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ECDIS Carriage Requirements and Safety Precautions During Cargo Ships Navigation

Details of a ship’s navigational systems and equipment are recorded in Section 3 of Form E (Record of equipment - Cargo Ship Safety Equipment Certificate). The means of complying with SOLAS Chapter V Regulation 19 (i.e. paper charts and/or ECDIS) needs to be indicated on a ship’s Form E. If the ship uses ECDIS for navigation, Form E must clearly state the back-up arrangement in place.
If a vessel requires flexibility in using either paper charts or ECDIS as the means of navigation, such an arrangement must be clearly indicated on Form E. In such cases, both paper charts and ECDIS must comply with SOLAS requirements.

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Determining the means of navigation

When determining the means of navigation being used, apart from an indication on Form E, AMSA’s PSC inspectors look for evidence of planning and presentation of the ship’s route for the completed or intended voyage and, of plotting and monitoring of the ship’s positions throughout the voyage. This information is cross-checked by the PSC inspectors against entries made in the ship’s deck log book.

Compliant ECDIS

As per SOLAS Chapter V Regulations 18 and 19, for a ship to rely on ECDIS for navigation, the ECDIS installation must conform to the relevant IMO Performance Standards (as specified in Resolution A.817(19) (Performance Standards for ECDIS), as amended by MSC.232(82)). When 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 Electronic Navigational Charts (ENC), and
iv) have an adequate, independent back-up arrangement.

Type approval of ECDIS

Type approval is the certification process that ECDIS equipment must undergo before it can be considered as complying with the IMO Performance Standards for ECDIS. The process is conducted by type approval organisations and marine Classification Societies.

Maintenance of ECDIS software

An ECDIS that is not updated to the latest version of IHO standards may not meet the chart carriage requirement as set out in SOLAS Regulation V/ IMO has issued SN.1/Circ 266/Rev.1 on the need to maintain ECDIS software. The following link provides a list of the latest IHO standards that apply to ECDIS equipment:www.iho.int/mtg_docs/enc/ECDIS-ENC_StdsIn_ Force.htm.

ECDIS Data Presentation and Performance Check dataset

IHO has produced an ECDIS Data Presentation and Performance Check dataset that allows mariners to check some important aspects of the operation of their ECDIS. This dataset contains two fictitious ENC cells which navigating officers can load into their ECDIS units to determine if the latest software is installed and if the units are operating optimally.

If the check highlights a problem, accompanying guidance notes offer suggested courses of action. The check dataset and accompanying instructions can be downloaded from the IHO website at: www.iho.int/srv1/index. php?option=com_content&view=article&id=585:n ews&catid=166:1news-links&Itemid=828 .

Carriage of official Electronic Navigational Charts

Ships using ECDIS for navigation must carry Electronic Navigational Charts (ENC, which are official vector charts) or, where ENC data has not been published, Raster Navigational Charts (RNC, which are scanned, geo-referenced images of official paper charts).

The ENCs and RNCs must be issued by, or on the authority of, a government, national Hydrographic Office or other relevant government institution. They must be of the latest available edition and be kept up to date using the latest available notices to mariners.

Back-up Arrangements for ECDIS

Appendix 6 to IMO Resolution MSC.232(82) specifies the requirements for adequate, independent back-up arrangements. The main requirements are to enable a timely transfer to the back-up system during critical navigation situations and allow the vessel to be navigated safely until the termination of the voyage. AMSA considers the following will meet the back-up requirements for ECDIS:

i) an independent, fully compliant second ECDIS unit, connected to ship’s main and emergency power supply and connected to systems providing continuous position fixing capability; or

ii) adequate and up to date paper charts (including relevant large scale charts) necessary for the intended voyage.

The back-up ECDIS must be loaded with relevant ENCs and the voyage plan before commencement of the voyage. Similarly, if paper charts are being used as the back up, they must be readily available and the voyage plan must be shown on them. In confined waters, the back-up arrangement must be ready for immediate use.

Mode of ECDIS operation

A type approved ECDIS, when using current editions of ENC with the latest corrections available, operates in ECDIS mode. An alternative mode, known as Raster Chart Display System (RCDS) mode, can only be used if there are no suitable ENCs available for the area being navigated. In recent years, ENC coverage has increased rapidly. However, there may still be some areas (e.g. the polar regions) for which ENCs have not been issued.

In Australia’s case, ENCs exist for all well-used coastal shipping routes and for all major ports. Hence, unless a ship will be operating in or transiting through an area for which there are no suitable ENCs, ECDIS should not need to be operated in RCDS mode in Australian waters. IMO has issued SN.1/Circ.207/Rev.1 to address the differences between RCDS and ECDIS.

