The regulations behind ECDIS: Everything you need to know

ECDIS Compliance

With the August deadline looming for ship owners to have Electronic Chart Display and Information Systems (ECDIS) installed on their vessels, our two-part article takes a brief look at why ECDIS was brought in, the key regulations behind it, the latest trends in ECDIS technology and what the future might hold for ECDIS innovation. Don’t forget to tune in next week for part two!

Born in the 80’s…

The International Maritime Organization (IMO) and the International Hydrographic Organization (IHO) began discussions centred around electronic charts back in the mid-eighties. Electronic chart technology is now revolutionising the marine navigation community.

The implementation of ECDIS is offering safer and cost-effective navigation for the global maritime industry. ECDIS provides continuous positional and navigational safety information and generates alarms when the vessel is in proximity to navigational hazards.

In addition to dramatically improving safety, automatic capabilities such as; navigation; route monitoring; automated electronic navigational chart (ENC) updating and automated estimated time of arrival calculation, offered by ECDIS, reduce what have traditionally been laborious tasks.

IMO adopt revised regulations: ECDIS meets chart carriage requirements

Performance standards for electronic charts were adopted in 1995 and in 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 of the new 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.

The latest regulation requires all ships, irrespective of size, to carry nautical charts and nautical publications to plan and display the ship’s route for the intended voyage and to plot and monitor positions throughout the voyage. The ship must also carry back up arrangements if electronic charts are used either fully, or partially.

Ship owners must have ECDIS installed before August 2017!

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.

Performance standards are introduced

ECDIS is, without doubt, a major step forward in safe ship operation and is a brilliant way to reduce operational cost whilst increasing levels of safety. To reduce navigational risk further still, 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.

The simplest way of providing a back-up? Install a secondary ECDIS

RCDS mode uses raster charts, which are visual scans of a paper chart that are an integrated, computer-based, navigational tool. The tool uses charts issued by, or under the authority of, a national hydrographic office, together with automatic and continuous, electronic positioning.  More complex than raster charts, vector charts use digitally mapping which allows the information to be used in a more sophisticated way. In a vector chart, you can click on a specific feature to drill down for further information.

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. A good example of this is that RCDS mode doesn’t allow the display of a ship’s safety contour, or safety depth and highlight it on the display, unless these features are manually entered during route planning.

Sound complicated? Yes, we agree. Why not go for the simple option and install a secondary ECDIS (known as a dual system) connected to an independent power supply and GPS position input? Easy.

With the August ECDIS deadline looming, it doesn’t pay to bury your head in the sand! Visit for more information and contact our team today AND don’t forget to tune in for part two of our article next week where we look at some of the latest trends in ECDIS that are revolutionising the maritime industry!