Navigation safety warning over rising ECDIS use

The growing use of technology on the bridges of the world’s merchant fleet has seen the publication of a new paper which looks at the safe use of electronic navigation systems.

The Oil Companies International Marine Forum (OCIMF) has released the information paper, Recommendations on Usage of ECDIS and Preventing Incidents, which provides guidance to enhance policies and procedures regarding the safe use of Electronic Chart Display and Information Systems (ECDIS).

With increasing numbers of  vessels using Electronic Navigational Charts (ENCs) for primary or secondary navigation, there have been several significant navigational incidents over the last decade where one of the contributing factors has been ECDIS-related.

The study warned the use of electronic navigation aids needed to be undertaken with due regard to the need for safety in a growing environment of tighter regulation and penalties for maritime incidents.

The new study takes into account ECDIS-related navigational incident findings and safety-related observations from OCIMF’s Ship Inspection Report Programme (SIRE). To provide practical support and guidance, the information paper draws upon this analysis to provide recommendations for improving ECDIS-related practices and preventing ECDIS-related navigational incidents.

The information paper is aimed at ship owners, operators, Masters, Navigating Officers and bridge team members including pilots, as well as ECDIS system manufacturers. Key chapters in the information paper cover ECDIS carriage requirements, ECDIS training and familiarisation, passage planning and alarm management.

OCIMF Managing Director, Robert Drysdale, said: “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.

“Everyone recognises the benefits that ECDIS brings, but we have witnessed incidents caused through the misuse or misunderstanding of the technology. If followed, the recommendations contained in this information paper will help drive down the number of incidents associated with the use of ECDIS. I encourage all those who use ECDIS to read it and apply the recommendations.”

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