I've been doing some digging and a few days of playing around with my data in ArcInfo but I haven't been able to find a solution to merging datasets, which consist of many different point, line, and polygon shapefiles.

The files are electronic navigation charts in a vector format (some examples of these are freely available: http://www.charts.noaa.gov/ENCs/ENCs.shtml). Each of these charts covers a different spatial extent or resolution and contains information relevant to mariners, fishermen etc. (e.g., depth, substrate type, buoys, lights, shipwrecks, obstructions, and so on). There is a standard for the display of these data called S-57 in which each feature is universally coded (e.g., obstructions are OBSTRN in each ENC file: http://www.s-57.com/). The coding of the attributes of each feature is also standardized. Therefore, each file you open in Arc will have identically named point, line and polygon layers for the features on the chart (although some charts may have features not found on other charts [e.g., some areas might not contain shipwrecks]). I am wanting to merge many of these ENC files, which cover portions of my region of interest, into a large regional layer. My hope is to use the respective shapefiles (and attributes) for this whole region rather than for the smaller areas the charts cover individually. The merge has to maintain all the respective point, line, and polygon shapefiles (e.g., depth, substrate type, buoys, lights, shipwrecks, obstructions) (i.e., it is basically a merge of all identically named shapefiles nested within each chart).

I know the merge can be done between two respective shapefiles from 2 different ENC chart datasets (after a name change of one of them), however, I have potentially 20-30 charts to merge and there are 20+ shapefiles in each chart file.

Any direction would be greatly appreciated. Thanks in advance.

(I attached a screenshot of the ENC file in ArcInfo. Each chart file has these identical layers covering a different spatial extent I wish to merge).


  • Are you wanting to merge multiple point shapefiles together, then line shapefiles, then polygon shapefiles? The shapefile format doesn't support merging different types of shapes. Also, are all your shapefiles using the same projection? And do they have the same attribute table schema? All of these things need to be in order for a proper merge to occur. – Baltok Dec 3 '13 at 15:12
  • I want to merge separately point, line and polygon shapefiles. For instance, there is a point file for buoy locations, a line file for ferry routes, and a polygon file for depth contours. I would want to merge these different shapefiles across different charts. I have been using WGS84 for the region. All the attributes for each shapefile in each chart follow a standardized schema. However, not all of the chart files would contain the exact same set of shapefiles. – user24537 Dec 3 '13 at 15:52
  • Sounds like you want to be using model builder? Use the FeatureClass iterator and recursively search a folder, collecting the datasets then send them off to a merge tool. Somebody had a similar question but with raster datasets, look here. This will allow you to merge everything for a specific geometry type which you could then clip back to your required region? – Hornbydd Dec 3 '13 at 17:54

You can download the shapefiles then create a Geodatabase and a new feature class of the desired coordinate system with the same field mapping as the source data. (You can import fields from the source shapefile during the process)

Once created, right click on the feature class --> Load Data

This way you can load many source shapefiles into one destination feature class on one shot.

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