasons why paper charts are critical—especially for recreational boaters.

  • Reason #1: Let’s face it, electronics can and do malfunction. Most recreational boaters have a single thread system, based on a single GPS receiver and probably just one screen. A failure without paper charts would render this boater blind.
  • Reason #2: Chartplotters offer a limited window into the boaters’ area of operation. If the boater zooms in to see where the boat is located, he or she cannot see where the boat is going. If the boater zooms out to see where the boat is going, he or she cannot see any detail around the boat. The answer to this problem is to use a paper chart alongside the chartplotter. The paper chart will provide a larger view and sufficient detail. What’s more, the larger coverage of the printed chart is much better and safer for planning a voyage. Planning is more difficult on a chartplotter because it requires scrolling and zooming on an electronic chart.
  • Reason #3: Printed charts offer a great deal more information. This information is useful in planning and checking position while underway. Recreational boaters rely far more on visual cues on land because they usually operate away from shipping lanes. Most chartplotters used by recreational boaters do use vector charts, which offer simpler presentation, faster redraws, and scalable text. What they do not offer is refinement of features offered on paper/raster charts.
  • Reason #4: The trend toward just small-scale planning charts (large area) being produced is wrong. To the recreational boater, the local large-scale chart is his or her planning chart; it is their area of operation. Most recreational boaters do not go on extended voyages.

If for any reason, the National Ocean Service (NOS) stops creating the paper/raster chart images, these charts will disappear. That’s because the liability risk for a non-government enterprise is just too great to undertake chart generation. Commercial chart providers (those who currently print NOS charts, or modified presentations in chart books or re-sized chart sections), who rely on faithful reproduction of data provided by NOS to produce their products, would not be able to provide the products recreational boaters need.

You can download a copy of the Draft NOS National Charting Plan at: https://www.nauticalcharts.noaa.gov/mcd/docs/NationalChartingPlan.pdf


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