NOAA will sunset traditional nautical charts, sad but inevitable

Ben Ellison

Ben Ellison

Panbo editor, publisher & chief bottlewasher from 4/2005 until 8/2018, and now pleased to have Ben Stein as a very able publisher, webmaster, and editing colleague. Please don't regard him as an "expert"; he's getting quite old and thinks that "fadiddling fumble-putz" is a more accurate description.

17 Responses

  1. Shorty says:

    Good point on vector zoom levels. Something to get used to. Found out the hard, very hard, way in Nova Scotia

  2. Giuseppe Carnevali says:

    Hello Ben, you may easily imagine the interaction between your romantic emotions and mine: as you know, I marketed the world’s first seamless vector chart in 1983 and for many many years had to endure being treated like a blasphemous heretic.
    Many many lives saved, and much better access to navigation on water, land and air, and now this indirect recognition by some of the very organizations that spared no effort to make me stop, remind me of a conference on the subject of electronic charts organized by the Royal Institute of Navigation in London; a Royal Navy Officer publicly called me a pirate, and I suggested that perhaps pioneer was a more fitting definition. There was a laugh and a handshake.
    History and market and everyday life have proven that seamless vector cartography is just a safer and easier way to go,
    It is like moving from the square rigger to the steamship: the transition is hard, initial mistakes are made, emotions are involved, the clean air blowing into the sails is preferred to the billows of black smoke by many, but eventually life moves forward.
    However, I do agree that there is still a plenty of room for improvement both in the quality of the product and the education of the user. As I said in my farewell speech two years ago, artificial intelligence and scores of new technologies nowadays provide incredible opportunities for the electronic charts of the future, and as I retired I was excited to pass the relay to younger generations who will undoubtedly bring this torch to once unimaginable new frontiers.

    • Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

      Thanks, Giuseppe. I always thought that “swashbuckler” was a better description of your decades in command of the good ship Navionics 😉

      • Giuseppe Carnevali says:

        Thank you for the “swashbuckler”!
        as for charts, I should have added that, as the judge in the Federal Court of Australia found in a landmark ruling “all charts have errors” no matter if paper, electronic, government or private. The safest thing is to never rely on a single source of information.

  3. Anonymous says:

    If you actually cruised anywhere in your boat, you’d realize that paper charts and raster charts are well beyond their sell-by date. Their time is over. Put them in a museum or within your writing about how good it all used to be. For those of us out there, thank heaven fewer resources will go toward these useless products.

  4. Jan Hoffmann says:

    Small dispIays… I sincerely hope raster will survive and live long as an option.

    I’ve used Navionics on smartphone displays
    and just started this summer to check out the freshly implemented vector option in NVcharts app.
    A combo of raster and vector display can be used or raster only.
    I’ve found for myself raster to be faster, more KISS and straight forward to use and less prone to user(zoom)error.

    The smaller the display the more raster ( in conjunction with paper ) makes sense in my opinion.
    Pretty sure its a different gmae on larger displays.

    Zooming errors and flawed vector chart data with brutal consequences do happen also to pro navigators…

    From the report:
    “Contributing factors were:
     deficient use of electronic charts and other navigational data and a failure to identify the potential danger, and
     deficient cartography in presenting the navigational dangers on small and medium scale
    (or zoomed out) views on the electronic chart system in use.“


    • Jeffrey Orling says:

      I suspect some electronics maker will come up with some sort of large size “projected” display which can be use on top of the chart table like a traditional chart. MFDs are getting larger and larger screens… but these are expensiver and expensiver… and out of the economic reach plus they simple are too large for many chart tables etc,

      My 30+ year old has what is called a “full size” chart table which can support large paper charts. (BBA chart kits fit on there easily) and I typically keep one open to the region I am sailing as a big picture reference…. no need to zoom in and out and scroll and reverse.

      Electronic data can be way more robust, can be updated almost real time… for sure pretty easily (can display the date of publication for reference), can filter what data is presented or the “granularity” can even show characteristics like flashing of aids to navigation, pop up data when “clicked on”… and of course layers With notes etc.), colors can be customized and so. It seems to this sailor that the possibilities for ENC charts make them ultimately far superior that a fixed date scanned product. Navigation needs to evolve to more open source… like a black box processor which you load software,.. charts, navigation computations, radar overlays, weather overlays, current overlays, AIS overlays and so on.. you can display on the monitor of YOUR choosing with interfaces which work for you… touch screen, mouse whatever.

