Compliant ECDIS and well-trained navigators will be crucial for the successful implementation of IMO’s e-navigation strategy
Now most of the global fleet of tankers, gas carriers and passenger ships and a growing proportion of dry cargo ships have ECDIS installed, shipping is turning its focus to enhanced and electronic e-navigation.
Before the technical challenges and issues of e-navigation, shipowners and managers have to live with ECDIS on their vessels. They need to be in an ECDIS mindset to do so.
Most crews on tankers and passenger ships have been living with ECDIS for around five years at least. Some have been working with ECDIS for more than a decade.
Owners of dry cargo ships of more than 10,000 gt have also been tackling the issues of installing and using ECDIS to meet IMO’s rolling mandatory carriage requirements.
Shipowners have trained seafarers to use ECDIS effectively and with competence, ensuring they are familiar with operating the ECDIS on board the ships they are working on. Otherwise, the ship could be considered to have a deficiency by port state control inspectors and vessels could be detained in port until ECDIS trainers can be sent to train the crew.
Living with ECDIS also means keeping it well maintained and updated with the latest software and electronic navigational charts. This is now mandatory and will be checked by port state control officers.
Last year, shipowners and managers had to ensure their ECDIS was in compliance with the latest International Hydrographic Organization’s standards, which IMO imposed with a deadline of 31 August 2017.
This led to turmoil in the sector as IHO’s standard updates were retrospective, so existing ECDIS on board every ship needed to be compliant. This left some owners scrambling around for hardware and others having to replace complete ECDIS at high cost.
Manufacturers too, felt the squeeze as they faced class re-approval for newly designed hardware and software.
Shipping does not need another wave of updates on this scale. It would be far better to introduce them steadily using software that every unit can update to. IMO and IHO should ensure these measures are enacted seamlessly at little or no additional cost to owners.
As shipping is learning to live with ECDIS, the industry can use this technology to test and implement e-navigation, such as in the ongoing Sea Traffic Management (STM) project in the North Sea and Baltic.
E-navigation will reduce the risk of accidents by improving navigational safety
ECDIS on ships involved in that project have advanced functions enabling them to display position and expected routes of surrounding ships. Vessels share their routes with other operators, vessel traffic controllers and port authorities using data exchange standards. This is where ECDIS technology is taking shipping to. E-navigation is also being tested in South Korea where STM and maritime connectivity principles are being used.
E-navigation with its related voyage planning and route sharing elements is the future for shipping. It will reduce the risk of accidents by improving navigational safety and enable ships and ports to communicate more effectively – ultimately reducing costs and allowing efficiency improvements.
And this all stems from up-to-date and reliable ECDIS on board global fleets. Owners need to ensure their ECDIS and crew are compliant otherwise e-navigation will never become a reality.