NOAA Shoreline Website

A Guide to National Shoreline Data and Terms

World Vector Shorelines

Purpose and Potential Applications: This data set was originally created for mission planning for military operations. Other potential applications include cartographic representation and boundary determination.

Originator: National Imagery and Mapping Agency, now the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA)

Abstract: The original World Vector Shoreline (WVS) was a digital data file containing the shorelines, international boundaries, and country names of the world. WVS data were processed into NGA’s Vector Product Format in 1995, resulting in the highest resolution demarcation of coastline globally available, the World Vector Shoreline Plus.

Six libraries exist, within this single worldwide database, at scales ranging from 1:250,000 to 1:120,000,000. Each library contains a Countries/Coastlines/Oceans (COC) coverage, including both line and area features such as coastlines, political boundary lines, and other lines of separation, administrative areas, and oceans. Each library also contains the following reference coverages: library reference (LIBREF), which gives an overview of the library; tile reference (TILEREF), which defines the tiling scheme for each library; and names placement (GAZETTE), which contains point features that represent the approximate centroid of each locality in the WVS Plus database.

The maritime boundaries (MAB) and maritime boundaries supplemental (MBS) coverages contain maritime claims for each country as derived from the Maritime Claims Reference Manual, DOD 2005.1M, 2001. MAB and MBS are found only in the WVS250K library (1:250,000 scale). The bathymetry (BAT) coverage exists only in the WVS003M, WVS012M, and WVS040M libraries and contains depth contours and depth areas derived from the digital bathymetric database product. See the Vector Product Format (VPF) World Vector Shoreline (WVSPLUS) Draft Specification (MIL-PRF-89012A dated August 24, 1999) for a detailed product definition, and the VPF Military Standard (MIL-STD-2407) for more descriptions of VPF.

WVS Plus:  The WVS Plus data sets can be ordered on CD through the National Aeronautical Charting Office for a cost of $196.25.

WVS:  The original WVS 1:250,000 scale version is available as a vector file through the NGDC Coastline Extractor. This version does not include the above-mentioned libraries contained in the WVS Plus CD. 

Follow these steps to convert from Arc/Info Ungenerate format to ESRI shapefile:

  1. Open the WVS DAT file in a text editor, such as WordPad or Notepad.  Save the file to a .txt file using the SaveAs function.
  2. Download ET Geowizards extension for ArcGIS at
  3. Unzip The archive contains two files, Readme.txt and ETGeoWizardsLT_9x.dll.
  4. In ArcMap:
    • Go to Tools > Customize.
    • Select the Commands Tab.
    • Click on the 'Add From File' button on the Customize dialog.
    • Browse to find ETGeoWizardsLT_9x.dll and select it.
    • From the 'ET GeoWizards' command category, drag the 'ET GeoWizards LT' command to any toolbar or menu.
    • Click the button to open ET GeoWizards LT main dialog.
    • Select the Generate radio button and click Go.  Follow the Wizard Instructions.

Scale(s): 1:250,000, 1:1,000,000, 1:3,000,000, 1:12,000,000, 1:40,000,000, and 1:120,000,000. The minimum representative scale at which the database is used for the purposes of base mapping should not exceed 1:150000

Coverage: Worldwide

Source Data: Digital Landmass Blanking (DLMB) data, which were derived primarily from the Joint Operations Graphics and coastal nautical charts produced by the predecessor agency, the Defense Mapping Agency (DMA). The source of bathymetric data is a digital bathymetric database (DBDB5), gridded bathymetry produced by comparing and integrating available bathymetric soundings with cartographic sources. DBDB5 contains gridded values at five-minute spacings and has a resolution equivalent to a 1:4,000,000 scale chart. The MAB and MBS coverages contain maritime claims for each country as derived from the Maritime Claims Reference Manual, DOD 2005.1M, 2001.

Spatial Reference: Geographic coordinate system; Horizontal Datum – World Geodetic System (WGS 84)

Tidal Datum: Mean high water (MHW)

Data Format:
WVS Plus: The WVS Plus is available in Vector Product Format (VPF).

WVS:  The original WVS shoreline is available in 4 formats – Mapgen, Arc/Info Ungenerate, Matlab, and Splus.  See Data Access section above for instructions to convert from Arc/Info Ungenerate format to ESRI shapefile.  

Accuracy: WVS Plus specifications for data layers at 1:250000 scale require that 90% of shoreline features be within 500-meter circular error of their true geographic location.

Process Description: WVS Plus data were processed through the Digital Capture and Finishing Environment (DCAFE) production system. The feature content follows WVS Plus Performance Specification, MIL-PRF-0089012A, dated 990824. During the finishing process, the data were taken through a series of product validations. The attribution was checked, topology was verified as correct, and text features were generated. It was then exported to the final VPF product structure where it was again placed through a series of validations to ensure the data conformed with the VPF standards. Every effort was made to correct all known errors.

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