The Electronic chart

Archie2009
19th May 2010, 23:31
I've just finished a supposedly "intense" 3 days course on ECDIS and was told that I can now safely navigate using an ECDIS. Having worked on ships with an Electronic charting system for about 10 years now, I seemed to be teaching the instructor.

Makes me wonder why the governments do not add these new little pieces of Bridge Equipment to the subjects taught for the Certificate of Competency exams. These days the syllabus for the certificate of competency exams seems to be getting thinner and thinner and the class 2/1 course can be completed in 3 months at Warsash or South Tyneside. I do wonder what they must be doing in 3 months?

Klaatu83
20th May 2010, 00:12
The following article concerning ECDIS appeared on 8 March 2010. I'm wouldn't say that all ECDIS charts are unreliable but, like all charts, they're only as accurate as the latest corrections. Apparently not all ECDIS chart sources have been maintaining up-to-date corrections based upon the latest information.


IHO ISSUES “URGENT WARNING” ON ELECTRONIC CHARTS

“Your ECDIS may not display significant shoals and may not set grounding alarms automatically because some electronic chart producers did not understand the importance of a bulletin issued by the International Hydrographic Organization (IHO).” This is the substance of an urgent message released last week by the IHO and maritime authorities.

A lucky visit by a maritime delegation to the UK Hydrographic Organization sparked a flurry of urgent messages and updates in the electronic chart community after the delegation noticed that a significant shoal was missing from the ENC chart on the screen and no grounding alarm was set on the ECDIS. “The problem was only noticed because the visitors were familiar with the area displayed,” according to IHO Director Robert Ward.

In the wake of the incident, the IHO called for an urgent re-examination of ENC data. In the process, it discovered that several ENC producer states “may not have fully appreciated the safety implications behind the advice contained in ENC Encoding Bulletin 27 issued in April 2009.” IHO said that as a result, ENC producer states may not have taken appropriate action, especially in relation to ENCs published before Encoding Bulletin 27 was issued.

The bulletin alerts ENC producers to the fact that great care must be taken when encoding isolated shoal depths, such as those often marked as “reported” on paper charts, and which represent a hazard to navigation. Failure to encode these shoal depths will result in the depth not being displayed in ECDIS operating in the “standard” or “base” display mode. Most significantly, but not explicitly explained in Encoding Bulletin 27, is that on most ECDIS, those same shoal depths will not trigger any automatic grounding alarms in any mode of display.

IHO’s Directing Committee has written to all 42 States which sell ENCs warning of the potential consequences of charts that contain data that does not display optimally in ECDIS. The IHO said it had “strongly encouraged” states to urgently review their ENCs to ensure that data had been encoded as explained in Encoding Bulletin 27.

“It has been confirmed that corrective action is required in a number of cases,” IHO said. The producer states which have responded have indicated that this will be done by urgent re-encoding of the relevant data and the issue of ENC updates in no more than a few weeks. In the meantime, some ENC producer states have initiated area warnings to alert mariners to the potential problem until all ENCs have been reviewed and updated if necessary.

Archie2009
20th May 2010, 04:26
I do agree that ENC's need to be updated to the latest notice received. I have seen on more than one occasion when the ENC's were not updated for more than a month even though the corrections were available on board. In one case the Second Mate tried updating but each time he inserted the weekly update disc an alarm kept coming and an error message was displayed. The Second Mate then removed the disc and put it in a box safely tucked away in one of the many cabinets of the wheelhouse with all the subsequent weeks joining them. A new Mate joined the vessel and he checked all the active alarms and started questioning things. This was when the second mate admitted that he had not been able to update the ENC's for a while now (well over 3 months by this time). When the Mate asked him the reason for not reporting the problem, he replied by saying that Since all the paper charts were corrected he did not feel the importance of updating the ECDIS!

Billieboy
20th May 2010, 04:56
A bit unusual for the Hydrographer to drop such a large ball! Hopefully this is not related to the recent grounding on the Great Barrier Reef?

smithax
20th May 2010, 13:14
Archie,
Having sailed with ECDIS but only had computer based training, is it possible to easily put radar/visual ranges and bearings on the chart or is it all GPS based positioning?

