The Electronic Chart Display and Information Systems (ECDIS) is an advanced computer system that integrates Electronic Navigational Charts, Electronic Coastal Charts, Electronic Sailing Directions, Electronic Tidal Current Tables and other information. This system provides the safety-critical data to ensure safe navigation for vessels transiting in coastal waters and within international shipping lanes.

In 1990, the IMO adopted performance standards for electronic charts. In 2000, it amended SOLAS regulation V/19 to allow ECDISs (electronic chart display and information system) to meet the requirements that previously applied only to paper charts.

Closeup fragment of ships navigation radar screen

What are the benefits of Electronic Chart Display and Information Systems?

The amended SOLAS regulation V/19 requires all newly built passenger ships of 500 gross tonnage and upwards, as well as newly built cargo ships of 3,000 gross tonnage and upwards engaged on international voyages to be fitted with ECDIS. For existing ships, phase-in introduction of fitting requirements are being introduced for all ships.

Navigating by hand presents a significant potential for navigational errors, such as off-course maneuvers, equipment failure leading to collision with obstacles or accidental grounding of the ship on rocks or other potentially disastrous events.

Electronic chart display integrated information system (ECDIS) is a complex, safety-relevant software-based navigation system with multiple options for the displays and integration of various navigation data from sources such as electronic charts and navigational publications.

The term “electronic chart” (EC) is generally used to refer to graphical representations of the geographic features on the surface of Earth along with their geospatial information in a database that can be displayed graphically or viewed as text.

The ECDIS utilises the feature of the Global Positioning System (GPS) to successfully pinpoint the navigational points in the world and to use this information for navigating a ship.

The Electronic Chart Display and Information System (ECDIS) is an International Maritime Organization standard that provides safe navigation by integrating all of these elements in one system, including navigational warnings and alerts provided by other ships or from shore stations.

ECDIS is a navigational information system that interfaces with other navigation equipment, such as GPS, Gyro, RADAR and Echo Sounder.

The advantages of ECDIS over traditional paper charts on ships.

  1. All data is processed in real-time and available for immediate charting.
  2. Navigational charts are used for simplified passage planning.
  3. A ship needs to retain important navigational information in order for their voyage to go smoothly.
  4. Systems and alarms are in place to indicate and highlight danger.
  5. ECDIS navigation is more accurate than paper charts.
  6. Charts can be customized as per the requirements of the voyage.
  7. Other navigational equipments such as the AIS, ARPA etc can be overlayed and integrated into it.
  8. Charts may be oriented as desired
  9. With a variety of features and the ability to zoom in or out, one can examine the charts as needed.
  10. The distance traveled, time taken by the ship and estimated arrival time.
  11. Obtaining a more accurate ETA.
  12. Charts contain detailed information
  13. In conclusion, having charts and publications is an important safety measure for all ships.

The safe and effective use of electronic chart display information systems in the maritime industry requires everyone’s help, including seafarers, equipment manufacturers and software providers.

These stakeholders are uniquely positioned to enforce continuous development of ECDIS in a manner which aligns with international and national regulations, as well as best marine safety practices.

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