      I DO think having a paper product is a good idea and I suspect printed enc charts will be available commercially or navigators can print what they want and the size they want… and what “layers/data, scale etc to print) (sure few people have large format color plotters on board let alone at home).

      We had a hard time moving from the IBM Selectric to the word processor… but now no one looks back and wants or needs them especially with interactive PDF forms…. the last use for a typewrite that I had

  5. Dan Corcoran Dan Corcoran says:

    Is there a standard ENC format for maps?

    I noticed on a B&G Zeus3 that the Navonics and CMAP products draw very differently. Is that because the underlying format of the data is different?

    For example one product (CMAP I think) scrolls longer distances (finger drag), before triggering two screen redraws, first a low resolution render, then final high resolution render.

    The other product (Navoincs) only lets you drag short distances, never jumping to a low resolution version. It takes many finger drags to move the map say 25 miles, unless you first zoom out, drag, and zoom in again.

  6. Dan Corcoran Dan Corcoran says:

    My vision of how maps will be offered to us in the future, is driven a bit by my visits to StonyBrook University and their virtual reality labs, and a recent youtube video posted by Scott Manley explaining the impact on satellites on astronomy observers.

    Unlike Paper Maps, the pixels on all our phones and MFD’s are a tiny fraction of what we have on paper maps, and the interface is kind of like looking from inside a tank, outside through a small window that moves very very slowly under the command of our fingers.

    My vision for a paper map replacement:

    1. Software drives a pair of google glasses or VR goggles that let you look down at a desk, or across the water, and “see” a map image move in front of you as fluidly as you can rotate your head. Push your face forward and back just inches to zoom anywhere. Such an interface would mimic having a map many feet across in either direction as if you had all the pixels you brain could possibly take in.

    2. VR, but though a smartphone. Not sure if this link will work passing it through Panbo. If it does not, from your phone search “If You Could See Every Satellite, What Would The Sky Look Like” or “Scott Manley”

    As in this video / VR combo (you can hold your phone up in front of you, look foward across land or water, and see a real-time map of man made objects circling the earth) .

    Now imagine instead your smartphone is showing you a navigation chart instead and you can look at it by moving your phone in front of you either down at a desk, across a wall, or from in your boat, across the water, and “see” the navigation map image through the phone as if the map is stationary, and you are moving a magnifying glass over it. Push your phone forward or away just inches to zoom anywhere. Touch the screen to interact with the map (drop way points, measure distances, etc.). Such an interface would mimic having a map many feet across in either direction and would feel more natural to work with then dragging it with a finger across the screen.

    The video I provided above is very good. It actually interacts with your phone as you move it.


  7. Dan Corcoran Dan Corcoran says:

    I confirmed the link does work as expected, at least from a Pixel 2XL running Android 10. Link repeated below

  8. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    So someone started a petition to NOAA hoping to change the sunset plan:

    But sadly it’s all about how valuable paper charts are while NOAA’s plan includes support for a new type of paper chart.

  9. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    If you’re already feeling nostalgic about traditional charts, this outfit may help you memorialize a favorite:

  10. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    Well, NOAA is really taking its time with sunsetting raster charts. The first one just happened and it’s a chart of Lake Tahoe that surprised me for even existing:

  11. Giuseppe says:

    I remember when our early electronic charts were considered blasphemy and heresy, and NOAA, along with most Hydrographic Offices, spared no effort to try to shut us down. This is history repeating itself, each time a disruptive innovation comes around. However, it is nice to see that NOAA has turned as a world leader into a new era

  12. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    Looks like the sunsetting of traditional raster navigation charts is speeding up a bit:

    “The NOAA RNC Tile Service and the NOAA RNC Viewer will be shut down on October 1, 2021.
    The NOAA Seamless RNC Services will be shut down on Jan 1, 2022.”

    According to a well-informed friend of Panbo: “This is going to remove U.S. nautical charts from a wide swath of web and mobile map apps and it doesn’t appear that NOAA is making any real transition plan to setup an equivalent service using ENC (or in a rational world just replace the RNC images with seamless ENC images on the same service for no interruptions).”

  1. November 16, 2019

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