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Will your ECDIS system leave you high and dry?

On 14 March 2012, the International Hydrographic Bureau (IHB) issued circular letter 33/2012, which contained important information about the reliability of ECDIS equipment.

Based on preliminary reports received from ships carrying out IHO ENC data presentation and performance checks, some ECDIS equipment may not display all underwater features, including underwater obstructions.

Previously, in October 2011, the IHB had released a simplified dataset that had been designed to alert mariners of the possibility of shortcomings with their ECDIS software and the need, if any such shortcomings were revealed, to take extra measures to ensure that navigational safety was not compromised.

Through the use of the dataset, mariners should be able to identify whether their shipboard ECDIS had anomalies with the display of navigation areas recently recognised by the IMO, the display of complex lights, the display of underwater features and isolated dangers and/or the detection of objects by route checking in voyage planning mode.

By the end of January 2012, the IHB had received responses from approximately 400 seagoing respondents which, on analysis, indicated that very few ships successfully passed all parts of the IHO checks.

For example:

  • Some systems were unable to identify recently IMO-adopted Archipelagic Sea Lanes (ASL), Environmentally Sensitive Sea Areas (ESSA) and Particularly Sensitive Sea Areas (PSSA) on the ECDIS display;
  • Some systems were unable to display lights with complex characteristics (such as multiple coloured sectors) as intended by the IHO standards;
  • There was noticeable variability in the display of underwater features and isolated dangers across different manufacturers’ systems – especially when using the Standard display mode; and
  • A high proportion of systems were unable to warn, during ECDIS automatic route checking, when the proposed route compromised a number of navigationally significant features.

Specifically one manufacturer, Japan Radio Co. Ltd. (JRC), confirmed to the IHO that in older versions of its ECDIS, some types of wrecks and underwater obstructions will not be shown in any display mode.

The inference from this disclosure is that, if using early models of JRC ECDIS, mariners should navigate in conjunction with a portfolio of paper charts to ensure that all wrecks and underwater obstructions can be identified.

JRC has since issued a notice to alert its customers of this specific problem and to advise that an upgrade package would be available shortly.

Since mid-2011, Mick Caulkin at Regs4ships and Joe Collins at C-MAR Group have co-written and presented a very successful and highly demanded one-day ECDIS Implementation training course.

Targeting senior ship-officers, all company managers, DPAs, superintendents, auditors and all those who inspect ships, this course:

  • Identifies the current and future ECDIS equipment, data and training requirements.
  • Describes the potential errors, consequences and liabilities.
  • Outlines all the ‘due diligence’, ISM, management of change and risk assessment issues.

The next ECDIS Implementation training course is to be held on Friday, 20 July 2012.

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