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Only one in three ECDIS functions as expected - IHB

The International Hydrographic Bureau (IHB) has issued a circular with updated information on the results of an ENC Data Presentation and Performance Check initiated in October 2011 to examine the performance of ECDIS systems, which notes that only one-third of the manufacturers’ systems reported were functioning as expected.

According to the circular, by the end of February the IHB had received nearly 500 reports from sea, covering 15 out of approximately 25 recognised manufacturers of type-approved ECDIS. It notes that the 15 manufacturers represent "by far the most popular brands of ECDIS being used at sea today."

Out of these ECDIS installations it is noted that “about a third of the manufacturers’ systems reported to the IHB appear to function as expected in the checks.”

“A further third of the systems display all significant underwater features, including underwater obstructions, but the isolated danger symbol required to be shown under certain conditions is not always used.”

It continues: “This issue is unlikely to have a significant impact on safe navigation. Most of the remaining third of the systems reported to the IHB failed to display some significant underwater features in the 'Standard' display mode.”

“Under various conditions, mostly related to safety depth settings and other variable factors, these underwater features can include some types of wreck and other obstructions. All these features are displayed in the 'Full display' or 'All display' mode.”

As a result of these potential display issues, and the potentially serious consequences if mariners are not made aware of shortcomings in some ECDIS equipment being used at sea, the IHB Directing Committee is encouraging all Member States to promulgate the information contained in the circular to all seafarers using ECDIS.

All mariners using ECDIS are encouraged to check their ECDIS equipment using the IHO ENC Data Presentation and Performance Check.

This will enable them to determine whether their ECDIS requires that the display be operated in 'full display' mode in order to display all important charted features.

The circular particularly notes that users of certain older models of Japan Radio Co. Ltd (JRC) ECDIS equipment should check compatibility of their systems using this Performance Check, after JRC confirmed that earlier versions of its ECDIS will not display some types of wreck and underwater obstructions (including stranded wrecks) in any display mode.

For these models of JRC ECDIS, the mariner must navigate in conjunction with paper charts in order to ensure that all wrecks and underwater obstructions can be identified.

JRC has already issued a notice alerting its customers to this problem and will make an upgrade package available to its customers shortly. The notice from JRC can be downloaded at:http://www.jrc.co.jp/eng/product/marine/whatsnew/20100526/index.html.

In all cases where the ECDIS is found not to operate as indicated by the IHO ENC Data Presentation and Performance Check, seafarers are advised to contact the ECDIS manufacturer or their ECDIS maintenance organisation to seek relevant upgrades to their equipment.

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