8
CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

For a variety of reasons, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA's) Coast and Geodetic Survey stands at a critical juncture in fulfilling its nautical charting mission in the face of a rapidly changing technological environment and escalating user needs for new and improved nautical information products. The ability to respond to these forces of change is likely to be limited by the realities of level or decreasing resources, which is the pattern predicted for most government agencies given current federal budgetary pressures. NOAA must, therefore, make choices regarding the allocation of its resources among the three basic tasks that go into producing nautical charts and information products: collection and certification of survey data; processing and maintenance of a nationally certified nautical information data base; and production and distribution of certified data, charts and other products.

In the course of its investigation the committee determined that the key to successfully responding to these changes is for NOAA to focus its nautical charting and information program activities on the tasks associated with processing and maintaining the nautical information data base. Management and control of the content and quality of the data that support safe navigation are core functions for the public sector. The data base defines and accommodates the information from surveys and determines the quality and timeliness of products. The private sector can assist in data collection and product distribution using modem qualified technology and techniques, but NOAA alone can perform the central functions of data management and quality control.

Following are specific conclusions coupled with recommendations that, if enacted, will facilitate the transition to a new concept of NOAA's nautical charting mission as a partnership with other federal agencies, states, and the private sector.

CHANGING NEEDS FOR NAUTICAL INFORMATION PRODUCTS

Conclusions

  • NOAA faces a changing customer base for nautical information products as well as a change in product requirements of the traditional navigation customer. Nautical information is increasingly being used for coastal management, development, and regulatory purposes. This community represents a prospective market for nautical information.



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Charting a Course into the Digital Era: Guidance for NOAA's Nautical Charting Mission 8 CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS For a variety of reasons, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA's) Coast and Geodetic Survey stands at a critical juncture in fulfilling its nautical charting mission in the face of a rapidly changing technological environment and escalating user needs for new and improved nautical information products. The ability to respond to these forces of change is likely to be limited by the realities of level or decreasing resources, which is the pattern predicted for most government agencies given current federal budgetary pressures. NOAA must, therefore, make choices regarding the allocation of its resources among the three basic tasks that go into producing nautical charts and information products: collection and certification of survey data; processing and maintenance of a nationally certified nautical information data base; and production and distribution of certified data, charts and other products. In the course of its investigation the committee determined that the key to successfully responding to these changes is for NOAA to focus its nautical charting and information program activities on the tasks associated with processing and maintaining the nautical information data base. Management and control of the content and quality of the data that support safe navigation are core functions for the public sector. The data base defines and accommodates the information from surveys and determines the quality and timeliness of products. The private sector can assist in data collection and product distribution using modem qualified technology and techniques, but NOAA alone can perform the central functions of data management and quality control. Following are specific conclusions coupled with recommendations that, if enacted, will facilitate the transition to a new concept of NOAA's nautical charting mission as a partnership with other federal agencies, states, and the private sector. CHANGING NEEDS FOR NAUTICAL INFORMATION PRODUCTS Conclusions NOAA faces a changing customer base for nautical information products as well as a change in product requirements of the traditional navigation customer. Nautical information is increasingly being used for coastal management, development, and regulatory purposes. This community represents a prospective market for nautical information.

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Charting a Course into the Digital Era: Guidance for NOAA's Nautical Charting Mission Commercial and military users are in transition to digital electronic chart systems. At the same time, many recreational and other mariners will, for the foreseeable future, still rely on paper charts, with a strong demand for customized and value-added products. The primary requirement of all users is for nautical information that is accurate, reliable, and timely. The existing process for incorporating new information and resurveys into new editions and new charts appears to be unnecessarily slow and cumbersome. Although there are systems under development at NOAA that are designed to alleviate this problem, it is not clear when they will be operational. Recommendations NOAA should pursue nautical charting strategies that are driven by the requirements of the navigational use of chart data but that do not preclude the use of those data for the production of a variety of nautical information products, including digital data to satisfy the needs of a broad range of users. Priorities for issuing new and revised charts should be placed on those areas where the greatest uncertainty in bathymetry or other hazards to navigation pose the greatest threat to the safety of people and ships. NOAA should establish new processes aimed at minimizing the time between the acquisition of new data and the publication of those data for public use. NOAA should establish a formal ongoing mechanism for obtaining information about the changing needs of users for nautical information products. SURVEY ACTIVITIES Conclusions The nation has a large and growing backlog of requests for new surveys and charts. At the present level of effort, the backlog cannot be reduced. A capability to perform surveys exists both within the private sector and in other government agencies, such as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Navy. Cooperative ventures with the private sector and partnerships with other agencies and/or contracting arrangements with private contractors could accommodate much of NOAA's surveying mission.

