Making ECDIS compliance easier

Cybersecurity threats at sea are not much different to those onshore and yet onboard electronic systems such as ECDIS have not always kept up even though it is important to do so.

As a result the United Kingdom Hydrographic Office (UKHO) has recently published a revised edition of the Admiralty ENC and ECDIS Maintenance Record (NP133C), which was first published in 2014.

With easy-to-use checklists and templates to record ECDIS annual performance checks and software maintenance, “the ENC and ECDIS Maintenance Record is to assist crews going through port state control (PSC) and to help them gather all the information they need in one place to be able to prove to a PSC inspector that they are using the system responsibly and keeping charts up to date and doing all the things they need to,” said UKHO head of OEM support and digital standards Thomas Mellor.

He told Seatrade Maritime News that among the key drivers of this update has been to keep it in line with guidance published by the International Maritime Organization (IMO), stating that approved safety management systems (SMS) should consider cyber risk management in line with the ISM code by 2021.

NP133C has been revised to help mariners achieve this by providing a checklist to document threats and procedures to mitigate risk to ships and now provides for the first time guidance to help bridge crews record and manage cyber risks.

This guidance includes tips such as assigning one particular member of the bridge crew to be responsible for a specific piece of equipment and helping to disseminate usage information on it. This can help prevent incidents such as the detention last year of the bulker African Alke in Brisbane by Australian authorities because the crew were unable to demonstrate they could use the vessel’s ECDIS system.

Another measure UKHO has been working on with manufacturers is to develop annual inspections for ECDIS, which comes in the form of a checklist. “This is essentially a health check for the ECDIS system which makes sure it is basically is fit-for-purpose,” said Mellor, noting that while there are annual inspections required for voyage data recorders and AIS systems, there are currently none for ECDIS systems. While they are pushing IMO to implement mandatory annual ECDIS inspections, the updated document will help to plug the gap and allow owners and operators to do voluntary checks if they want to.

Mellor shared with SMN that another thing UKHO is working with manufacturers and other parties to develop for future ECDIS systems, is the IMO’s S-Mode concept under its e-navigation umbrella. A paper will be presented and discussed at the next IMO sub-committee on Navigation, Communications and Search and Rescue (NCSR) next year, meaning earliest potential mandatory implementation could be in 2020 or 2021.

This will look at creating hot keys for fundamental tasks that will be common to all ECDIS systems. The same hot keys will be in the same place on all systems to try and standardise the graphical user interface for the mariner so it will be easier for them when they move between vessels.

“That’s the next evolution for ECDIS systems,” he concluded.

Posted 12 December 2017

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Vincent Wee

Asia Editor, Seatrade Maritime News

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