Mandatory ECDIS, before and after. What has changed?
The ECDIS system has been used on board SOLAS vessels for more than two decades, mostly, as a tool and not listed in the ship’s Safety Certificate records of equipment. Mandatory deadlines force listing of the ECDIS on the Ship Safety Certificate. This step will have some important effects.
- It is not only the ECDIS which will become mandatory. It will also be mandatory to use the ECDIS as the ship’s primary navigation product. This is, in fact, a totally new situation and opposite of what it has been. In earlier days the ships relied on navigation methods using paper charts; now, the ECDIS is the main navigation tool on board, while the paper charts have become, at most, a back-up of a mandatory ECDIS.
- Since the ECDIS is now listed on the ship Safety Certificate, the equipment will be subject to regular inspection. Besides standard verification of the equipment installed and its practical on-board use, inspections will check whether the ship has listed the ECDIS as critical equipment in the ship Safety Management System and whether bridge procedures for ECDIS have been developed. The inspectors will also check whether the deck officers have the required certificates and competency in operation of the equipment. It is worth noting that number one out of the top ten findings of the Port State Control is the «chart and publications» (i.e., the ECDIS).
These two steps represent a significant change in the status of the product. The ECDIS is now a much more serious issue. The fact that all ECDIS brands have different functionality will require detailed knowledge of the product in order to able to create sufficient procedures for using the ECDIS as a primary navigation tool. The consequence will of course be that it is necessary build up a rather high level of ECDIS product knowledge, both on board and among safety personnel ashore.