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Is Ecdis too smart for its own good?

With navigation systems on ships getting more complex, it is leading to the question of whether they getting too smart for the user.

Speaking at a Asia Maritime event on Navigation and Vessel Optimisation, Fleet Management head of quality and safety Mayank Mishra asked: “Ecdis is intelligent, but is it smart?” Referring to the Electronic Chart Display and Information System (Ecdis), which has been mandatory onboard vessels since 2012, Mishra said he felt that in their zeal to attract more customers, makers of these systems are adding ever more features, which may eventually end up confusing users.

Placing the emphasis squarely on proper training, Mishra noted that every change in technology has inherent risks that need to be managed. “There are options galore for electronic navigation chart (ENC) settings now, but you can only choose the right one if you are properly trained,” he said.

For example, he said from the simple two-dimensional Admiralty paper charts of the past where the degree of detail and relevant information to be included is updated only every few months after careful deliberation by a dedicated team of hydrographers, Ecdis can now input up to 256 layers of detail on ENCs and the often the only person deciding which display to use is the officer of the watch.

Maritime services company Global Navigation Solutions ceo Mike Robinson agreed, saying: “You need good training to go along with the use of Ecdis.” He noted that the user is now making decisions in a world of data-based solutions as opposed to cartographers making those decisions in a much more considered manner onshore in the past.

In response Mishra suggested that Ecdis manufacturers move towards making simpler systems and perhaps even work towards a standard operating system rather than adding more bells and whistles to their own systems in the hope of differentiating themselves from competitors to sell more products.

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