Marine Link
Saturday, October 22, 2016

No Fear, NOAA Paper Charts Still Near

December 11, 2013

Chart lithography c. 1908: Photo courtesy of NOAA

Chart lithography c. 1908: Photo courtesy of NOAA

The announcement that the federal government will stop bulk lithographic printing of nautical charts brought some understandable angst, however NOAA say they may be changing the chart production process but they will NOT stop the production of paper charts.

The Agency explain they are working with private companies to make them better: printed in brighter colors and available for fast delivery to the door. Most importantly, they are up-to-date to the moment ordered. These improved paper charts are NOAA-certified print-on-demand (POD) nautical charts created by NOAA Coast Survey cartographers.

A little history
For more than 150 years, the traditional paper chart that we all know and love has been printed in bulk on government printing presses, using the lithographic process. Lithographs were the latest and greatest technological achievement in the early 1850s, when Coast Survey superintendent Alexander Bache ordered Coast Survey personnel to explore the potential applications of lithography for printing maps cheaply and easily. Since the charts could be printed on cheaper and far thinner paper, lithographic copies could be folded, which was strategically important as the nation prepared for Civil War.

Obtaining paper charts nowadays
NOAA has agreements with two companies –  OceanGrafix and East View Geospatial – to print and deliver paper print-on-demand nautical charts. NOAA is working with a dozen other companies that have expressed an interest in becoming a NOAA-certified POD partner, and they will keep the vendor list updated at: www.


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