Correct use of ECDIS


Published: 22 March 2018

Photo: Donvictorio

Skuld would like to bring to our Members' attention the United Kingdom's Marine Accident Investigation Branch's (MAIB) Accident Investigation Report 22/2017 which highlights the dangers of misuse of an electronic chart display and information system (ECDIS) in passage planning and monitoring. The report highlights a number of systematic failures in the planning and execution of the passage, including the disregarding of alarms on the ECDIS which may have prevented the vessel from grounding. The report's synopsis is below.

At 0248 (UTC+1) on 3 December 2016, the bulk carrier Muros ran aground on Haisborough Sand on the east coast of the United Kingdom. Attempts to manoeuvre clear of the shallows were unsuccessful but the vessel was re-floated 6 days later with tug assistance. There were no injuries and no pollution, but damage to Muros's rudder necessitated the vessel being towed to Rotterdam, Netherlands, for repair.

The MAIB investigation identified, inter alia:

  • The vessel was following a planned track across Haisborough Sand. The passage plan in the ECDIS had been revised by the second officer less than 3 hours before the grounding and it had not been seen or approved by the master.
  • A visual check of the track in the ECDIS using a small-scale chart did not identify it to be unsafe, and warnings of the dangers over Haisborough Sand that were automatically generated by the system's 'check route' function were ignored.
  • The second officer monitored the vessel's position using the ECDIS but did not take any action when the vessel crossed the 10m safety contour into shallow water.
  • The effectiveness of the second officer's performance was impacted upon by the time of day and a very low level of arousal and she might have fallen asleep periodically.
  • The disablement of the ECDIS alarms removed the system's barriers that could have alerted the second officer to the danger in time for successful avoiding action to be taken.

The MAIB has recently investigated several grounding incidents in which the way the vessels' ECDIS was configured and utilised was contributory. There is increasing evidence to suggest that first generation ECDIS systems were designed primarily to comply with the performance standards required by the IMO, as these systems became a mandatory requirement on ships, with insufficient attention being given to the needs of the end user. As a consequence, ECDIS systems are often not intuitive to use and lack the functionality needed to accommodate accurate passage planning in confined waters. This situation has led to seafarers using ECDIS in ways which are at variance with the instructions and guidance provided by the manufacturers and/or expected by regulators.

The MAIB is conducting a safety study, in collaboration with the Danish Maritime Accident Investigation Board, designed to more fully understand why operators are not using ECDIS as envisaged by regulators and the system manufacturers. The overarching objective is to provide comprehensive data that can be used to improve the functionality of future ECDIS systems by encouraging the greater use of operator experience and human centred design principles.

The Club would like to remind its Members of the importance of their crews' compliance with company procedures when carrying out passage planning and passage monitoring.

A link to the full MAIB report is attached.