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Charting a Course into the Digital Era: Guidance for NOAA's Nautical Charting Mission 1 OVERVIEWOFTHE NAUTICAL INFORMATION SYSTEM A nautical chart represents the culmination of a process that begins with data collection at sea and culminates in dissemination of the paper chart to users, directly or via chart agents. The chart captures one moment in the state of the seabed and adjacent shoreline, which are actually in a state of constant change. This change is usually slow, so that deviation from the chart and the reality it represents is small enough to be accommodated by periodic updates and incremental hydrographic resurveys. In other cases, seabed processes or works and actions by humans result in rapid or even sudden changes that may lead to serious discrepancies between the chart and the reality of the ocean bottom or surface (in the case of hazards or navigation aids), with concomitant safety implications for mariners. Safety of navigation is crucial to the U.S. economy: 99 percent of all U.S. trade by weight (48 percent by value) is carried by marine transportation (U.S. Bureau of the Census, 1991). Other sectors that depend on nautical charts as an underpinning of their activities include the commercial fishing industry and marine recreation—particularly recreational fishing and boating. Safe navigation is similarly important to other nations, and the practice of charting is internationally coordinated through the International Hydrographic Organization and the International Maritime Organization. THE INTERNATIONAL CONTEXT The International Hydrographic Organization and the International Maritime Organization play significant roles in regulating the use and production of nautical charts. The International Maritime Organization was created as a specialized agency of the United Nations in 1959 and has been the leading forum for international cooperation on issues of maritime trade, including safety. standards, such as the international carriage requirement for nautical charts in the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) Convention, a requirement that is implemented and enforced by International Maritime Organization member states. The International Maritime Organization is in the process of developing standards for electronic charts that will allow them to be used in place of the paper charts traditionally required under SOLAS. The International Hydrographic Organization was formed in 1921 by the world's maritime nations to coordinate member states' hydrographic survey and nautical charting practices, including standards for survey density and accuracy and the symbology used on
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Charting a Course into the Digital Era: Guidance for NOAA's Nautical Charting Mission nautical charts. More recently, it has developed formats for the exchange of digital nautical information among hydrographic offices and has played a major role in developing standards for data and display characteristics for electronic chart systems. While practices and law regarding chart production and copyright vary considerably, in virtually all nations the development and management of a quality hydrographic data base and preparation of associated charts are accepted as a basic responsibility of the national government. From a regulatory viewpoint, international chart carriage requirements and government backing of charts are the primary forces driving the present nautical charting system. Like other maritime nations, the United States has implemented the international chart carriage requirements of the SOLAS Convention. All vessels over 1,600 gross registered tons operating in U.S. waters must carry up-to-date charts published by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) or an equivalent recognized government authority. Documented commercial fishing vessels operating beyond U.S. boundary lines also are required to carry approved charts under the Commercial Fishing Vessel Safety Act of 1988. The United States backs its nautical charts by consenting to be sued for negligence in their preparation and dissemination. This consent is an exception to the sovereign immunity traditionally maintained by government against suits for civil wrongs and is central to the usefulness of nautical charts in the legal regime that governs marine navigation. A more complete discussion of the regulatory and legal issues surrounding nautical charts can be found in Chapter 6. NOAA'S NAUTICAL CHARTING MISSION A nautical chart is published primarily to serve the informational needs of the mariner in allowing for safe and efficient marine navigation. Charts are also used in managing ocean and coastal resources and supporting national security and defense requirements. The chart details the nature and form of the coast, depths of the water, character of the bottom, aids to navigation, marine limits, electronic positioning lines, magnetic variation, danger areas, cultural details, certain port and harbor facilities, and other man-made or natural features (see Figure 1-1). A nautical chart is only as good as the currency and accuracy of its information to ensure continuing value in the support of safe and efficient marine navigation. The nation's needs for these products and services have been the responsibility of NOAA and its predecessor agencies since the 1800s. Basic authority for activities of the ''Survey of the Coast'' are contained in the Organic Act of February 10, 1807 (2 Stat. 413), in which it is ". . .authorized and requested to cause a survey to be taken of the coast of the United States in which shall be designated the island and shoals . . . for completing an accurate chart of every part of the coast. . . ." In the ensuing years additional legislation was passed that further clarified the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey's activities. Under Presidential Reorganization Plan No. 4 of 1970 (84 Stat. 2900), NOAA was formed and previous functions of the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey and the charting mission of the U.S. Lake Survey Center were transferred to NOAA.
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Charting a Course into the Digital Era: Guidance for NOAA's Nautical Charting Mission Figure 1-1 Section from NOAA Chart 13323, Narragansett Bay, RI. Source: NOAA, National Ocean Service.
