Caution On The Unauthorised And Incorrect Use of ECDIS


ecdis 3With the advent of technology, the use of Electronic Chart Display and Information Systems (ECDIS) is becoming increasingly popular.

While the use of an ECDIS does have its advantages, it can have a negative impact if not used correctly and this is known to be a causative factor in major claims such as collisions and groundings.

Due to the perceived cause of these incidents we would like to draw our Members’ attention to Regulation 19 of chapter V of the Safety Of Life At Sea (SOLAS) convention which permits an ECDIS to be carried as part of the on board navigational system, provided it meets the chart carriage requirements as detailed in regulation. The ECDIS must be type approved and in order to do so and it must meet the required performance standards (MSC.1/Circ.1503, ECDIS – Guidance for good practice).

It is important to remember that personnel operating the ECDIS must have undergone appropriate ECDIS training. It is understood that the ECDIS training and certification requirements, as per the 2010 Manila amendments to the STCW code will not be in force before 1st January 2017. It is therefore advised in the interim, that Members should ensure navigating officers on board their ships using ECDIS are trained to existing standards such as the IMO ECDIS model course (1.27).Notwithstanding the statutory training mentioned above, Members should ensure that navigating officers are familiar with the specific ECDIS model available on board through a familiarisation programme.

As far as practicable, it is advantageous that the same make and model of ECDIS is installed on all fleet vessels to assist this familiarisation process. This would help to reduce the incorrect use of the ECDIS such as not including the correct layers of the electronic chart and helping to ensure that all the data available on the corresponding paper chart is displayed on the ECDIS.

If one ECDIS is available onboard, then paper charts are the primary means of navigation on board the vessel, and it is imperative that all navigation, including, but not limited to, chart work, passage planning and position fixing is carried out using the paper charts. In parallel the ECDIS screen should be marked with a note on the corner "NOT TO BE USED FOR NAVIGATION. TO BE USED FOR TRAINING PURPOSES ONLY".

If a non type approved ECDIS is discovered fitted on board a vessel, it is strongly recommended that the ECDIS be decommissioned to stop unauthorised usage. The prohibited use of these systems must further be emphasised by displaying prominent notices upon the equipment to show it is not to be used for navigation (see paragraph above). Such measures should also be included in the shipboard navigation procedures.

The primary source of navigation, whether paper charts or an ECDIS, should be kept updated at all times in accordance with SOLAS Chapter V/27.


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  1. Hi everybody, who wrote this blog ?
    I strongly believe parts of the content need to be corrected !
    It is absolutley possible to lift a single ECDIS into the safety certificate as primary means of navigation and operate paper charts as back up.

  2. Dear Mr Schwarz, Dear Readers,

    Where ECDIS is being used for navigation, it must:
    i) be type-approved;
    ii) be maintained to the latest applicable International Hydrographic Organization (IHO) standards;
    iii) use official and up to date electronic charts; and
    iv) have an adequate, independent back-up arrangement.

    Elaborating on item (iv) above, Back-up arrangements for ECDIS:
    Appendix 6 to the IMO ECDIS Performance Standards specifies the requirements for adequate, independent back-up arrangements. The main requirements are the ability to make a timely transfer to the back-up system during critical navigation situations and allow the ship to be navigated safely until the termination of the voyage.

    As you mention above, it is possible to have 1 ECDIS as primary means of navigation and have as backup paper charts BUT then the officers must keep all papercharts updated at all times and that would create an unnecessary burden. In addition the Owner would have to bear the double costs of having ECDIS updated AND the cost of papercharts. This overrides the reason of having an ECDIS. Who in their right mind would do this?

    • Dear Whoever !
      Thanks for your comprehensive correction.
      Indeed it is true, paper as back-up is the more costly and time consuming solution, however, what you have suggested previously "to operate the ECDIS in an aid-to-navigation mode" would have absolutley the same effect without any benefit and not complying to the carriage requirement.
      Of course we do recommend our customers to opt for the installtion of dual ECDIS, so that they can utilize the full benefits of the technology, however, some customers prefer to start the transition period with a single ECDIS to gain experience and confidence before going entirely paperless. Nevertheless they are operating ECDIS as primary means of navigation, which we strongly encourage.

      Wishing all readers a happy new year.

      • Oliver is 100% correct, it is the letter of the law, you can have one ECDIS declared as your primary means of navigation with a full paper back up (SEC Form E). It is not a matter of who in his right mind would use the single ECDIS alternative, it is one of cost. However, anyone who studies the costs of maintaining a paper chart outfit back up and complying with standards would soon realise that the dual ECDIS option is actually the cheaper option in the long run.