Gulf Coast Nautical Chart Agent Re-Builds from Hurricanes, Expands Services

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75-year old Gulf Coast NOAA nautical chart firm rebuilds after two hurricanes, enters age of digital on-demand chart printing for sailors and commercial shippers

Metairie, Louisiana, (PRWEB) May 12, 2006

Baker Lyman & Co. Inc. founded its NOAA nautical chart agency in 1929 in Metairie, Louisiana, just east of New Orleans toward the Gulf of Mexico. Over the years it transitioned from offering navigational charts for recreational boaters, to a folio management firm catering to the navigation needs of the offshore oil industry and to commercial shippers.

When Minnesota-based OceanGrafix partnered with NOAA (National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration) to create the first-ever digital print on-demand nautical chart service in the U.S., Baker Lyman was one of the first chart agents to enter this new age of NOAA chart printing. Baker Lyman knew they were on the right path when they added a dedicated OceanGrafix remote printer for immediate on-demand delivery of up-to-date charts.

Unfortunately, they were also directly in the path of hurricane Katrina. Katrina wiped out their Metairie office, dumping more than a foot of water into their building and causing $700,000 worth of damage. "There was virtually nothing left to salvage," says Mike Serafin, Baker Lyman's Managing Director. "We couldn't get to our office for ten days. We saw pictures of our building and thought maybe we were all right, but we were wrong. We flooded and then a tornado tore part of our roof off."

Baker Lyman's OceanGrafix remote printer was ruined, as were the company's inventory and furnishings. Mike and his team acted quickly, purchasing a new printer and setting up operations at their Houston, Texas office. "We move our staff to Houston, re-grouped, contacted our customers and just got back to business. OceanGrafix delivered a printer to Houston quickly and we were able to provide updated charts for our commercial accounts. We thought things were going pretty well, then Rita hit Houston and we had to evacuate our office there!" Rita did not cause nearly as much damage, and Baker Lyman was able to keep things running in Houston.

By January, 2006, Mike opened a new office in Metairie and moved his seven-member staff back. He purchased another remote printer for Metairie, and now things are starting to get back to normal. "With two printers now, one here and one in Houston, we're offering faster and better service to our customer base," adds
Mike. "We're hoping for a calmer year in 2006!"

OceanGrafix was awarded a cooperative research agreement from NOAA in 2000, and NOAA created another exclusive contract with them in 2005. Data from NOAA is downloaded daily to OceanGrafix, delivering the very latest "Notice to Mariners" information critical to chart updating. Before on-demand printing, mariners had to update their charts by hand, a tedious process and one that can result in human error.

Richard Sillcox, Chief of NOAA's Chart Update Service, states, "OceanGrafix has done a fine job of developing this new print-on-demand product, with all of its technological challenges, as well as developing the infrastructure to ensure its proper distribution. Their work with NOAA has been the key to providing the maritime community with paper nautical charts that show the very latest critical safety items. Safe navigation is a core concern of NOAA. The Charts-on-Demand products help promote safe sailing since they are corrected and up-to-date when printed."

OceanGrafix stays on the lookout for ways to improve their systems also. According to Larry Kocon, Director of OceanGrafix, "We've upgraded our software to guard against interruptions which can occur during high-speed internet transactions or unauthorized tampering. And we now download the data for all 1,040 NOAA/Coast Guard nautical charts to each of our remote print sites every night, even weekends, so each site maintains updated NOAA information, ready to print."

Charts-on-Demand meet U.S. Coast Guard Carriage Requirements and contain helpful information regarding safety, recreation, and points of interest. They include current tide tables, lighthouse tables and bridge heights, and are foldable and water resistant.

As the result of this application of new technologies to update the centuries old process of producing charts, OceanGrafix has received several U.S. Federal Government technology awards, as well as a 2003 Editor's Choice Award from Motor Boating Magazine.

OceanGrafix continues to install dedicated remote printers at chart agents' stores, and offer printing on demand at its St. Paul, Minnesota headquarters.

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Larry Kocon
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