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A fool-proof guide to ensuring ECDIS compliance

Posted on 13th April 2017

Anomalies on electronic charts, alarms ignored by bridge crew and dual system back-ups…it’s not surprising that the latest talk about Electronic Chart Display and Information Systems (ECDIS) is sending shipowners into a spin!

So, what does it actually take to be ECDIS compliant? Well, to be compliant with anything, it’s essential to start by familiarising yourself with the rules and regulations that apply. Our fool-proof guide looks at the essential regulations that all shipowners need to be aware of in relation to ECDIS and explains how to achieve compliance.

Just by having ECDIS you’re meeting the chart carriage requirements!

Just by installing ECDIS, you’re already taking that essential first step towards compliance.

To explain, in the year 2000, IMO’s Maritime Safety Committee (MSC), adopted a revised Chapter V (Safety of Navigation) of The International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS), which came into force on 1 July 2002.

Regulation 19, Chapter V relates to carriage requirements for shipborne navigational systems and equipment and allows ECDIS to be accepted as meeting the chart carriage requirements of the regulation. So, if you’ve already purchased ECDIS, that’s one point checked off the list already!

Make sure you hit the August 2017 ECDIS deadline

We’ve all heard the phrase, “Oh, I’ll sort it tomorrow!” Yet, for shipowners without ECDIS, time is truly running out.

It’s important to know that the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) and the IMO’s sweeping changes to ECDIS Standards under IEC 61174, the Testing Standard for Type Approval of ECDIS, mean that ship owners must have ECDIS installed before August 2017. In the event of non-compliance, the implications are serious. A flag state inspection could lead to heavy fines, or even detention. When it comes to ECDIS, “There’s no time like the present!”

You need a back-up: Don’t rely on Raster Chart Display Systems mode alone

Back-up plans can help you sleep easier at night, as well as create an easy out when times get tough. It’s not surprising then, that there are specific standards relating to back-up plans for ECDIS.

Performance standards for electronic charts were adopted in 1995, by IMO’s resolution A.817 (19), which was amended in 1996 by resolution MSC.64 (67) to reflect back-up arrangements in case of ECDIS failure. Additional amendments were made in 1998 by resolution MSC 86 (70) to permit operation of ECDIS in Raster Chart Display Systems (RCDS) mode.

RCDS mode uses raster charts, which are visual scans of a paper chart. This being the case, RCDS mode doesn’t offer as detailed information as given by vector charts, which are used by the system when it’s in full-operating mode.

If using RCDS mode, up-to-date paper charts are a must

That’s the back-up plan sorted then? Well, not quite actually.

Although, excellent to have as a back-up arrangement, the resolution states that ship owners must not rely on RCDS mode alone, as it does not have the full functionality of ECDIS and must only be used together with an appropriate portfolio of up-to-date paper charts.

Consider installing a dual ECDIS system as your back-up

If like us, you like to keep things simple and don’t fancy having to keep reams of paper charts updated, then why not take the easy option and install a secondary ECDIS (known as a dual system) connected to an independent power supply and GPS position input?

Already got ECDIS? Ensure alarm management and route plan alarming updates are made

There’s been a huge amount of talk in the industry recently about software updates required on existing ECDIS and like many, you may be wondering why.

The International Hydrographic Office (IHO) has introduced new ECDIS standards related to Electronic Navigational Charts and are how they are presented and displayed. As part of the new standards release, the IHO has also addressed the issue of the high number of alarms sounding from ECDIS. The alarms have been highlighted as a potential safety risk, due to these and other important safety alerts potentially being ignored.

Along with the IHO standards published, which include version 4.0 of S-52, S-57, S-63 and S-64, ECDIS also need to meet new standards as issued by the IEC (International Electrotechnical Commission). These standards are IEC 61174, the testing standard for type approval and IEC 6228, which is the standard for the display of navigational information. The new standards are to be enforced soon, from August 2017.

Compliance for existing iECDIS customers means a simple software upgrade

In order to prepare for these new standards and meet the August 2017 deadline, those purchasing new ECDIS need not worry, as the necessary functionality will already be in place to ensure compliance. Existing ECDIS systems will need to undergo a software upgrade, or in the case of some manufacturers, a full system replacement.

Thankfully, existing users of Martek Marine’s iECDIS system simply require a quick and easy software upgrade. We will be in touch with all customers directly by the start of June to discuss an individual completion plan for your vessels.

Benefits of the upgrade for iECDIS customers include; enhanced onboard safety; super-slick automatic chart updates; connections to alarm systems and voyage data recorders (VDRs), as well as synchronisation between the units.

Do you still have some questions surrounding ECDIS compliance? Then don’t hesitate to get in touch with our ECDIS experts today. Alternatively, why not take a look at our comprehensive range of ECDIS on our website?