Lack of on-board ECDIS training leads to ship being detained in Brisbane

The majority of the global shipping community have now completed the switch to navigation using Electronic Chart Display and Information Systems (ECDIS) and evidence is now emerging that ECDIS-related issues uncovered during inspections and audits is increasing. Supporting this, the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) recently reported a large rise in the number of vessels detained because of ECDIS deficiencies.

Overlooking ECDIS familiarisation leads to major disruption and significant costs

The consequences of ECDIS inadequacies during inspections were highlighted in the recent case of a ship detained in Brisbane by AMSA, due to a lack of on-board familiarisation training in the use of ECDIS. This resulted in major disruption and significant costs to the shipping company, who had to fly in an ECDIS trainer from Singapore to train the crew! The vessel was finally released from detention once the crew had completed the necessary ECDIS familiarisation.

UKHO calls for greater vigilance to tackle to rise of ECDIS-related detentions

The United Kingdom Hydrographic Office (UKHO) has called for shipowners, operators and managers to exercise greater vigilance to tackle the rise in ECDIS-related detentions and the risks to safety at sea.

“ECDIS can deliver tremendous benefits for safe, compliant and efficient navigation. However, once installed ship owners, operators and managers must fulfil their responsibilities for its ongoing use, including compliance with all relevant regulations. This includes updating their bridge procedures, upgrading their ECDIS software to the latest IHO ENC standards and, above all, ensuring that bridge teams are trained and certified in the operation of ECDIS and in line with the requirements of Port State Control inspections and audits,” said Thomas Mellor, Head of OEM Technical Support and Digital Standards at UKHO.

What are the relevant regulations surrounding ECDIS training & how do I ensure compliance?

A bridge officers/Officer of the Watch (OOW), should receive flag state approved general ECDIS training that follows the International Maritime Organization (IMO) Model Course 1.27 (40 hours), to satisfy the IMO Standards for Training Certification and Watchkeeping (STCW). In addition to this, manufacturer approved equipment-specific training needs to be carried out according to the IMOs International Safety Management (ISM) Code.

The regulatory requirements for generic training and familiarisation in ECDIS are covered by various international instruments including the IMO, the International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers Convention (STCW), the International Safety Management (ISM) Code, the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) and also by national laws. Compliance with these regulations including the required competencies are increasingly being examined by external parties including Port State Control, insurance inspectors, charterers and accident investigators. For the full list of training regulations applicable to ECDIS, visit our ECDIS FAQ page here.

What is generic ECDIS training?

ECDIS training aims to ensure that navigators can use and understand ECDIS in the context of navigation and can demonstrate all competencies contained in and implied by STCW 2010. Such training should ensure that the navigator learns to use ECDIS and can apply it in all aspects of navigation, including the knowledge, understanding and proficiency to transfer that skill to the particular ECDIS system(s) actually encountered on board, prior to taking over navigational duties. This level of training should deliver the competencies at least equivalent to those given in IMO Model Course 1.27.

What is ECDIS familiarisation?

Following the successful demonstration of competencies contained in the Generic ECDIS Training, familiarisation is the process required to become familiar with any onboard ECDIS (including backup), in order to assure and demonstrate competency on-board any specific ship’s ECDIS installation, prior to taking charge of a navigational watch.

Non-compliance: a potential threat to the global shipping community

Non-compliance comes in many forms, from insufficient detail in the ship’s Safety Management System (SMS), neglecting to use the latest Electronic Navigational Charts (ENCs) for a voyage plan, or a bridge team not sufficiently trained to use ECDIS. Whatever the reason, the penalties can be significant, whether through the costs incurred as a result of a delayed onward voyage, or damage to the shipping company’s reputation as a result of a failed Ship Inspection Report (SIRE).

A vital point with regards to non-compliance, is that every episode of non-compliance is a potential threat to the safety of a ship and its crew, as well as other members of the global shipping community and the marine environment.

PSC inspections are on the rise

The number of inspections are on the up too, so the chance of getting away with non-compliance is slim. Port State Control (PSC) inspectors are carrying out more inspections on vessels using ECDIS as the primary means of navigation, meaning that unless the shipping community starts to up their game, we’re likely to see a continuation of serious penalties and detentions, just like we saw in the case of the ship detained by AMSA in Brisbane.

The key to avoiding ECDIS non-compliance? Seek guidance and support

There is an abundance of guidance and support available for ship owners from ECDIS manufacturers, training providers and the UKHO. Both the Admiralty Guide to Audits and Inspections, and the Admiralty Enc Maintenance Record (NP133C) from UKHO, are excellent resources to refer to in relation to managing, inspecting and auditing digital chart information.

Don’t risk non-compliance: Act now!

Do you have a question about ECDIS training, or familiarisation? Don’t struggle, or risk non-compliance. Speak to the experts. Martek Marine offer a complete ECDIS compliance package through iECDIS, including flexible training options, such as on-board training and CBT. Don’t take a risk: call the Martek ECDIS experts today to find out more