Electronic charts started already in beginning of 1990’s to be installed on ships. It was a helpful tool for navigators and often used for optimizing routes and making it easy to follow track. Today electronic charts have developed to be the only system in use replacing paper charts.
Today’s rush for ECDIS
Today there is a rush from ship owners and managers for ECDIS systems. I believe nearly everyone now understand the benefits of getting rid of paper chart enabling officers to focus on navigation instead of correction of paper charts. Implementation of ECDIS will create a safer and cost effective navigation. I will even go far as to say that ECDIS is next to AIS (Automatic Identification System) the system that have raised safety at sea to a higher level after radar. New buildings today are required to have ECDIS installed and existing vessels shall, depending on size, install it at latest 2018.
Education can show to be a nightmare
Once the ship owner decide to replace the paper charts with ECDIS a new situation occur. Every officer have to pass two courses; one so called generic course that provides officer with knowledge of how the electronic system works and one course in the specific system installed onboard. The generic course can be given in any suppliers system and include a test that officer have to pass.
Before taking watch the officer must be familiarized with the system onboard. This can be done either by taking a course before entering vessel or with a course or so called familiarization by other officer onboard. If the latter is used this have to be noted in the ISM-system.
Here we face two situations. In case officer have to go onboard for replacement with short notice, present officer onboard gets sick, the officer have to have type specific course. If not, the vessel cannot sail until officers onboard have conducted a familiarization, and this will then have to be done while the ship is under cargo operation. We all know that it is during harbor stops the work load is worse for the crew. And Captain might find himself in the situation that he is not ready to sail, and answer to questions that might be raised by owners and charterers.
From what I have found there are 24 suppliers of ECDIS systems on the market today. And in some cases one supplier can have several different systems.
How can the shipping industry accept this situation and in future find themselves in a situation where their ship cannot sail due to the fact that an officer is not educated in the specific system used onboard. Is this really acceptable?
One has to note that it is not details that differ from the systems. One function can have total different names and position in different systems. It is not the same as with radars that functions have same names which, would be beneficial. Responsible owners will work hard to have one system in their fleet. But when owner buy a new ship, with a different integrated system, they will either need to replace that system or face an education issue.
Pilots have a problem
Now let’s focus on pilots. They are acting as advisors with knowledge of local conditions. And they are supposed to take part of navigation onboard which is conducted in ECDIS system onboard. In order for pilots in future to follow rules the pilot have to be gain knowledge in the installed ECDIS system. Is it really possible to ask pilots around the globe to be familiarized in minimum 24 ECDIS systems?
There is a need to unify
The shipping industry have to raise a common voice to get a full ECDIS standard.
Will this be possible? Is the industry strong enough for that?
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A truth ceases to be true when more than one person believes in it. – Oscar Wilde (1854-1900).
Take care out there.