“Once it is installed and running, do not touch the system!” This is still a fairly common attitude amongst shipowners and crew regarding the systems on-board. But with electronic chart display and information systems (ECDIS) things are different.
In 2014 and 2015 several of the international standards related to ECDIS and ENC display underwent revisions in order to reduce implementation irregularities, increase the clarity of the standards, and improve the overall usability of chart display systems.
New standards have been published and will come into force later this year:
IEC 61174 Standard, i.e. edition 4.0 – ECDIS test standard
IHO S-52 Presentation Library, i.e. edition 4.0 – Chart presentation standard
IHO S-64 Test Standard, i.e. edition 3.0 – ECDIS test dataset
The date of entry into force of the new editions of the S-52 and S-64 standards will be synchronized with the date of publication of the new edition of IEC 61174. From that date, the new editions will be available for the type approval of a new ECDIS. The previous editions of S-52 and S-64 will remain valid for twelve months beyond the date the new editions will come into force, and must not be used any more after this grace period.
Now, what does it mean for a shipowner if he needs to equip his existing tanker with an ECDIS today? His ship will need the ECDIS until July 2015, or with a grace period of 12 months when the next dry dock period is scheduled. The new standard is expected for autumn this year. Until then no manufacturer can get a type approval according to the new standard – and even if the new standard is available, the appropriate equipment might not be available immediately. So what happens in the meantime? All ships to be equipped today can still be fitted with a system that was approved according to the old standards, provided that the manufacturer has a valid type approval certificate.
But why does this matter at all? Isn’t all bridge equipment protected by the grandfather clause?
Be careful! The grandfather clause of SOLAS does not protect your ECDIS from changes to the standard. If you read the IMO Circ. 266, MAINTENANCE OF ELECTRONIC CHART DISPLAY AND INFORMATION SYSTEM (ECDIS) SOFTWARE, you will find a clear warning that “ECDIS that is not updated for the latest version of IHO Standards may not meet the chart carriage requirements as set out in SOLAS regulation V/220.127.116.11”. The IMO documents also explain why it is so important to update the system: “Any ECDIS which has not been upgraded to the latest version of the Product Specification or the S-52 Presentation Library may be unable to correctly display the latest charted features.” This means that although a danger is charted, the mariner may not be able to detect it on the screen. And the circular adds: “Additionally the appropriate alarms and indications may not be activated even though the features have been included in the ENC”.
Although the IMO circular 266 is only referring to ECDIS, the basic issue applies to all systems utilizing
S-57 ENC data.
Imagine the risk of a wrong decision in a command and control room of a warship! In addition, wrong advice based on missing data within a VTS or a portable pilot unit may also have a severe impact on the safety at sea.
But back to our shipowner who was just thinking about the purchase of an ECDIS for his tanker. If he buys now, he will have to upgrade the new system in the near future. Recently the UKHO has published a study that about 4000 tankers are not equipped with ECDIS yet. Why? Well, maybe because unsynchronized schedules for ECDIS mandate and changes to the standards cause additional costs which have to be borne by the financially struggling shipping industry.
The upcoming changes to the standards, mainly the S-52 Ed. 4 presentation library, will have a severe impact on all installed ECDIS and Chart Radar Systems. Some systems might only need a patch from the manufacturer; others will require a re-installation by a service engineer. Some integrated bridge systems might even need a major overhaul including the replacement of hardware.
These costs come at an extremely inconvenient moment, and for most shipowners they come unexpectedly. With regards to ECDIS, two major changes already happened in the past. In 2009 it was the introduction of the revised performance standard and in 2014 the revised S-63 Edition 1.1 protection scheme.
So in 2015 it will be the new presentation library. A lifetime warranty and upgrade scheme seems to become a more and more significant purchasing criterion when it comes to picking a manufacturer.
Do not touch a running system – as far as ECDIS is concerned this is clearly not the case.
Written By: Björn Röhlich
The products and services herein described in this press release are not endorsed by The Maritime Executive.