Numerous groundings and near misses have occurred on ECDIS-equipped ships that could have been avoided but for failures in the setup and use of ECDIS. There are several unwelcome risks that may be introduced unintentionally if navigators are not properly trained and instructed in the correct use of the systems fitted aboard their ships.

Comprehensive training, including type-specific familiarisation, and updated Safety Management System (SMS) procedures are essential to ensure safe ECDIS use without introducing new risk.

In London Club's latest Loss Prevention focus, Steve Cunningham, Associate Director, London Offshore Consultants Inc, cited a list of questions that should be key among those asked by shipowners, operators, ships’ masters and crew:

  1. Are safe and efficient operating procedures in place that include the use of ECDIS as a primary navigation aid?
  2. Have departure/arrival/watch handover/passage planning checklists been updated to include ECDIS?
  3. Do blackout procedures consider ECDIS?
  4. Are new crew consistently checked to verify that formal type-specific training has been completed?
  5. Is on-board ship-specific training accounted for?
  6. Do ISM audits include ECDIS operation and training needs?
  7. Are checks carried out to ensure up-to-date ENCs and RNCs are maintained?
  8. Are the limitations, sensors, and risk of improper functioning/data inaccuracy clearly understood?

What may go wrong

As SAFETY4SEA has previously reported, these are the key ECDIS-related mistakes that impede safe navigation:

  1. Over-Reliance
  2. Too much information on screen, which can be distracting
  3. Complacency due to automatic plotting of position
  4. Wrong settings
  5. Alarm Fatigue
  6. Different Types of ECDIS equipment for different vessels
  7. Lack of ENCs for certain trading areas which require the additional paper charts carriage.