After more than 150 years of printing paper nautical charts, the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration will stop the presses in April 2014, citing the need to cut costs.
NOAA will still chart U.S. waters for hazards including shipwrecks and rocks — efforts that cost about $100 million annually — but boaters will only be able to access the updated information through private on-demand printing, PDFs or electronic mapping software.
NOAA sells about 60,000 of the paper nautical charts each year at a cost of about $20 apiece, which the agency says is the same amount that it costs to make them.
The decision to stop issuing the printed nautical charts came from the Federal Aviation Administration, which became responsible for federal chart-making in 1999.
The first government charts of U.S. waters were created in 1807 at the request of Thomas Jefferson, who wanted a survey of the coastline. The type of printed charts about to be eliminated date back to 1862, during the U.S. Civil War.