Common ECDIS pitfalls you NEED to consider before the August deadline

The transition to stress-free and cost-efficient navigation using ECDIS has not been without its challenges for some, but now thanks to advanced functionality, the best market-leading ECDIS offer first rate safety and outstanding productivity for ships and their crew across the globe.

As the August ECDIS deadline is almost in touching distance, if you’ve not yet selected your preferred ECDIS provider, then it’s wise to make sure that you’re aware of the most common issues surrounding ECDIS, to ensure that you make the right buying decision and hit the ground running in advance of the deadline.

In last week’s blog, we looked at some of the key benefits surrounding the management of navigational charts using modern-day ECDIS. This week, in the final instalment of our 2-part blog, we discuss some of the most common ECDIS pitfalls encountered by shipowners and explain how to avoid these.

Incorrectly specified ECDIS and resulting lags in the system

ECDIS displays a huge amount of information: it’s an incredibly powerful tool after all! Throughout a vessel, there are various pieces of equipment that use an ECDIS interface. With so much equipment relying on ECDIS, in some earlier models, this led to a disruptive and frustrating lag in the system.

To ensure you acquire the right system for your vessel’s needs, it’s essential to seek assistance from a reputable supplier when specifying the equipment initially. With the software demanding so much from the hardware, it’s key that the hardware can easily cope with the unique demands of the vessel. Due to ECDIS being type approved, ECDIS hardware cannot be ‘upgraded’ if it doesn’t meet the needs of the vessel once purchased. The great news is that it’s not just ECDIS software that’s come on in leaps and bounds over the years: the hardware is now powerful and durable too.

Alarm deafness

ECDIS have traditionally come with safety features and warnings, some audible alarms and some visual. There have been a number of maritime accidents and near misses due to ‘alarm deafness’, which is crew silencing commonly triggered alarms, or setting depth safety parameters improperly to stop an alarm sounding. Alarm deafness means that the watch keeper ends up simply acknowledging that there was an alarm without checking the cause. If this continues to happen, then a critical warning such as nearing a shallow contour could be missed.

The IMO have made sweeping changes to the standards for ECDIS and if you aren’t compliant and before August 2017, a flag state inspection could lead to heavy fines or even detention. As part of the changes, the IMO has addressed the issue of alarm deafness. In order to prepare for these new standards, those purchasing new ECDIS need not worry, as the necessary functionality will already be in place to ensure compliance…nice and simple!

Falling foul of performance standards for voyage data recorders

The purpose of a voyage data recorder (VDR) is to maintain a store, in a secure and retrievable form, of information concerning the position, movement, physical status, command and control of a ship over the period leading up to and following a maritime incident. This information must be made available to both the Administration and the shipowner for use during any subsequent safety investigation to identify the cause of the incident.

Unlike early ECDIS and thanks to sophisticated connections with VDRs, modern ECDIS offer valuable data from the time surrounding a maritime incident to assist with an investigation. Data such as; images; charts used; settings from the ECDIS and images from both radars on the vessel are utilised to ensure compliance with the latest performance standards for voyage data recorders from the International Maritime Organisation (IMO).

Poor integration with bridge equipment

In the early years of ECDIS, integration with existing bridge equipment was poor and unreliable. Today, thanks to advances in technology, complete and infallible integration with existing bridge equipment, including; autopilot; radar; gyro; position fixing systems; the power distribution system and the steering gear, is now available via the Integrated Bridge System (IBS). By successfully linking bridge equipment and thanks to advances in ECDIS safety due to the introduction of new IMO standards, all the details pertaining to ship’s navigation can be found in one place and the combined data, along with warning alarms can assist with; passage execution; communication; machinery control; safety and security.

Forgetting the importance of good hardware

Masses of information from Port Control VHF channels, to notices for the engine room that once would have been marked on charts, is now fed into ECDIS. This being the case, users of the system need to be acutely aware that they could miss information simply because of the volume of data within there. To ensure that nothing is missed, it’s advisable to select an ECDIS model with a high-quality, glare-free screen with a viewing distance of 1 metre or less, so you can easily see the icons whilst using the device. It’s also a good idea to make use of the hard copy of the passage plan as a second check, to make absolutely sure that no important information is missed.

Not specifying ECDIS with simple and quick ENC updates

Thankfully, time-consuming chart corrections which used to be the bane of all Navigation Officers are no more! Keeping a global chart folio fully updated used to take a great level of skill and experience and Temporary and Preliminary (T&P) Notices supplied without tracings added to the workload.

In contrast, the best ECDIS take care of the updates and supply of charts for you and ensure the necessary ones are readily available for your next voyage. Good systems can pre-load an entire database onto the system, so you only need to unlock new charts by DVD, email, or online when required. This is perfect for those occasions when you require new passage plans on short notice and not only eliminates the time-consuming task of manually making chart corrections, but also means that charts are never out of date, thus offering optimum navigational safety.

Don’t miss the August 2017 deadline!

For those yet to take the ECDIS plunge, it’s important to know that the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) and the IMO’s sweeping changes to ECDIS Standards, 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.

Want ECDIS installed in just 2 days?

The great news is that now is a great time to buy ECDIS. Highly sophisticated technology is readily available and reputable ECDIS suppliers will guarantee to get you up and running before the deadline.

Market-leading iECDIS from Martek Marine boasts top quality features such as; sophisticated new alarm functionality; unbeaten connection with VDRs; world-class integration with bridge equipment; quick and easy ENC updates; powerful and durable hardware and a glare free screen with a 1 metre viewing distance. What’s more, iECDIS can be installed in just 2 days!

A sure-fire way of avoiding common ECDIS pitfalls is to get the experts involved and our ECDIS team is the ideal partner to help you specify the right ECDIS for your vessel. Just give us a call today to get the ball rolling!