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Charting a Course into the Digital Era: Guidance for NOAA's Nautical Charting Mission The current prioritization process for rating requests for new surveys and requests for new charts could be improved by a more explicit application of benefit-cost analysis to ensure efficient use of constrained resources. Recommendations NOAA should facilitate private contractor participation in performing the required surveying by providing opportunities for private companies to compete for contracts to survey areas where these activities are cost-effective for NOAA and profitable for the company. NOAA should adopt as its primary surveying role the following: setting standards that take full advantage of available technology; qualifying contractors; providing quality assurance of data from them and other government collectors (e.g., states, the Army Corps of Engineers); and setting priorities for areas to be surveyed. Although the committee recommends transferring the majority of surveying to private contractors, the federal government (NOAA in cooperation with the U.S. Navy and the Army Corps of Engineers) should maintain an in-house, state-of-the-art capability for hydrographic data collection to enable it to set standards, train personnel, develop and test advanced technology, and meet national requirements. NOAA should adopt a more explicit approach to benefit-cost analysis, such as described in Appendix E, to ensure the efficiency of prioritization procedures for conducting new surveys and issuing new charts. DATA-BASE DEVELOPMENT AND MANAGEMENT Conclusions NOAA is producing digital data bases of its current charts and is developing the Automated Nautical Chart System (ANCS II) to greatly facilitate the chart updating process. The population of the master digital nautical data base is essential to the development of a wide range of nautical information products demanded by both traditional navigational users and new users for coastal management and environmental assessment purposes. Many coastal states are developing data bases for use in their coastal environmental assessment, planning, regulatory, and development activities. Linkage between state and federal data bases would improve the allocation of scarce public resources for these activities.

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Charting a Course into the Digital Era: Guidance for NOAA's Nautical Charting Mission Recommendations Development, maintenance, certification, quality control, and evolution of a single digital nautical data base should be NOAA's core mission in nautical charting and information. NOAA should not divert its efforts into maintaining any data base that is not central to the digital nautical data base (e.g., a raster data base). The digital nautical data base developed and maintained by NOAA should be designed—insofar as is feasible—to enable its use as a component of broader marine geographic information systems. Linkages with other agencies' (and other internal NOAA) data bases and with state data bases should be fostered to improve efficiency and coverage . NOAA should collaborate with the U.S. Geological Survey on defining a single, consistent national shoreline. CHART PRODUCTION AND DISTRIBUTION Conclusions Demand is growing for customized and value-added nautical chart and information products. There is also an emerging demand for digital products that is likely to increase rapidly with the advent of an internationally certified electronic chart display and information system (ECDIS). The private sector is capable of developing and providing value added products that accommodate new needs (like electronic charting and GISs) and better serve the large number of noncommercial users, while simultaneously generating revenue for NOAA through licensing. Concerns about liability and copyright are legitimate and need to be addressed; however, they are not absolute barriers to public/private partnerships in the area of nautical charts. Existing regulations governing charts may need to be revised. Recommendations NOAA should increasingly rely on the private sector for chart production and distribution activities. NOAA's in-house production resources should be concentrated on data-base development, quality control, and maintenance. NOAA should form partnerships with private companies through such mechanisms as Cooperative Research and Development Agreements (CRADAs),

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Charting a Course into the Digital Era: Guidance for NOAA's Nautical Charting Mission licensing, and certification arrangements, which generate revenue that can be spent on developing and maintaining the nautical information data base. Implementation of recommendations regarding extensive industry participation in data collection and product production and distribution raises issues of liability and copyright. NOAA should seek resolution of these problems. Where necessary, it should seek enactment of legislation to allow the formation of partnerships with the private sector for these activities. RESOURCES FOR NOAA'S NAUTICAL INFORMATION PROGRAMS Conclusions In order for its nautical chart and information activities to move efficiently into the digital era, NOAA will need to find additional sources of revenue to support these programs. The level and declining funding patterns of the past 5 years will not support the costs of digitization of the data base and the extensive new surveys necessary to reduce the backlog of survey requests and requests for new charts. Recommendations NOAA should explore avenues for entering into arrangements with private companies in which NOAA will obtain a share of revenues, royalties, or fees in exchange for use of NOAA-certified data in value-added nautical information products produced and distributed by the private company. Where necessary, NOAA should seek enactment of legislation to enable it to retain funds generated from arrangements with private-sector partners. NOAA should seek mechanisms that will enable it to receive as additional funding some portion of the proceeds from the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund for use in activities related to nautical charting, as intended in the original and modifying legislation establishing this fund. IMPLEMENTING CHANGE Implementation of the strategies recommended above will require innovation and openness to change on the part of NOAA's management. Existing institutional arrangements and strategies may not be adequate in the future, when the task to be completed has evolved into a new form and new technological capabilities make old approaches obsolete.

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Charting a Course into the Digital Era: Guidance for NOAA's Nautical Charting Mission APPENDIXES

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