Coastwide
Ethan Genter / The Ellsworth American

USA - NOAA starts phasing out its paper charts

When Karl Brunner takes tourists out on his sail charters and lobster tours, he has a trusty paper nautical chart from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) that acts as a map to the ocean.

It shows water depths, buoys, traffic lanes and navigation channels, and NOAA has been producing them to help guide mariners for nearly 200 years.

But Brunner, the owner of Sail Acadia, largely keeps his chart around for the benefit of his customers, not to help him navigate the waters around Mount Desert Island. He normally turns to electronic navigation maps on his phone should he need guidance.

“I use it more as a way to show my passengers where we are,” he said.

With more and more sailors like Brunner and the use of the paper charts on the decline, NOAA has started to “sunset” paper nautical charts in favor of electronic charts.

“Over the last decade or so we have seen the use of (electronic navigational charts) skyrocket,” said E.J. Van Den Ameele, the chief of NOAA’s Marine Chart Division.

Paper charts have gone down by half and electronic charts have gone up sevenfold in that time period.

While he likes having the paper charts on board in case of an emergency, Brunner has no problem with NOAA’s decision.

“Day-to-day, we’ll use digital means,” he said. “It’s no comparison. It just works really well.”

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