The first deadlines for mandatory ECDIS carriage have passed: passenger ships of 500 gt and upwards, tankers of 3,000 gt and dry cargo ships of 10,000 gt and upwards constructed on or after 1 July 2012 now have to carry ECDIS. The next phase-in will be in 2014 for existing passenger ships of 500 gt and over.
In its most recent StopLoss bulletin, the Club notes that it expects a number of new legal, procedural, technical and human resource issues to arise with the development of e-navigation.
One such issue is the potential risks involved in replacing more traditional means of voyage planning and monitoring with advanced technology, it said, adding that the incorrect operation of ECDIS was a causative factor in a number of recent grounding accidents.
Where ECDIS is used as the primary planning and monitoring system on-board, accident investigation reports have identified deficiencies in the level of training and a lack of understanding as contributory factors.
The P&I Club cites as an example the grounding of a laden bulk carrier in restricted coastal waters as investigated by the UK Marine Accident Investigation Branch. ECDIS was the primary monitoring system. All officers had undertaken generic ECDIS training, but not “equipment specific” training for the ECDIS type onboard.
The duty officer made premature course alterations to avoid a risk of collision, but failed to effectively monitor the ship’s position and track on the ECDIS, also failing to notice the activation of the visual grounding warning alarm.
The ship’s draught was 10.6m, but the safety contour was set inadequately at 10.0m. The bridge management team was unaware that the anti-grounding audible alarm had been disconnected. The location of the ECDIS unit on the bridge was not conducive to an effective operation.
The insurance underwriter insists that not only should the ECDIS / user interface be as user-friendly as possible, but it is also essential that the navigator is effectively trained in the proper use of ECDIS and understands the limitations of the equipment and its primary role as a decision support system.
The statutory requirements for ECDIS training are covered in the STCW Convention, the ISM Code and SOLAS Chapter 5. The IMO ECDIS Model Course 1.27 should provide the navigator with the required level of understanding, competency and confidence for application in all aspects of navigation.
However, the P&I Club insists, with a vast array of ECDIS manufacturers there is a challenge for the navigator to reach an acceptable degree of competency in a specific onboard system. Familiarisation on type-specific ECDIS, whether provided by the manufacturer, manufacturer’s agent or a trainer, has been identified as a priority for training.
An additional challenge is to ensure the quality of such training, both generic and familiarisation, is of sufficient quality to reduce the risks associated with this transition to the new technology, whilst satisfying the scrutiny of external parties, such as Port State Control, where the focus will be on demonstrating operational competency on the ship’s ECDIS equipment.