S

borderreiver
20th May 2010, 13:22
Archie
Yes you can put manual brgs and ranges on to the chart and you should do frequently to check the gps input

Archie2009
21st May 2010, 02:12
Yes you can input alternate means of position fixing. One of the best available for port entry is the Echo Referencing option. Same as what we have on the RADAR, only now the ECDIS acquires the target and provides ship data.

I do not know about being able to plot a bearing and a range, but will try to figure it out this time when I go back to sea

But the problem of user friendliness still remains. Most of the new models are very difficult to operate with everything embedded under some menu. Whilst bringing a vessel into port, my main priority is to get a visual/radar fix. The paper chart still offers me a quick means to plot it.

So till the owners decide to spend more money and get me a large screen ECDIS with some keys for easy operation, I will stick with the paper charts. Besides the owners can never take away the paper charts till they have 2 independent fully functional ECDIS's with all the "approved" charting data available for the area in which the vessel is expected to trade in. So there is still a long way to go till we start even thinking of bidding the paper chart goodbye

callpor
21st May 2010, 15:43
The following article concerning ECDIS appeared on 8 March 2010. I'm wouldn't say that all ECDIS charts are unreliable but, like all charts, they're only as accurate as the latest corrections. Apparently not all ECDIS chart sources have been maintaining up-to-date corrections based upon the latest information.


IHO ISSUES “URGENT WARNING” ON ELECTRONIC CHARTS

“Your ECDIS may not display significant shoals and may not set grounding alarms automatically because some electronic chart producers did not understand the importance of a bulletin issued by the International Hydrographic Organization (IHO).” This is the substance of an urgent message released last week by the IHO and maritime authorities.

A lucky visit by a maritime delegation to the UK Hydrographic Organization sparked a flurry of urgent messages and updates in the electronic chart community after the delegation noticed that a significant shoal was missing from the ENC chart on the screen and no grounding alarm was set on the ECDIS. “The problem was only noticed because the visitors were familiar with the area displayed,” according to IHO Director Robert Ward.

In the wake of the incident, the IHO called for an urgent re-examination of ENC data. In the process, it discovered that several ENC producer states “may not have fully appreciated the safety implications behind the advice contained in ENC Encoding Bulletin 27 issued in April 2009.” IHO said that as a result, ENC producer states may not have taken appropriate action, especially in relation to ENCs published before Encoding Bulletin 27 was issued.

The bulletin alerts ENC producers to the fact that great care must be taken when encoding isolated shoal depths, such as those often marked as “reported” on paper charts, and which represent a hazard to navigation. Failure to encode these shoal depths will result in the depth not being displayed in ECDIS operating in the “standard” or “base” display mode. Most significantly, but not explicitly explained in Encoding Bulletin 27, is that on most ECDIS, those same shoal depths will not trigger any automatic grounding alarms in any mode of display.

IHO’s Directing Committee has written to all 42 States which sell ENCs warning of the potential consequences of charts that contain data that does not display optimally in ECDIS. The IHO said it had “strongly encouraged” states to urgently review their ENCs to ensure that data had been encoded as explained in Encoding Bulletin 27.

“It has been confirmed that corrective action is required in a number of cases,” IHO said. The producer states which have responded have indicated that this will be done by urgent re-encoding of the relevant data and the issue of ENC updates in no more than a few weeks. In the meantime, some ENC producer states have initiated area warnings to alert mariners to the potential problem until all ENCs have been reviewed and updated if necessary.