Charts to be used in areas not adequately covered by ENCs

ENC coverage of the world’s busiest ports and shipping routes connecting them, is substantially complete. Away from major shipping routes, ENCs may be limited to small scale coverage. In circumstances when greater detail is required, it may be necessary to use RNCs. When planning a passage in more remote areas, mariners should note:

i) any caution embedded in an ENC, advising of the need to refer to larger scale charts for some areas, and
ii) any areas within an ENC showing no data within that scale band (usage code).

Where any significant area needs to be traversed using ECDIS in RCDS mode, mariners should critically consider the ability of their ECDIS to provide an adequate ‘look-ahead’ capability and, if necessary, acquire appropriate paper charts. When referring to RNC or appropriate paper charts, they should be maintained up to date in all cases.

SOLAS chart carriage requirement

Until 1 July 2012 (and until 2018 for other ships, as per the implementation timetable set out in SOLAS), passenger ships, tankers and cargo ships of 500 gross tonnage and upwards engaged on international voyages, have three options to meet their SOLAS obligations for the carriage of nautical charts and publications:
  1. adequate and up to date paper charts necessary for the intended voyage; or
  2. a type approved ECDIS operating with ENCs and a second IMO compliant ECDIS as an adequate and independent back-up; or
  3. a type approved ECDIS operating with ENC and with adequate and up to date paper charts to serve as a back-up necessary to complete the intended voyage.

ECDIS training requirements

The Manila Amendments to the International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers 1978 (STCW) and STCW Code will enter into force from 1st January 2012. This will make ECDIS training mandatory from 1 July 2013 for all officers serving on board ECDIS fitted ships. All officers in charge of a navigational watch, both at the management and operational level, will be required to undertake ECDIS training, as described below:

Generic ECDIS training:

All masters and officers in charge of a navigational watch should, as a minimum, complete generic ECDIS training that follows IMO Model Course 1.27 and conforms to the relevant STCW requirements.

Type specific ECDIS training:

In accordance with IMO Circ. SN.1/Circ 276 (Transitioning from paper chart to Electronic Chart Display and Information Systems (ECDIS) navigation) shipowners and operators should ensure that their ship masters and navigating officers are provided with a comprehensive familiarisation programme and type-specific training.

‘Trickle-down’ training (i.e. one officer training another) is not acceptable without a structured and formalised process being in place to facilitate such training. If the generic training includes training on the type of ECDIS equipment installed on board, then the training documentation must indicate this clearly.

On board familiarisation:

In accordance with the ISM Code, the company should establish procedures to ensure that personnel are given proper familiarisation with their duties and equipment. ECDIS familiarisation training in the safe and effective use of shipboard ECDIS equipment should be clearly documented.

Port State control inspections

With a phased carriage requirement for ECDIS commencing in 2012, PSC inspectors will increasingly focus on the means by which ships meet their SOLAS chart carriage requirements and the effectiveness with which the navigational task is being conducted.

The following is a list of ECDIS issues which many PSC inspectors pay close attention to:

Related Information

ECDIS alarm parameters
Safety Contour: Is to be set to the maximum dynamic draft, plus 10% of static draft. Note that ECDIS will select the next deepest contour contained as an object within ENC....

ECDIS warning procedure
Although many vessels have fitted Electronic Chart Display and Information Systems (ECDIS) on a voluntary basis, its use will significantly increase once passenger vessels, tankers and dry cargo ships begin to comply with mandatory SOLAS requirements for ECDIS.

Passage planning guideline on ECDIS
The principles of voyage planning are the same with ECDIS as with paper based navigation...

Admiralty Chart correction procedure
There are currently two methods of carrying out electronic chart corrections, either via Weekly Updates, CD or downloaded weekly from a recognised electronic chart supplier’s data. The preferred method will be decided by the Management Office depending on the communications equipment onboard the vessel but in the majority of cases the lack of internet access will determine the update CD as the best option....

Requirement of ECDIS training and implementation guideline
To ensure compliance with the ECDIS requirement, to ensure that the transition is smooth, equipment installed and Master and Bridge watch keepers are all provided generic and ship-specific ECDIS equipment training before the implementation dates of various type vessel: .....

What are the safe navigational procedure for the officer of the watch ? ....
The officer of the watch (OOW) shall comply with masters standing orders (including any supplementary instructions) to carry out the navigational watch. He must always bear in mind that he is the Master’s representative and has primary responsibility at all times for the safe navigation of the ship and for fully complying with the latest COLREGS .....

Guidance on ECDIS- data presentation and performance check standards
Type approval is the certification process that ECDIS equipment must undergo before it can be considered as complying with the IMO Performance Standards for ECDIS. The process is conducted by type approval organisations and marine Classification Societies. ...

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