While welcoming the new mandatory requirement to have ECDIS as the principal means of navigation on board merchant vessels, the UK P&I Club is warning shipowners and managers about potential problems with its implementation.
Karl Lumbers, a Director of Thomas Miller P&I Ltd, Managers of the UK P&I Club, states:
“ECDIS is not an easy ride. There are still thousands of seafarers who will need to be trained and safety management systems will need to be revised. It will in many cases restrict the flexibility owners/managers currently enjoy to switch officers between the different ships in their fleets and we have seen already that Port State Control inspectors will be looking closely at ships’ ECDIS arrangements to ensure compliance. There is a sharp learning curve ahead and if you haven’t yet really started on the journey, you will have to move very quickly indeed. The risk of a vessel detention for non-compliance is very real.”
Mr. Lumbers says that risks will need careful and meticulous management:
“Although ECDIS should make the navigation of ships so much easier, we expect that its incorrect use will feature regularly in accident inquiries. Humans tend to put a great deal of trust on machines but machines sometimes fail. There will still be a need to look out of the bridge windows regularly.
“Of course, when an incident does occur, we know that investigators look first at data records. It is imperative that data is stored safely. If it can’t be found, there is an immediate suspicion of guilt. Who is going to believe that the data was erased accidentally?”
In conclusion, the UK P&I Club stresses that it is very much in favor of ECDIS becoming a fixture on ships’ bridges, it’s just that like all things new, it comes with a learning curve during which time incidents and errors are more likely to occur. It is important that both those on the bridge and those back in the office are alert to this fact and use every means possible to have the right management systems in place.
A 16-page booklet “ECDIS – Navigational and claims issues” is available HERE
September 23, 2011