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Charting a Course into the Digital Era: Guidance for NOAA's Nautical Charting Mission The Coast and Geodetic Survey of the National Ocean Service is responsible for NOAA's mapping, charting, and geodesy programs and provides nautical charts, maps, and related products for the coastal and adjacent ocean areas of the United States (including possessions and territories), the Great Lakes, and other inland navigable waters. In addition, the Coast and Geodetic Survey provides aeronautical charts and performs geodetic, hydrographic, and photogrammetric surveys and field investigations. It processes air and marine mapping and charting data obtained from various sources to produce approximately 1,000 nautical charts, nine volumes of Coast Pilot publications, approximately 600 bathymetric maps, and approximately 10,000 aeronautical charts. In fiscal year 1992 the Coast and Geodetic Survey issued 1.8 million marine maps and charts and more than 11.1 million copies of aeronautical charts and publications (NOAA, 1992). Although NOAA has the primary responsibility for charting the nation's waters, other federal agencies conduct activities that intersect with NOAA in this area. A description of these other agencies' activities and roles is found in Appendix B. Federal Data Activities The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) created the Federal Geographic Data Committee through Circular A-16 and has charged the Committee with the responsibility to coordinate various surveying, mapping, and spatial data activities of federal agencies to meet the needs of the nation. NOAA's Nautical Charting Division participates in the Committee through the Subcommittee on Bathymetric Data, which held its first meeting in April 1993. The purpose of this Subcommittee is to coordinate federal bathymetric mapping activities. These include bathymetric, hydrographic, and photogrammetric surveys for producing nautical charts, bathymetric maps, and related data sets. The Subcommittee also coordinates standards and exchange formats that are used in the analysis, display, archiving, and exchange of bathymetric data. The National Research Council (1993) recently published a report recommending enhancement of the national spatial data infrastructure, which is defined as "the means to assemble geographic information that describes the arrangement and attributes of features and phenomena on the Earth. The infrastructure includes the materials, technology, and people necessary to acquire, process, store, and distribute such information to meet a wide variety of needs." Vice-President Gore's national performance review report identified the national spatial data infrastructure as one of the initiatives necessary to "reinvent government" (Gore, 1994). Partnerships with nonfederal sectors were recognized as key to minimizing redundancy in the creation of geospatial data and in facilitating means of access to these data for solving critical problems. The Federal Geographic Data Committee has also been charged with coordinating a variety of activities with state and local governments and the private sector to evolve the national spatial data infrastructure.
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Charting a Course into the Digital Era: Guidance for NOAA's Nautical Charting Mission FORCES OF CHANGE Satisfying the user communities' needs for nautical charts and related publications has been relatively straightforward for many decades. The primary consideration was safe navigation of merchant ships and naval fleets, which dictated the type of charts and, in turn, the type of hydrographic operation required. Identification of major shipping ports and coast-wide routes was a comparatively simple task, as was determination of the need for high-density modem surveys or areas that could be adequately charted utilizing less derailed or older data. Changes in User Needs for Information A number of trends and forces are converging to require changes in NOAA's nautical charting mission. The most salient among these are changes in customer requirements, with a growing demand for customized and digital nautical information products (see Chapter 2); a changing customer base that encompasses use of nautical charts in conjunction with coastal management, regulation, and development activities (see Chapter 5); and advances in technologies both for acquiring survey data (see Chapter 3) and for structuring, displaying, analyzing, and disseminating nautical information (see Chapter 4). Utilization of marine and coastal areas for commercial and recreational activities has dramatically expanded during the past two decades, and indications are that this will continue into the next two as well (NRC, 1989). Consequently, the need for more accurate, high-density information of the marine topography must be considered not only for navigation but also for the safe and efficient development of our coastal and ocean areas and the protection of living and nonliving resources. As a result of the expanding needs for information for use in management as well as navigation, NOAA's nautical charting mission is evolving from that of producing a one-product finished paper chart series to that of creating and maintaining a digital data base from which many products, analyses, and services will flow to customers. The Impact of Technology The rapid growth of computer technology over the past two decades has enabled a radical departure from the traditional paper chart—the electronic chart, which is an electronic digital display of information (a navigation data base and input from a variety of sensors). Once completed, the internationally approved electronic chart system known as ECDIS (electronic chart display and information system) will fuse state-of-the-art radionavigation sensors, digital nautical chart information, real-time environmental data (tides, currents, wind force), and other information about vessel systems into a display that is expected to improve the safety and reliability of coastal and harbor navigation (Prahl and Danley, 1993). Development of the Global Positioning System (GPS) provides the mariner with real-time position accuracy to within 5 to 10 meters in harbors and harbor approaches with
