Monday, May 10, 2010

Facing problems with ECDIS

In some article of the last edition of Digital Ship, Andy Norris explores some common problems with ECDIS operation and chart management, specifically determining update status, loading charts and route planning.

One of the greatest obstacle to the implementation of mandatory ECDIS will be the hurdle of educating seafarers appropriately in use of the technology.

Many user shortcomings are today being blamed on the consoles and charts.
Norris cites inability to determine when an ENC was last updated as a frequent complaint. Firstly, he describes this challenge as far smaller than doing the same with paper charts.
Many ECDIS are updated simply by inserting a disk and following on-screen commands.
Despite the automation, Norris still advises users to: "keep a manual log of when a disk is loaded, together with a note on whether any problems occurred during the update process."
Finding and loading the appropriate charts from a chart catalogue is described as a necessary learned skill.
Once the correct chart is found in the library (including the largest available scale of any chart on, or immediately adjacent to, the planned route), it can be acquired very quickly, and much more easily than a paper chart.
It is often either a question of obtaining a code via email, or - in some cases - opening it (the purchase order and billing are arranged after the fact).

Finally, issues related to route planning are addressed.
Among the biggest problems here is dealing with the small screen of an ECDIS compared to a paper chart.
Here, Norris advises planning a route starting with a zoomed out image that spans full ocean crossings via great circles as waypoints, then refining the route later in larger scale charts.
He concludes by urging mariners to undertake both a manual check and an ECDIS automated check for hazards along the route.

Actually Andy Norris spoke about the need for users to develop an ECDIS “mindset.”
Significant differences in the skills need to use ECDIS compared with using paper charts required a “major adjustment” in the approach needed to ensure safe navigation, he said.
Once mastered, ECDIS provides the means to improve navigational safety but this is not achieved just by the completion of a short course.
“The skills have to be developed and honed in the context of the knowledge gained at the course and other sources of guidance. The use of ECDIS, in general, is not paper chart techniques transferred to a screen,” he said.

The use of ECDIS is a total change from using paper charts and the transition from paper charts to electronic poses a challenge for the industry, particularly for those who have no current experience of electronic charts.
Important bridge procedures are significantly affected, and these require careful analysis and consideration if ECDIS assisted groundings are to be avoided.

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