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ECDIS systems are ‘not intuitive to use’ – MAIB

The bulk carrier Muros The bulk carrier Muros

The latest accident investigation report from the UK MAIB (Marine Accident Investigation Branch) into the grounding of the bulk carrier Muros in December 2016 has pointed to improper use of ECDIS as a contributory factor to the incident, with the investigators noting that the number of similar incidents it has encountered has led them to the conclusion that previous generations of the technology have not been designed with user needs in mind.

{mprestriction ids="1,2"}According to the MAIB report, warnings of the dangers that were automatically generated by the Muro’s ECDIS ‘check route’ function were ignored as the ship approached Haisborough Sand, where the vessel grounded.

A visual check was made by the crew of the track in the ECDIS using a small-scale chart, but this did not identify the route to be unsafe. The passage plan in the Muro’s ECDIS had been revised by the second officer less than three hours before the grounding, but this had not been seen or approved by the master.

The second officer monitored the vessel’s position using the ECDIS but did not take any action when the vessel crossed the 10m safety contour into shallow water. This lack of attention was compounded by the fact that alarms on the ECDIS that could have alerted the second officer to the danger in time to successfully take avoiding action had been disabled.

“The MAIB has recently investigated several grounding incidents in which the way the vessels’ ECDIS was configured and utilised was contributory. There is increasing evidence to suggest that first generation ECDIS systems were designed primarily to comply with the performance standards required by the IMO, as these systems became a mandatory requirement on ships, with insufficient attention being given to the needs of the end user,” MAIB says, in the report.

“As a consequence, ECDIS systems are often not intuitive to use and lack the functionality needed to accommodate accurate passage planning in confined waters. This situation has led to seafarers using ECDIS in ways which are at variance with the instructions and guidance provided by the manufacturers and/or expected by regulators.”

The MAIB is now looking to improve the safe use of ECDIS in the industry by conducting a safety study in collaboration with the Danish Maritime Accident Investigation Board that will aim to more fully understand why operators are not using ECDIS as envisaged by regulators and system manufacturers.

The goal of the project will be to provide data to maritime stakeholders that can be used to improve the functionality of future ECDIS systems, both in terms of operator experience and encouraging the use of human centred design principles in the development of the equipment.{/mprestriction}

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