The amendment to SOLAS Chapter V regulation 19.2 requires ships engaged on international voyage to be fitted with an ECDIS, no later than the first survey on or after a date based on the type of ship and its size in gross tonnage.

The UKHO estimates that a further 3,828 cargo ships over 20,000 GT are yet to make the transition to using an ENC (Electronic Navigational Chart) service and therefore do not yet meet SOLAS (Safety of Life at Sea) regulations on ECDIS carriage. Only ENCs supplied from official hydrographic offices can be used in ECDIS to meet SOLAS requirements for nautical charts and to be considered ECDIS ready.

12 months ago, the SOLAS regulations on ECDIS carriage were extended to cover cargo ships over 50,000 GT. Today, 90% of these larger cargo ships are now considered ECDIS ready.

Thomas Mellor, Chair of the International Hydrographic Organization’s ENC Working Group and Head of OEM Technical Support and Digital Standards at the UKHO, commented that only a few hundred ships remain to complete transition to ECDIS, which is positive.

“However, it is important to be aware of the implications for the several thousand of cargo ships and any others whose ECDIS deadline has passed without having yet adopted ECDIS. For example, if a ship is detained by Australian Port State Control for non-compliance, the only way of lifting that detention is to first become compliant. Whilst ships have until the first survey after their deadline, in some cases this may mean fitting an ECDIS and training crew at considerable cost and delay”, he added.

In view of these, Chris Berkley, Senior Product Manager at the UKHO, informed that ‘Living with ECDIS’ seminars offer guidance to ship owners and operators in their use of ECDIS over the last three years.

"We address the latest challenges faced by shipping companies by offering free practical advice, answering questions on ECDIS management and updating them on the latest IHO ENC Standards.”

In addition to subscribing to an ENC service, the UKHO has also encouraged shipping companies to ensure that they have revised bridge policies and procedures in their ship’s Safety Management System to reflect the requirements of safe, effective and compliant ECDIS operation; that ECDIS software is upgraded to comply with the latest IHO ENC Standards; and that its bridge teams are competent and confident in using ECDIS to its full potential.

"With the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) taking a zero-tolerance approach to breaches of these regulations, having gone as far as to require compliance with SOLAS under Australian law, this is legislation that cannot be ignored."

Credit: UKHO