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Charting a Course into the Digital Era: Guidance for NOAA's Nautical Charting Mission differential augmentation (Alsip et al., 1992-1993; Conley, 1993). Advanced technologies for hydrographic and photogrammetric data acquisition are increasingly used to ensure the accuracy and reliability of survey data (GPS, shallow-water multibeam sonar, airborne laser, multibeam side-scan sonar, digital recording side-scan sonar, swath bathymetry, GPS-controlled photogrammetry, and multispectral remote sensing). In response to these forces, NOAA's Coast and Geodetic Survey has attempted to expand its services to traditional and new customers by offering new charting products, improving the currency and quality of nautical information products, and increasing the efficiency of its operations in producing these products by adopting new technologies for many of the processes in chart compilation and production. But change has usually been incremental (e.g., the introduction of color to portray water depths) rather than through an overhaul of the entire system in response to these sweeping technological advances. PROBLEMS AND CONSTRAINTS LIMITING CHANGE Limited Resources The resources available to NOAA's nautical charting programs over the past 5 years have decreased in constant dollars in relation to NOAA's overall budget (see Figures 1-2 and 1-3) and are insufficient to meet the changing user demand for new products, to digitize existing nautical data, and at the same time, to adopt new technologies. All of these activities incur additional costs above the ongoing program mission. It is, therefore, unavoidable that NOAA will have to make choices and establish priorities for emphasizing certain aspects of its ongoing nautical charting mission while deemphasizing others. For example, the backlog of requests for new and updated surveys (see Chapter 3) is accumulating with little hope of diminishing at the present rate of survey activity. Similarly, digitizing existing charts is a costly process and is limited by availability of resources (see Chapter 4). Yet the conversion of commercial ships to the use of advanced technologies for navigation and piloting will be constrained, in part, by the availability of accurate and reliable charts in a digital format. Use of nautical information for other purposes—such as management of coastal and marine areas—will also be limited by the availability of data in a form useful for these purposes (see Chapter 5). For these and other reasons, NOAA needs to make a timely transition to the digital era in its nautical charting mission.
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Charting a Course into the Digital Era: Guidance for NOAA's Nautical Charting Mission Figure 1-2 NOAA expenditures for 1990-1994, in 1987 dollars. Source: NOAA, National Ocean Service, personal communication. Note: Figures for 1994 are estimates. Figure 1-3 Mapping and Charting Division and Nautical Program expenditures for 1990-1994, in 1987 dollars. Source: NOAA, National Ocean Service, personal communication. Note: Figures for 1994 are estimates.
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Charting a Course into the Digital Era: Guidance for NOAA's Nautical Charting Mission Concerns About Liability and Copyright Other issues that arise from the transition from a paper chart to an electronic data base are related to the creation and use of this data base by people outside NOAA to produce value-added nautical information products, including hardware systems for handling data, software programs for analyzing the data, and data products organized into custom products or data bases for particular uses. Should NOAA attempt to retain control over such a data base, both for the purpose of liability considerations involving safety (e.g., accuracy and reliability of the information) and for the purpose of obtaining reimbursement of the costs of creating and maintaining the data base? In connection with these issues, the relationship between the public and private sectors in this product area will inevitably be transformed as a result of the forces of technological change. These matters are discussed in detail in Chapters 6 and 7. SUMMARY The need for nautical data is expanding, and the methods of acquiring, producing, and disseminating these data are changing dramatically. The following chapters describe the problems confronting NOAA and suggest a new vision of how to accomplish NOAA's nautical charting mission in a time of rapid change. REFERENCES Alsip, D. H., J. M. Buffer, and L T. Radice. 1992-1993. The Coast Guard's differential GPS program. Journal of the Institute of Navigation 39:4, Winter. Conley, Rob. 1993. Navigation. Journal of the Institute of Navigation 40:3, Fall. Gore, Albert. 1994. Reinventing Government. U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). 1992. Coast and Geodetic Survey, Annual Report, 1992. Department of Commerce, Washington, D.C. National Research Council (NRC). 1989. Our Seabed Frontier: Challenges and Choices. National Academy Press, Washington, D.C. National Research Council (NRC). 1993. Toward a Coordinated Spatial Data Infrastructure for the Nation. Mapping Science Committee. National Academy Press, Washington, D.C.
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Charting a Course into the Digital Era: Guidance for NOAA's Nautical Charting Mission Prahl, N. A, and H. P. Danley. 1993. The nautical chart—time for a new paradigm. Sea Technology June, 29-35. U.S. Bureau of the Census. 1991. U.S. Merchandise Trade: Selected Highlights. December. Bureau of the Census, Washington, D.C.
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Representative terms from entire chapter: