An increasing number of problems relating to ECDIS operation has prompted the London P&I Club to join forces with London Offshore Consultants (LOC) to produce a guide to the proper management of ECDIS on board ships.
The driving force behind the publication, Is your ECDIS contributing to safe navigation or introducing risk’ is the increasing number of negative findings recorded by the club during ship inspections which are attributable to the manner in which the introduction of ECDIS on ships is being managed.
In the latest issue of its StopLoss Bulletin, the club notes that the more common failings identified include a lack of ECDIS content in the watch handover checklist, a lack of familiarity on behalf of bridge-watchkeeping officers with the manual position-fixing method, a lack of GPS position cross-checking, a lack of understanding of the safe application of deep-contour, safety-depth, shallow contour and safety contour, and a failure to revise the Safety Management System (SMS) to include ECDIS.
The club says, “The introduction of ECDIS can easily be assumed to be a simple application of beneficial technology. Indeed, it is a powerful navigational tool which, when well-managed and in the hands of well-trained and motivated users, can bring various enhancements to navigational safety. However, managers should ensure that the users of such systems, while potentially experienced navigators, are able to apply vital navigation skills such as manual position-fixing and parallel indexing in the ECDIS environment.
“While the skills of an experienced navigator can be presumed, familiarity with the electronic method of applying the ECDIS equivalent cannot. The importance of type-specific quality training cannot be overstated in ensuring that staff can perform their fundamental navigational tasks. Also, the ‘at a glance’ constantly updated nature of a GPS position, making progress along a planned course line in ECDIS, whilst a useful feature, can encourage the watchkeeping officer to neglect to cross-reference the satellite-derived position with visual and radar fixes.
The club said It has become evident that a strong management-of-change policy at the heart of SMS reduces the likelihood of such issues arising. A well-structured SMS policy and a good-quality, type-specific training programme can help avoid navigational safety shortcomings caused by the introduction of technology which ought to enhance safety.