Office of Coast Survey
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
U.S. Department of Commerce
What is the NOAA Custom Chart application?
NOAA Custom Chart (NCC) is a web app that enables users to create their own customized nautical charts directly from the latest official NOAA electronic navigational chart (NOAA ENC®) data.
NCC outputs geospatially referenced Portable Document Format (PDF) files using the paper size, scale, and location selected by the user. Depths can be displayed in meters, feet, or fathoms and there are a few other display options, such as changing the depth at which a shallow water blue tint is applied and the depiction of a "safety contour" based on a vessel's draft.
The data portrayed on NCC charts is referenced to the World Geodetic System 1984 (WGS84) datum and reference system, and charts are created in the Mercator projection. The best output is produced when a chart scale matching the scale of the available ENC data, and an appropriate paper size are selected for the custom chart. NCC charts are composed in a standard rectangular format featuring a single chart panel (i.e., there are no insets). The data inside the chart panel is presented in a manner similar to traditional paper nautical charts, showing soundings, buoys, beacons and other aids to navigation, compass roses and the like, although some chart symbology may differ slightly. A graphic and a representative fraction scale, and other marginalia appear below the chart panel. Separate 8.5" x 11" PDF pages contain notes and a zone of confidence or CATZOC diagram, similar to the survey source diagrams seen on traditional nautical charts.
NOAA custom charts do not have numbers and U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) Local Notice to Mariners (LNM) will not be issued for NCC charts. The USCG will continue to provide information about changes to aids to navigation in the Discrepancies, Temporary Changes, and Light List Corrections sections of the LNM. Any references to NOAA traditional chart numbers will eventually be replaced with standard "harmonized" waterway and other place names to provide the general location of changed features in addition to the precise longitude and latitude of the changes.
Coast Survey's Weekly Chart Updates website can also be used to identify the location of corrections applied to the ENCs that are used to create NCC charts (and traditional paper charts that have not yet been canceled). These include critical corrections published in an LNM, as well as routine non-critical corrections that are regularly released by NOAA. These corrections are displayed against a map and can be queried by the user to obtain more information.
Charts output from NCC do not meet carriage requirements for USCG regulated vessels. There is a chance the NCC output could meet carriage requirements sometime in the future, but this is not a certainty. Additional enhancements to the NCC application are required and other conditions would have to be met related to the ENC data used, the scale of the chart being created, and the manner in which the chart is printed.
NOAA is working with its certified Print on Demand (POD) chart agents to provide an easy way for customers to obtain large-format copies of their custom charts.
Frequently Asked Questions
Unlike popular online maps or car navigation systems, which often provide a "seamless" map display as users zoom in, nautical charts only have large scale data in particular areas - usually ports. You can only build a custom chart with the ENC data that is available and at the scale at which it was compiled.
For example, if you wanted to build a 1:20,000 scale chart for a trip from Buhne Point in Humboldt Bay, California to the Pedrazzini Boat Ramp on the Eel River, you might set a chart extent, as shown by the red filled box below, for a 34" x 44" (ANSI E) sheet. A red outline covering Arcata Bay to the northeast to Humboldt Bay to the southwest shows the extent of a 1:25,000 scale ENC cell. This is a bit smaller scale then the 1:20,000 scale that the NCC chart will be created at, but the difference is fairly small and this portion (the northeast quadrant) of the resulting chart should look fine.
However, the largest scale ENC coverage available in the NW, SW, and SE quadrants is only 1:200,000. This is ten times smaller than the 1:20,000 scale chart that the NOAA Custom Chart tool is being used to create. That is, the ENC data available for the rest of the chart (shown by the larger red outline in the image below) was generalized when the smaller scale ENC cell was compiled and it shows ten times less detail.
This difference is readily apparent in the resulting chart, shown below. The density of the soundings in the northeast quadrant of the chart is much greater, there are more depth contours shown, and the delineation of the sloughs in Humboldt Bay is more detailed than the banks of the Eel River shown in the southern portion of the chart.
NCC charts do not currently meet USCG carriage requirements for paper charts. NOAA is working with the USCG and making modifications to the NCC chart output, which may result in NCC charts meeting carriage requirements in the future, but if and when this might occur is not certain. In any event, not all custom chart output would meet carriage requirements, even after the enhancements to the NCC application are made, as other conditions would also have to be met related to the ENC data used, the scale of the chart being created, and the manner in which the chart is printed.
NCC uses the latest up-to-date NOAA Electronic Navigational Chart (NOAA ENC®) data to create customized charts. Although NCC charts do not currently meet U.S. Coast Guard paper chart carriage requirements for regulated vessels, they should be adequate for use by recreational boaters, especially as a backup for other navigation systems. All recreational and professional mariners are encouraged to use ENCs for their primary means of navigation.
There is a growing demand for ever more detailed nautical charts. To help meet this need, NOAA initiated a program to sunset its traditional paper nautical charts and the corresponding raster chart products and services. This has enabled NOAA to focus on improving the coverage and content of the digital chart format that is used throughout the world for navigation, the electronic navigational chart (ENC). ENC data is produced by over twenty other countries and used by mariners around the world.
Producing and distributing raster charts requires additional, separate computer software and data storage, as well as specialized cartographic training and processing beyond the resources needed to maintain ENCs. NOAA now maintains over 1700 ENCs and is carrying out an ambitious program to replace much of the existing ENC coverage with more detailed (larger scale) data. When completed, the enhanced ENC product suite will consist of over 9000 ENCs in eleven standard scales. NOAA has only been able to create and maintain this enhanced suite of ENC products by redirecting resources previously used to update and distribute traditional paper and raster nautical charts.
NCC creates PDF document files that can be downloaded and printed at home. For larger size charts, NOAA is working with our certified Print on Demand (POD) chart agent partners to create a business model for printing and distributing large format plots of NOAA Custom Charts. Some POD agents may also be developing their own chart products from NCC output that customers will be able to order online in a manner similar to how traditional NOAA POD paper charts are sold today.
The geospatial Portable Document Format (PDF) is the only output provided by the NOAA Custom Chart. The PDF is geospatially referenced, but NCC charts are not intended to be used in digital chart displays for navigation.
No, only specific paper sizes shown in the NCC Print Settings control panel may be used. The placement of the chart grid, graphic scales, notes and other marginalia must be designed for each paper size and orientation used by NCC.
For further assistance or to suggest improvements for NOAA Custom Chart application, questions or comments may be submitted through the Coast Survey's online ASSIST customer feedback tool.
If you have a question or suggestion concerning a particular NCC chart that you are trying to create, please let us know what area you are trying to build a chart for and attach the NCC chart PDF or a screenshot of the area, if possible.
Once a traditional nautical chart has been cancelled, it (and many other previous editions of the chart) will be available in a jpeg format in the NOAA Coast Survey Historical Map and Chart Collection. Canceled charts do not meet USCG carriage requirements for regulated vessels and should not be used for navigation.