The New “Make Chart” Button for Producing Paper Nautical Charts

makechartbtnAs hydrographic offices around the world are well aware, creating a paper nautical chart that adheres to IHO S-4 standards is a labor intensive and time consuming process.  For that reason, the Esri Maritime team has developed a tool that works with the ArcGIS for Maritime: Charting 10.1 product that automates the initial production workflow for creating a paper nautical chart.  The tool, called Chart Automation (shown below), drastically reduces the amount of time and effort required to create a paper nautical chart by automating the following steps in the production workflow:

  • Add Nautical layers in the appropriate draw order to the map document, rendered with INT-1 symbology, and label properties set to industry standards.
  • Create and apply INT-2 grids and graticules, based on the scale of the chart.
  • Hide symbols for sections of polygon boundaries that are coincident with the coastline.
  • Convert labels to feature-linked annotation.
  • Create polygon masks where annotation features intersect other layers in the chart, and set the Advanced Drawing Options to mask the intersecting layers.

Chart Automation Tool

The automated steps mentioned above take approximately 25 minutes to run on a single chart panel.  Looking at the table below, you can see the amount of time that the Chart Automation tool saves in the production workflow when compared with manual chart production times at 9.3.1 and 10.1.  What took over a week at 9.3.1, takes between 5 hours and a day at 10.1, and less than half an hour with Chart Automation.


Chart Automation Performance Comparison

The Chart Automation tool was written in the Python scripting language using classes and methods from the ArcPy and ArcPyProduction site packages.  The tool is accessible from a toolbar called Nautical Chart Finishing that is packaged as a Python add-in.  Because Chart Automation was written in Python, users with Python scripting knowledge can easily customize the tool to meet the unique standards and requirements of hydrographic offices.  Customizations can include (but are not limited to) changes to symbols and labels, changes to the grids, adding or removing annotation features to mask, adding or removing the intersecting layers for creating annotation masks, etc.  In addition to customization, users can also add on additional processes to the tool for automation, such as automating the creation of a compass rose, or the process for exporting the chart product to PDF, for example.

In addition to the Chart Automation tool, the Nautical Chart Finishing toolbar also contains a second tool, called Generate Light Sector.  This is a “wrapper” tool that opens the Generate Light Sector geoprocessing tool in the Nautical Tools toolbox with prepopulated parameters, based on the data loaded in the map document associated with the chart product.

Detailed information on both the Chart Automation and Generate Light Sector tools, the add-in, and the source code are available on, and can be downloaded for free, here.

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