Klaatu83,

Very interesting thread which could open a 'bag-of-worms', particularly the quoted reference you added?
Although I never had the opportunity to sail with ECDIS back in the 1960/70's I have recently conducted Navigational audits on a number of vessels over the past several years which have been fitted with these systems.
I guess that the ECDIS course referred to by the originator, trains you to operate the system and alerts you to potential inaccuracies of electronic charts. I agree that ECDIS training should be included in navigators certification courses and examination for certificates of competency, as any inaccuraces are not just as a result of correction status, but also the underlying accuracy of the hydrographic data on which the charts are based. Navigators need to fully understand what this means.
When electronic charts were in their infancy (1980's) the British Hydrographer issued some fairly clear warnings that uncontrolled introduction through pressure from equipment manufacturers and chart digitisers could lead to vessels being put at risk of grounding due to hydroraphic inaccuracies. I recall a statement he made that only one third of the world's continental shelves had been surveyed to modern standards, that included the North Sea which had not been surveyed north of a line from Hull to Rotterdam, nor had the Dover Strait in the SW bound TSS lane, also that there were known to have been 7500 vessels lost since 1900 in NW European waters, but only 2500 had been located by surveys! The Red Sea, South China Sea and a number of other major areas had never been surveyed!Over the past 25 years this has improved, some of these areas have been surveyed to modern standards, but not that many. It was prudent of the WHO to caution IMO to delay implemention of EDCIS untill all these issues had been addessed. But have they?
Providing that all electronic charts used in ECDIS make appropriate allowances for these hydrographic inaccurances and the systems allow a greater tolerance for safety where older survey data is imputted, the Navigator will be alerted and can navigate with confidence that he will not ground the vessel. This also applies to corrections.
My concern is that modern navigators, being brought up using ECDIS are, in general, not aware of the inherent inaccuracies of the hydrographic data used in these electronic chart sytems.
Is the next headline to be "ECDIS assisted grounding"?

Chris Allport

Nick Balls
21st May 2010, 16:21
Yes a very interesting thread!
Having been brought up the traditional way(Navigationally) and having seen first the misuse of GPS then the miss-use of ECDIS and been warned of the earlier miss uses of the Radar, I think I see a pattern.
The problem is pretty often not the equipment , its the misunderstanding of the limitations of that equipment. All this stuff has limitations. Remember the 'Radar assisted collision' ? remember the fantastic new 'transit nav' set of the 1970's or decca.? How about the first groundings caused by GPS? Yes I am now finished at sea but sailing my last few trips with a state of the art ECDIS I did note that some people were taking liberties with it ! A traditional navigator for example accepts that there is a margin of error. This varies dependent on the perceived dangers . So for example after a long passage down to the south Atlantic one would aim to stay a long way off the St Pauls rocks . I mean why go close? Now the area of probability has shrunk . Pin point accuracy , yet ships still go aground ! All this equipment only provides a 'model' of the world , a representation. Safe use of that representation is safe navigation. Who today would be without a radar ? Nobody of course. We have all had time to fully understand and also train using its 'representation.
Amazingly the first GPS I ever sailed with was fitted by us to replace an old decca machine. The company simply did not want to change! Now what has happened is that companies think they know best and no longer trust the abilities of the people who should be the experts. (Those on board) This is indeed a big problem.
For me I love to see the modern stuff coming into use, However as per an earlier post, my experience of ECDIS training was totally shocking , with some computer geek with absolutely no knowledge of ships trying to tell me a load of old waffle. As to the equipment...Brilliant!

vasco
21st May 2010, 16:37
All well said.

My opinion of ECDIS is the same as GMDSS. Does not matter who makes it certain critical functions should be accessed by the same key strokes (eg passage planning, dangers). All the frilly bits can be found out later at a more leaisurly pace.

I have only been with ECDIS once and it took a long time to find out the ins and outs, it was obviously designed by a non-mariner.

My biggest moan is the corrections though, this equally applies to the Digital publications. How many drawers full of CD's are there on your ship? I queried this with a chrt agent and there is only the need to keep the latest CD,as it is the latest!!! Of course, you have to kepp the chart CDs and no doubt there is a drawer full of old ones. Be interesting to know if your ships are like this. I find it very common to find drawers full of digital publication corrections.

As far as courses go, I beleive i will eventually have to go on an MCA approved basics course and then there must be one person on board that has been on the manufacturers course. Which, if my first paragraph was the norm, would not be neccessary.

Ron Stringer
21st May 2010, 16:45
Chris,

Whilst not in any way denying the seriousness of the warnings of the RN Hydrographer and the IHO, the inaccuracies and the paucity of validated data of which they speak is equally present on paper charts. Both paper charts and the various ECDIS equipments that meet the IMO recommendations, obtain their hydrological data from the same sources. So both are equally valid (or invalid, depending on your viewpoint).

