Rise in ships detained for ECDIS deficiencies by Martyn Wingrove, Marine Electronics and Communications
More vessels are being detained by port state control (PSC) because of ECDIS deficiencies. The Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) has detained eight ships in the first five months of this year for having deficiencies in ECDIS set-up and crew competence on the electronic navigation device. This is double the amount as the second half of last year.
In response, AMSA released Marine Notice 8/2016 about the proper operation of ECDIS, and advised shipowners that this will be a priority for its inspectors. The main deficiencies AMSA inspectors are finding are:
- The latest version of electronic navigational charts (ENCs) are not used for preparing a voyage plan before departure of the vessel
- Large scale charts are not used for preparing a passage plan
- A disk of ENC is delivered by the shipowner or management company agent after arrival of the vessel in port
- The degree of crew’s familiarisation with ECDIS is insufficient
- Description in the Safety Management System (SMS) on operation of ECDIS is insufficient
Shipowners should ensure the latest versions of ENCs are installed on ECDIS and the crew can demonstrate to inspectors the necessary operation for safety navigation. AMSA said this should include demonstrating under keel clearance, safety depth and manual position fixing. If a crew member has a training certificate for ECDIS but cannot demonstrate such operations, the PSC inspector could detain the vessel due to a lack of skills for important navigation equipment.
Classification societies have recommended that shipowners and managers should ensure crew members are familiar with the proper operation of ECDIS and ships are ready to meet the PSC requirements before arrival in any Australian port. AMSA is not alone as other PSC authorities have raised similar comments concerning ECDIS.
In response to PSC concerns, Da Gama Maritime has reiterated steps that shipowners and managers should conduct to ensure vessels continue to meet IMO requirements and do not cause a navigation incident. Da Gama recommends ECDIS alerts should be set up correctly to reduce alarm fatigue on the bridge. The safety contour is the most important alert to set up correctly. “The safety contour needs to be of greater value than the draft of your vessel, but low enough to provide safe water to navigate,” it said in a newsletter.
Da Gama warned against overloading ECDIS with data. It recommends crew should consider whether they need so much information on the primary ECDIS for navigaion. Some of the weather information could be displayed instead on the back-up ECDIS or route planning station. For good ECDIS housekeeping, Da Gama recommended operators only load ENCs they expect to use and updates in areas they are operating in. They should back-up the routes, tracks and settings regularly and not switch off ECDIS in port. They should also respond to requests from service desk emails in a timely manner.
In the longer term, shipowners and managers should ensure onboard ECDIS is updated with the new presentation library standards from the International Hydrographic Organization. Crew will need to be familiarised in the changes to software and operation of ECDIS once these updates are installed.