Transition to the ECDIS Mandate

With the ECDIS mandate many vessels within the SOLAS fleet will have to make the transfer from paper to digital Navigation in the coming years. The use of officially approved ENCs is the standard. Finding the right balance between the digital chart and publication management tools, ECDIS hardware and communication systems will proof to be the biggest challenge in the coming years. And we can advise you in all these matters. Please find below the 10 steps to the ECDIS Mandate.

Step 1: Find out how your fleet will be affected

The timetable for new builds is based on the date the vessel’s keel is laid. Existing vessels will be required to fit ECDIS in advance of the first survey after the implementation date. There are no requirements for existing cargo vessels of less than 10,000 gross tons. Flag States may exempt vessels that will be taken permanently out of service within two years of the implementation date.

Step 2: Consider your implementation strategy

It is important to recognise that the transition from paper to electronic navigation is a fundamental change in the way ship navigation will be conducted, not simply a case of fitting another piece of hardware to ensure compliance with a carriage requirement. To successfully fit ECDIS on a vessel or across a fleet and operate it in a safe and efficient manner requires consideration of a number of interrelated elements. As well as decisions on the purchase and installation of the ECDIS equipment thought must be given to training and to the amendment of bridge procedures. Lastly but importantly is the selection of a chart service that best meets operational needs and fulfills the carriage requirements.

Step 3: Choosing the correct ECDIS fit

The IMO standards require that vessels must carry a backup to ECDIS that can take over the chart-based navigation functions in event of system failure. The fitting of a second ECDIS or the carriage of paper charts are widely accepted as back-up that will meet requirements. Depending on your Flag State, other solutions such as the carriage of a Chart Radar or other type-approved electronic back-up may be accepted. You will need to decide whether to fit vessels with single or dual ECDIS systems. Fitting a dual system will allow a significant reduction in the paper charts carried (in some cases down to zero). If using paper charts as a back-up to a single ECDIS you are likely to require the carriage of a full (or only slightly reduced) folio.

Step 4: Choose the right chart solution for you

Only official Electronic Navigation Charts (ENCs) from an authorised supplier meet SOLAS carriage requirements for charts in ECDIS. These must be kept fully up to date for the latest Notices to Mariners (NMs). You should be looking for a chart service that is compliant with the new regulations, provides the best coverage for your areas of operation, provides flexibility both in terms of the charts you buy and their licence periods and includes a regular update service. Look also for a chart supplier that can provide official raster navigational charts, such as ARCS, for areas where ENCs are not available. This will enable you to always navigate with official data.

Step 5: Get you crew trained

Training is a key element in the successful and safe transition to electronic navigation.

Step 6: Get Flag State Certification

It is essential to understand your Flag State’s requirements for certification. Under existing regulations you will need to obtain a certificate of equivalency to allow ECDIS to be used to fulfil the SOLAS chart carriage requirement. The certificate is proof that the vessel has a type approved ECDIS, fitted in accordance with IMO requirements and an approved back-up system. You should check that your Flag State will accept the type-approval certification for the ECDIS equipment you wish to fit.

Step 7: Demonstrate compliance for Port State Inspection

Inspections might require physical demonstrations of competency by your crew as well as evidence of inclusion of ECDIS operation procedures in your onboard safety management systems.

Step 8: Co-ordinate shore-side and ship management

It’s worth conducting a full analysis to determine how ECDIS on board your vessels could change ways of working on shore. Practical areas to look at include management of chart data and passage planning. Successful implementation will require a review of your company’s safety management system, which is likely to be best achieved through structured consultation between onboard and ashore staff.

Step 9: Start now!

There is a lot to do so don’t wait for the deadline. Arranging training and acquiring certification can take three months but you might need as much as six months to implement your strategy depending on whether the vessel is a newbuild or retrofit. The sooner the strategy is adopted, the sooner you will have a realistic expectation of costs and issues.

Step 10: The aim is safety but the result can also be efficiency

ECDIS operated by well-trained officers can contribute significantly to safety of life at sea, but it can also increase operational efficiency that in turn can lead to bottom line savings. Navigators and superintendents regularly report a steady flow of benefits from using ECDIS. Updates to chart data can be virtually instant. Navigation tasks and bridge workload can be optimized, situational awareness improved and stress reduced when navigating in congested waters where most accidents occur.

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  • Datema Delfzijl B.V.

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