Assuming that the data are accurately reproduced (on the charts and in the ECDIS memory devices) when they first go aboard ship, I suggest that it is far more likely that thereafter the ECDIS corrections are properly implemented than are charts. That means that today's well-run vessel is more likely to have up-to-date charts than those of 60 years ago.

The days have passed when long slow passages followed by long stays in port gave the 2nd Mate, with his coloured inks, scissors and glue pot, ample opportunity to enter the chart corrections provided in Notices to Mariners. Even then it could be days or even weeks before he was able to complete all the corrections received at the last port. That was the best case scenario - many a ship had bundles of Notices stuck in a cupboard or at the back of a chart table drawer.

Today only a simple electronic transfer is involved in order for the ECDIS chart to be corrected accurately within a few seconds (and there is no glue to dry out and allow the carefully cut-out bits of paper to peel off the chart in the drawer).

Some practices and processes do improve over the years. (A)

But you are right, it is still vital, however the data is presented, that the user is fully aware of any limitations in its scope or accuracy.

Oceanspan
22nd May 2010, 13:59
Although all the information on the paper chart may be available on the electronic chart, the information available to the navigator is dependent on the user settings and interpretation.

The case of the grounding of the P&O Dover ferry "Pride of Canterbury" in 2008 amply demonstrates this. Heavy weather had closed the Port of Dover and the vessel was steaming back and forth in The Downs. The vessel passed over a shoal which appeared to give minimal clearance on the ECDIS display but a glance at the paper chart would have indicated immediately that there was a wreck on top of the shoal, that of the S.S. "Mahratta."

Quote from the MAIB report:

"The vessel had been in the area for over 4 hours when, while approaching a turn at the northern extremity, the bridge team became distracted by a fire alarm and a number of telephone calls for information of a non-navigational nature. The vessel overshot the northern limit of the safe area before the turn was started. The officer of the watch (OOW) became aware that the vessel was passing close to a charted shoal, but he was unaware that there was a charted wreck on the shoal. The officer was navigating by eye and with reference to an electronic chart system which was sited prominently at the front of the bridge, but he was untrained in the use and limitations of the system. The wreck would not have been displayed on the electronic chart due to the user settings in use at the time. A paper chart was available, but positions had only been plotted on it sporadically and it was not referred to at the crucial time."

The vessel lost her port propeller and suffered a great deal of related damage resulting in it being over a year before she was back in full service.

http://www.maib.gov.uk/cms_resources.cfm?file=/POC.pdf

sparkie2182
22nd May 2010, 23:29
"My concern is that modern navigators, being brought up using ECDIS are, in general, not aware of the inherent inaccuracies of the hydrographic data used in these electronic chart sytems. "

Precisely so........What you see is not necessarily what you get........

First lesson in my E.C.D.I.S class.......and radar class and A.R.P.A. and G.P.S..etc etc.

Cisco
23rd May 2010, 02:21
They don't have to be 'modern navigators' or 'brought up using ECDIS'...
there are plenty of old pharts out there who think 'is electronic... is good' ... first saw it with transit satnav......

Biggest dangers that I have seen are a/ neglecting to look out the window and b/ the 'overscale' issue...

Of the latter the 'Victorian Reliance' contact with the bottom off northern Tasmania about 5 years ago was a classic example... don't try finding that on an AMSA or related website.. seems it reflected badly on too many parties...

John Briggs
23rd May 2010, 03:09
Cisco,
It is the ATSB's responsibility for investigations of groundings etc. and it is their decision as to which ones they investigate.
I did an investigation of this one for AMSA with regard to the necessity of looking at the qualifications of the persons involved.
It was about 7 years ago and from memory the Master lost his certificate for a period of about a year but was issued with a Chief Mate certificate for that period. The Mate as I recall received a letter of reprimand.
These type of investigations are never placed on the web site as the details are confidential.

Brian Twyman
23rd May 2010, 04:21
What problem do some mariners have in remembering that ECDIS and GPS are 'Aids to Navigation' ?

As has been already stated, the GPS may well give your position to within a few metres, but the accuracy of the electronic chart is only as good as the information from the survey, which may have been many years ago.

