Ship owners, operators and managers have been called on by the United Kingdom Hydrographic Office (UKHO) to exercise greater vigilance in order to tackle the rise in ECDIS-related detentions and the risks to safety at sea.
With a growing majority of the global fleet having completed the switch to digital navigation, evidence is emerging that the number of ECDIS-related issues during inspections and audits is on the rise. Earlier this year, the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) reported a significant increase in the number of ships detained because of ECDIS deficiencies.
The consequences of ECDIS deficiencies during inspections were highlighted in the recent case of a ship detained in Brisbane by AMSA due to a lack of onboard familiarization training in the use of ECDIS. This required an ECDIS trainer to be flown in from Singapore to train the crew. The vessel, which had passed through the Great Barrier Reef on its journey, was released from detention upon completion of this crew training.
Speaking at SMM 2016 in Hamburg, Thomas Mellor, Head of OEM Technical Support and Digital Standards at UKHO, said, “ECDIS can deliver tremendous benefits for safe, compliant and efficient navigation. However, once installed ship owners, operators and managers must fulfill their responsibilities for its ongoing use, including compliance with all relevant regulations. This includes updating their bridge procedures, upgrading their ECDIS software to the latest IHO ENC standards and, above all, ensuring that bridge teams are trained and certified in the operation of ECDIS and in line with the requirements of Port State Control inspections and audits.
“There can be any number of reasons for non-compliance, ranging from inadequate detail in the ship’s Safety Management System (SMS), a failure to use the latest Electronic Navigational Charts (ENCs) for the voyage plan, or a bridge team unfamiliar with the use of ECDIS. Whatever the reason, the penalties can be severe, whether through the costs of a delayed onward voyage or the impact on an owner’s reputation of a failed SIRE inspection. Most importantly, every incident of non-compliance is a potential threat to the safety of that ship and its crew, as well as other traffic and the marine environment.
“PSC inspectors are carrying out more inspections on ships using ECDIS as the primary means of navigation and as a result, are becoming more aware of the latest requirements and which questions to ask.
“The good news is that there is plenty of guidance and support available for owners from ECDIS manufacturers and ECDIS training providers. The UKHO has been freely distributing the ADMIRALTY Guide to Audits and Inspections at ECDIS Seminars for several years.
“Furthermore we have developed the ADMIRALTY ENC Maintenance Record (NP133C) to make official digital chart information easier to manage, inspect and audit.”
The compliance challenges associated with ECDIS are taking on greater prominence as the proportion of the global shipping fleet carrying ECDIS continues to grow. An important landmark was reached earlier this year when the UKHO announced that 51 percent of all vessels subject to the SOLAS regulations on ECDIS carriage were ECDIS-ready, marking the first time that ECDIS-ready ships made up the majority of the global SOLAS fleet.
Furthermore, out of almost 42,000 internationally trading vessels, an estimated 59 percent are now ECDIS-ready, according to UKHO data.
The UKHO continues to provide support for ship owners at all stages of the ECDIS transition, with a growing emphasis on the needs of owners dealing with the practical challenges of managing ECDIS onboard. 85 delegates attended the three ECDIS seminars held by the UKHO at this year’s SMM. An extensive array of free resources for shipowners can also be found on the ADMIRALTY website and the ADMIRALTY YouTube channel.