Four Raster Chart Products
NOAA produces raster charts in four formats:
The common and unique characteristics of each of these raster formats are described below, including information about how to obtain copies of each type.
Common Features of all NOAA Raster Charts, Including Paper Charts
Just as NOAA electronic navigational chart (NOAA ENC®) cells do, all raster charts portray water depths,coastlines, dangers, aids to navigation, landmarks, bottom characteristics and other features, as well as regulatory, tide, and other information. All raster chart products are based on and have the same appearance as the "traditional" paper charts that Coast Survey has provided for U.S. waters since the early 19th century.
They contain all critical corrections published in notices to mariners since the last new edition of the chart was released, as well as any newly compiled routine changes (see the "Chart Updates" sidebar on the right).
The U. S. Government no longer prints paper copies of its raster nautical charts. However, NOAA provides digital images of its raster charts to NOAA certified chart agents, from whom the public may purchase NOAA paper nautical charts.
Certified chart agents ensure that the charts are printed at the proper scale and quality to meet U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) chart carriage requirements. In fact, only charts printed by a NOAA certified chart agent are accepted by the USCG as meeting chart carriage requirements for commercial vessels. No other raster chart format meets USCG carriage requirements.
Some NOAA certified chart agents offer additional premium services, such as printing charts on waterproof materials, and printing user overlays on charts.
NOAA paper charts fulfill IMO requirements for ECDIS backup.
These are full size Portable Document Format (PDF) images of NOAA paper nautical charts. PDFs may be viewed with free PDF readers such as Adobe Acrobat Reader. Most modern web browsers can open these documents with no additional software.
Most, but not all, charts may be printed at true chart scale on plotters that accommodate 36" wide paper.
Paper plots of Full-size nautical chart PDFs DO NOT meet USCG chart carriage requirements for commercial vessels. Only NOAA paper nautical charts printed by a NOAA certified chart agent, who will ensure that the charts are printed at the proper scale and quality, meet USCG chart carriage requirements.
Full-size nautical chart PDFs may be downloaded free from the NOAA chart locator.
Booklet charts are reduced scale copies of NOAA paper nautical charts divided into a set of a dozen 8.5" x 11" pages that show different portions of a chart.
The image at left shows the index of the 12 chart pages of booklet chart 13246 of Cape Cod Bay. The extent of each page extends past the boundaries shown in the index, so that the coverage of each page overlaps a bit with adjacent pages.
These pages can be printed at home (double-sided or affixed back-to-back) and assembled into a booklet.
Other pages in the booklet include excerpts from the U.S. Coast Pilot® and other information such as descriptions of navigational aids and hazards in the area. Emergency information for the charted area is printed on the back cover.
Booklet charts DO NOT meet USCG chart carriage requirements for commercial vessels.
Booklet chart PDFs may be downloaded free from the NOAA chart locator.
NOAA RNC® charts are full-color, geo-referenced, digital images of NOAA paper nautical charts.
RNCs can be used with global positioning system (GPS) enabled electronic chart systems or other "chart plotter" display systems to provide real-time vessel positioning.
NOAA RNCs comply with the International Hydrographic Organization RNC Product Specification.
RNCs are approved for use by IMO ECDIS mandated vessels only if adequate ENC data is not available. Since complete ENC coverage is available in all U.S. waters, vessels required to use ECDIS may not navigate with NOAA RNCs.
NOAA RNCs DO NOT meet USCG chart carriage requirements for commercial vessels.
NOAA RNCs may be downloaded free from the NOAA chart locator.