NOAA nautical charts are being released free to the public as PDF files. These are going to exactly the same charts as the traditional nautical charts, but available as a digital file (and yes, you can print them! See the bottom of this page for links).
Providing free access to these PDF charts is an effort to increase the safety of boaters by making NOAA’s data as accessible as possible to the public.
The director of NOAA’s Office of Coast Survey, Rear Admiral Gerd Glang, elaborates:
“Up to date charts help boaters avoid groundings and other dangers to navigation, so our aim is to get charts into the hands of as many boaters as we can … Within about 90 days of the product’s beta release, nearly 2.3 million charts were downloaded. To us, that represents more than two million opportunities to avoid an accident at sea.”
Not sure which chart you need? No problem. NOAA has created an interactive chart locator which allows users to select a chart from the U.S. map. Not only that, users can also choose the format in which they prefer to download their chart.
In addition to providing access to updated nautical charts, NOAA is in the process of improving the charts’ image quality by almost 50%, making them legible even on your mobile phone or tablet.
Remember, however, that in order to fulfill your vessel’s requirement to carry a navigational NOAA chart (per federal regulations), your safest bet is to purchase a navigational chart provided by an NOAA-certified POD (Print-on-Demand). Click here to learn more.
NOAA is effectively adapting to the technological advancement taking place in our time. These changes and improvements are part of NOAA’s efforts to fulfill boaters’ current and upcoming needs that are constantly changing according with technology.