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NOAA's Newest Chart Supports Puerto Rico Maritime Economy

Michael Henderson, NOAA navigation manager, and Capt. Marc Stegman, Deputy Sector Commander, U.S. Coast Guard, review the new Puerto Rico navigational chart.

Credit: Ricardo Castrodad, CG Sector San Juan

The Port of San Juan, experiencing a tremendous growth of maritime traffic, and planning for more, got an additional economic boost today when NOAA debuted a new nautical chart that will make ocean-going vessel traffic safer and more efficient through San Juan Bay and the port area.

“There is not only more traffic, but larger vessels are making San Juan their port call,” explained Capt. John Lowell, director of NOAA’s Office of Coast Survey. “NOAA remains committed to providing the navigational products that allow the port to keep up with its level of growth.”

NOAA maintains and updates the nation’s suite of more than a thousand nautical charts that are used by commercial mariners and recreational boaters to navigate the coastal areas of U.S. waters.

“Mariners asked for NOAA’s help when they started finding themselves too far right of the entrance because of a poor navigational chart transition,” Lowell said. “The San Juan Harbor Pilots knew the ship captains were at risk of endangering their vessels. That, and the accompanying risks – groundings, chemical spills, the destruction of endangered coral reefs – was simply too high a price to pay in San Juan Bay.”

During the past 20 years, the Port of San Juan has seen a three-fold increase in the amount of maritime traffic, making San Juan the largest port in the Caribbean region. Their more than $6 billion of waterborne foreign trade is positioned to expand with planned Panama Canal improvements scheduled to open in 2014.

NOAA's newest nautical chart covers the approaches to the Port of San Juan. It is the culmination of years of cooperative efforts between NOAA’s Office of Coast Survey, the San Juan Harbor Pilots, the Puerto Rico Port Authority, and U.S. Coast Guard Sector San Juan.

Currently, all vessels approaching San Juan use NOAA’s 1:100,000 scale chart, which covers a large portion of the Caribbean Sea north of the Puerto Rican coastline, but provides little detail for entering the harbor. Once inside Bahia de San Juan, NOAA’s 1:10,000 scale chart provides the mariner with specific information for safe navigation. The problem facing navigators – resolved by NOAA’s new chart – is the transition from the 1:100,000 scale chart and the 1:10,000 scale chart.

With NOAA’s new 1:20,000 scale chart (NOAA Chart 25669), maritime commerce using the Port of San Juan will have the necessary navigational chart transition between the bigger and the smaller charts of the area. Chart 25669 also provides additional detail to ship captains long before making the approach to the entrance at Fort San Felipe del Morro.

NOAA made a formal presentation of NOAA Chart 25669 to representatives of Puerto Rico's maritime community on October 13, at the Sector San Juan (North Coast) Harbor Safety Committee Meeting.

NOAA’s Office of Coast Survey has provided two centuries of service to the maritime transportation system, as America’s trusted source of navigational charts, data, and services since 1807.

Resources on the Web:
NOAA Chart 25668 (Scale 1:100,000)
NOAA Chart 25670 (Scale 1:10,000)
NOAA Chart 25669 (Scale 1:20,000)

October 13, 2011

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