I was taught and always considered the following to assess the reliability of a chart :

Produced from best info. available .... BUT not infallible

Older surveys are less reliable (see Date of Survey/Publ/Source Diagram)

Dotted coastline/no soundings = scanty information

Scale : small scale = less accuracy /incomplete details


These same considerations still apply today, as does the use of common sense and good seamanship.

Brian

Billieboy
23rd May 2010, 08:28
Looking at it from an engineer's point of view, all this electronic stuff can be a pain if it breaks down, redundancy is not always based on batteries! So if the lights go out there can be a problem!

Also, I understand that all these gimmicks are just, "An Aid to Navigation".

James_C
23rd May 2010, 10:10
My biggest moan is the corrections though, this equally applies to the Digital publications. How many drawers full of CD's are there on your ship? I queried this with a chrt agent and there is only the need to keep the latest CD,as it is the latest!!! Of course, you have to kepp the chart CDs and no doubt there is a drawer full of old ones. Be interesting to know if your ships are like this. I find it very common to find drawers full of digital publication corrections.


Vasco,
Presumably you're talking about ARCS as opposed to Vector Charts?
With my current mob the 2nd Mate keeps the latest CD, also the one for the week before (just in case) and then ditches the rest.
Since, as you've pointed out, the CD's are cumulative there is no need to keep them all. This sounds suspiciously like a Chart Agent who doesn't really know what he's on about, or perhaps more likely the result of some daft SIRE observation.
Regardless of the above, we only receive updates forwarded from the Office every 4-6 weeks, and yes, the Office send out all 6 CDs individually packed in jiffy bags.
When I asked if they would send the latest CD (i.e. a single CD) to foreign ports, I was told the cost of postage was overtly expensive - so how much does it cost to send 6 CD's First Class parcels at a time in the UK?!
The mind boggles!

vasco
23rd May 2010, 11:10
[quote=James_C;428552]Vasco,

With my current mob the 2nd Mate keeps the latest CD, also the one for the week before (just in case) and then ditches the rest.
Since, as you've pointed out, the CD's are cumulative there is no need to keep them all. This sounds suspiciously like a Chart Agent who doesn't really know what he's on about, or perhaps more likely the result of some daft SIRE observation.
Regardless of the above, we only receive updates forwarded from the Office every 4-6 weeks, and yes, the Office send out all 6 CDs individually packed in jiffy bags.

QUOTE]

Jim,
agree with the first bit.

It was me asking the Chart Agent for advice (after finding over 70 cds)and his was only keep the last (sorry if I was confusing over that)

The jiffy bags are the most useful thing, good for sending delicate things back to the office. I always cut the cd as occassionally it finds its way out of the bin and onto the chart table, put there by a good meaning person who thought I accidentally dumped it (do the same with publications, always cut front cover off).

Vasco de G (honorary title after 35 yrs as 2/O)

vasco
23rd May 2010, 11:19
Where does the Aid to Navigation bit come in?

Surley if no paper charts are being carried then the ECDIS has the same status as the paper chart, whatever that was.

And if all the lights go out the ship won't be going very far so we should have sufficient power from the emergency genny to do things. And if we don't have that it will be anchor quick or boat time.

There are, I believe a small amount of 'get me home' charts carried.

James_C
23rd May 2010, 11:43
Vasco,
Correct/sensible procedure for the recording and disposal of cancelled/new edition charts and publications, or more to the point lack of by those involved is at the moment what's causing me to tear out what's left of my hair!(==D)

Ron Stringer
23rd May 2010, 12:12
Looking at it from an engineer's point of view, all this electronic stuff can be a pain if it breaks down, redundancy is not always based on batteries! So if the lights go out there can be a problem!

Also, I understand that all these gimmicks are just, "An Aid to Navigation".

Yeah? And what is the paper chart?

The original comments on this thread were about the dangers to navigators who did not allow for (or even appreciate) the poor quality of some of the hydrological information that they were using - regardless of whether they were reading a paper chart or some electronic means of presentation. However, in addition to the inherent weaknesses of charts (paper or electronic) ECDIS, while offering substantial benefits for the navigator, does pose some additional challenges.

