(FAQs) New Safe ECDIS Guidance by OCIMF

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In a major development, the Oil Companies International Marine Forum (OCIMF) has launched its latest information paper, which provides guidance on how to improve policies and procedures concerning the safe use of Electronic Chart Display and Information Systems (ECDIS), says an article published on their website.

What is it?

ECDIS has proven to be a very useful tool for the shipping industry, providing navigational charts and data needed for a safe navigation, while the voyage is planned easier and quicker, since all data and information are available on demand.

However, during the last years, there have been several significant navigational incidents where one of the contributing factors has been ECDIS-related. 

Therefore, with the increase of vessels now using ECDIS as primary and secondary navigational charts, the appropriate use of ECDIS is critical to ensure safety navigation.

Now, OCIMF’s “Recommendations on Usage of ECDIS and Preventing Incidents” summarizes the contributing factors identified from the analysis of navigational incident as well as Ship Inspection Report Programme (SIRE).

Carriage requirements

It is highlighted that ECDIS being used to meet  SOLAS chart carriage requirements should:

  • be type-approved
  • use up-to-date ENCs
  • be maintained as per latest applicable International Hydrographic Organization (IHO)
  • have adequate and independent back-up arrangements.

Training and familiarization

The ISM Code and STCW require that all Masters and Bridge Officers serving on vessels with ECDIS as the primary means of navigation to have undertaken generic training in order to obtain or revalidate their Certificate of Competency.

The report notes that the shipowner or operator has the responsibility to provide training to Masters and Bridge Officers on ship-specific equipment, including ECDIS. 

Passage Plan

To remind,  a voyage plan (or passage plan) is a comprehensive, berth to berth guide, developed and used by a vessel’s bridge team to determine the most favorable route, to identify potential problems or hazards along the route, and to adopt bridge management practices to ensure the vessel’s safe passage.

Yet, the factors that affect ECDIS accuracy and reliability include:

  • issues with ECDIS hardware or software
  • improper application of software updates
  • improper change management for hardware or software upgrades
  • slow response/refresh rates
  • freezing ECDIS monitors look-ahead feature not identifying or alarming grounding risks.

Alarm management

The right alarm management on ECDIS is highly important, but it is noted that alarm functionality can vary from one maker to another.

Alerts announce abnormal situations and conditions, while alerts are divided in four priorities: emergency alarms, alarms, warnings and cautions.

Emergency alarm: the highest level of an alert as it signifies immediate danger and that immediate action should be taken.

Alarm: an alarm is a high priority of an alert. Condition requiring immediate attention and action, to maintain the safe navigation and operation of the ship.

Warning: condition requiring no immediate attention or action. Warnings are presented for precautionary reasons to bring awareness of changed conditions which are not immediately hazardous but may become so if no action is taken.

Caution: lowest priority of an alert. Awareness of a condition which does not warrant an alarm or warning condition, but still requires attention.

Referring to the information paper, OCIMF Managing Director, Robert Drysdale, commented:

My view is that technology and digitalisation provide tools to ensure our industry will be successful and sustainable in the future. However, new technology can introduce unintended consequences if not planned, developed and introduced in a robust manner.

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Source: OCIMF

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