The tablet PC ECDIS, an excellent tool in the today’s navigation.
In my time working with ECDIS training, I realized that introduction of the ECDIS product (and sole use of ENC´s) has created a negative side effect; it has simply reduce the navigation officers time spent on study of the map itself.
There are of cause several reasons to that. One is generally too high confidence in the grounding alarm function in the ECDIS, another is simply because it is so easy to open and use a new route, and of course the ENC are more expensive than a conventional paper chart. The both reasons is alarming, especially as we know the grounding alarm in ECDIS is insufficient due to too large distance between depth curves (see post).
It is clear to me that increased study of the ENC map is essential using ECDIS as sole navigation tool. Lack of time spent on study the ENC map is a serious problem that all ECDIS operators should be concerned about.
A tool, which can reduce the problem, is what I call the tablet PC ECDIS, it is a tablet PC with ECDIS or ECS software installed together with necessary ENCs. Probably the most known one is the PPU Portable Pilot Unit, a Laptop or Tablet with ECDIS software that maritime pilots bring with them on board. The PPU is connected to the ships navigation sensors trough the AIS pilot plug that gives GPS, GYRO and AIS data trough a wireless interface. The software is using the latest versions of ENC Electronic Nautical Charts or the new S100 formatted high definition charts. On his PPU the pilot may add ships routes and other geographical information as parallel index lines and geographical marks. The main objective for maritime pilots for use of the PPU is of cause to have a 100% updated and correct electronic nautical chart, access to high quality official chart information, and of cause to back up the ship regular chart solution if it is missing or failing. This concept can either be used as stand alone or together with most of the ECDIS makers in the market.
Such unit can of course not play a role as an full ECDIS on board,
Another reason to spend more time in front of the map is to learn navigation in confined waters. To be a good navigation officer in such waters you need to learn the geographic, the sea way routes, courses, distances, navigation marks and special conditions which exist on turning points. In my country, Norway, which has a coastline, which is about 100 thousand kilometers long, creates such distances a huge challenge for navigation officers learning theses waters. A tablet PC ECDIS is very valuable for anyone who is working as navigation officers on ships, which has regular arrivals there.