ECDIS should not be considered a standalone unit, but part of a complete and integrated bridge system that includes both the technology and the officers that use it. Transas leader at Wärtsilä Voyage Solutions, Frank Coles, believes the complete bridge, including its human resources and devices should improve navigational safety.
But only if users are fully qualified and competent in ECDIS use. “As a standalone unit for navigation, ECDIS increases the risk of an incident,” he said. “Without proper competence and skills training it increases the risk of an accident and these situations are commonplace in our industry.”
“Without proper competence and skills training it increases the risk of an accident”
Mr Coles thinks seafarers are poorly trained, ECDIS is poorly regulated and poorly used. He noted “many owners and operators cover the bare minimum required by regulatory requirements for installation, use and training”.
However, the bare minimum for certification does not indicate that navigators have either the skills or competency to use ECDIS in a complete bridge operational management structure. “Many operators put the equipment on board but do not factor in, or require a change of behaviour, attitude or operational process,” Mr Coles said.
A safe navigational mentality and awareness starts from having “ skills and competence training in a complete bridge picture”. This can be achieved when training whole bridge teams on full-mission simulators.
Mr Coles also thinks purchasing ECDIS, charts and voyage planning applications should be more integrated. Ship operators will buy ECDIS from one supplier, electronic navigational charts from another, weather routeing and other applications from different providers. This is “creating a fragmented approach to operations” he said.
It also reduces shipping companies’ abilities to improve voyage optimisation. Mr Coles thinks the shipping industry should work on a more integrated approach to providing voyage optimisation, ship performance and safe navigation.