Rethinking ECDIS: Steps for Improved Performance
Despite the best intentions, the introduction of the mandatory Electronic Chart Display and Information System (ECDIS) on ships in many cases has increased the workload for navigation officers. The reasons for that consequence are several. Poor attention to technical issues is one, and the poor quality of type-specific training is another.
As a possible antidote, the mandatory update of ECDIS to 2017 regulations affords an opportunity to rethink your ships’ ECDIS system and overcome those problems.
In what follows, you will find a discussion of topics that, in my opinion, can reduce the workload for your navigation officers.
Dual work and dual cost
In the case that your ships use both electronic and paper charts, most flag states will require full SOLAS compliance with both. That inevitability means that you will need to keep your paper charts updated, continue to use the paper chart management system, and plot your routes and ship movements on them. For such a technical solution, ECDIS means extra work, not less, since all work with it comes in addition to existing work with paper charts.
Fast, efficient Electronic Nautical Charts (ENCs) and updated installation
Handling digital charts is more complicated than handling nautical paper charts. An efficient chart ordering, installation, and update tool is required. Since all providers of ENCs more or less designed their own distribution tools and methods, it is wise to verify the suppliers’ alternatives, which can vary from fully automatic to extremely complicated.
Full, automatic synchronization of data among ECDIS workstations
If your ECDIS system contains several workstations, then you should ensure that automatic synchronization of data occurs among them. In the case that you do not have any synchronization function, then you will need to install permits, charts, updates, routes, and user files on all workstations. You will also need to set the same alarm limits and times, among other things, on all workstations.
Eliminating publication updates
SOLAS not only describes use and update charts, but also sets requirements for using and updating publications. Most flag states today accept the use of digital publications. However, in the case that you opt to use paper publications, regular updates are needed, which entails a time-consuming process of transferring written information from one book to another, by hand or with scissors and glue. Digital publications allow the use of digital updates, which is a far more efficient process.
Efficient position plotting on ECDIS
Vetting regulations requires two independent sources for position fixing in coastal waters. In most cases, a second position fix is made by entering LOPs into ECDIS. If that process entails a complicated, heavy operation method, then you will probably need an additional officer on the bridge in confined waters. Much can be done to make the working process of second position fixes efficient. By accessing the link below, you can find one example that involves using radar overlay to provide additional position input. Of course, other methods are also available.
Using old routes and voyage plans
Route and voyage plan editing ranks among the most time-consuming work processes for navigation officers. It is therefore important to note that you will need your old routes, voyage plans, and editor files to be converted to the updated ECDIS to comply with 2017 regulations. Practically, that conversion can be performed by using ECDIS with built-in converters for the specific formats.
The above examples are only a few of many ways to improve efficiency and reduce the workload of your officers. To complete the list, you will need extensive ECDIS product knowledge combined with information gained from your navigational skills and experience. For this need I can offer you training courses and consultancy support.