ECDIS is not a simple electronic representation of a paper chart, with zoom in/out facilities like charts, maps of photos on your PC screen, it is a far more powerful tool. Like all tools and skills, proper training is essential if the user is to derive maximum benefit but, more importantly, in order to avoid the serious dangers that can arise from its misuse.

The ECDIS information is stored as what are referred to as vectors, which can be simply explained as 'layers' of information. These can start from just a coastal outline and add in, layer by layer, such things as buoys and other navigational marks, separation schemes, water depth, wrecks and obstructions, through things like radio navaids and communications facilities, so as to include so much information that a single paper chart would become cluttered and almost unreadable. The user can set alerts to to trigger alarms or initiate various actions in specified circumstances or at desired times or positions. Information from eternal sensors (radar, GPS, echosounder etc.) can be fed into the display to complement and enhance use of the stored data.

The user selects 'levels' of information appropriate to the task in hand i.e. what he want to use the chart for at any one time. For example if he is voyage planning he is not interested in the radio channel for contacting the pilot boat at his destination, so he can exclude that, and similar information not relevant to the task in hand, from the display.

The user must always bear in mind the mode in which the equipment is being used and which vectors have been selected/excluded. Not a lot different to selecting the appropriate scale of chart, or picking out the appropriate part of the Pilot book. But as all the information is within a single box and presented on a single screen, there can be a greater risk of overlooking a setting than of picking up the wrong book or taking the wrong chart out of a drawer. So the navigator needs to be well-trained and observant at all times.

After all, it is the navigator who makes the decisions and not the equipment - just as it was in former times. The paper chart did not make the decisions, the navigator did. Ditto for the mistakes!

Nick Balls
23rd May 2010, 12:46
Yes Ron , exactly . Quote: 'it is the navigator who makes the decisions and not the equipment'
That is indeed correct. Teaching this philosophy to the entire present day shipping industry is key to resolving the problems of modern navigational tools. I think this aspect is today seriously lacking. Up untill a few years ago the age old mantra of 'Navigation is an art NOT a science' made the navigator very aware of this.

Archie2009
24th May 2010, 01:31
Archie
Yes you can put manual brgs and ranges on to the chart and you should do frequently to check the gps input

Another useful way of checking the chart to the actual scenario was by turning on the RADAR overlay. The RADAR overlay sits over the Electronic chart and is an easy check of the position. Again like everything else, has to be used with caution.

Billieboy
24th May 2010, 08:25
Ron And Vasco, perhaps I should apologise for being so out of date. My view of electronic charts was the little light moving across a paper chart clipped to a special unit mounted on a table on the bridge in 1982.

Nick Balls
24th May 2010, 09:26
Laugh! Yes I think that was a Kelvin Hughes job! A bit like the Sinclair C5 ..a bridge to far! I only ever saw this thing as a demonstration model at the London School of Navigation in the 1970's.

Ian Brown
24th May 2010, 15:08
For pilotage and confined water situations I find ECDIS displays to be a quantum jump for live real time information.
Somewhere like the Mississippi with chart scales nearly useless for meaningful navigation, you have a real chance to monitor just where you are and how the ship is making that tight bend with the mud bank on the inside of the turn.
Likewise crabbing up to a berth/buoy with a strong tide and cross wind you can check your ships head / course and speed over the ground and through the water with soundings, AIS and radar overlayed. That sounds a mess to look at but you can choose just how much or how little you have on the screen.
Of course you always have to back it up with every scrap of information you can cross check with - Eye ball / Radar fixes / Echo sounder. Also bearing in mind all the possible errors that can creep in from no / wrong hydroghraphic reporting to wrongly set up .
But if its a choice on depending on a harassed 3rd Mate drawing a dubious fix every 5 mins or having my ECDIS, I know which I would choose every time

NoMoss
24th May 2010, 17:08
Thanks to Ron for explaining vector charts. I recently Lairdside Maritime Centre in Liverpool and was shown the simulator in action and as an ex RO couldn't grasp the difference between raster abd vector charts in the short time available.The whole set-up was very impressive though (I didn't know it could get that rough in the Mersey!)