Charts vs ECDIS

The user has some control over what is displayed in both cases.

On paper charts for example track-lines and no-go areas can be done beforehand but plotting positions has to be done in real time…

How the ECDIS gets set-up should not be left up to some random second mate but should be done in a methodical way, in advance using written procedures, check-list etc and checked by the master before it’s used to navigate.


Some of these anti-ECDIS pro-chart arguments are so cringeworthy and tiresome.

Some of these anti-technology mariners are very strange people the way they come out with weird derogatory phrases like ‘nintendo generation’ and ‘GPS generation’, used properly ECDIS, AIS and GPS have made navigating vessels far safer.

There is no evidence yet that ECDIS was even to blame in this incident, that person is just speculating to fit their anti-ECDIS narrative.

With incidents involving ECDIS it is almost always user error that is to blame and not an actual problem with the ECDIS itself, so in those incidents are not because of the ECDIS but because the ECDIS operator was incompetent in its use.

People have all these anti-ECDIS clichés and anecdotes, but if looking at hard data it will probably be found that the proper use of ECDIS has reduced the number of groundings and not increased them, plenty of ships went aground when just paper charts were being used and there was no ECDIS.


The ecids should be designed correctly
The ecdis implementation was and still is the biggest cockup the IMO and silent flag states have ever done.


It is somewhat difficult to set up an ECDIS, probably could be and should be made easier.

Until that happens the problem of an improper set-up can be solved by following a correct set of instructions.

My experience is that, left alone, a typical second mate, even one with an ECDIS certificate will not set-up the ECDIS properly.

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Hence the fault in the design specification.
Its very obvious when I look at the issue from an IT persective.
Its a software issue, plain and simple.

Planning a voyage using paper charts is also difficult. I’d say using ECDIS (properly) is about half as much work/effort as paper.

The maritime community has many years experience with paper charts and many know how to do it properly.

Just getting the track-lines down on an ECDIS is about 10% of the effort compared to paper charts and that’s where most second mates stop. Have to follow through and complete the process which almost nobody knows how to do but it’s a simple step-by-step process which can be written down.

Surely in these days the crew you get are computer literate and you have to ask what did they do at College that they end up without the skills to do basic navigation jobs?
Saying that my previous comment that the IMO has failed them as they may need specific training to operate some ECDIS computers.

You can have the top of the class ecdis nerd sign on to your ship, it’s all for nothing if the captain says “Turn all this shit off I can’t see anything” “Make all the alarms stop” “Just make the dotted line show up on the radar” “Just copy and paste the voyage plan in the '95 version of excel.”

And then for company policy it’s a crap shoot as to who writes it, the office folk likely either haven’t sailed, or sailed pre ECDIS, so who knows where the procedure ends up coming from, but there is some wacky stuff out there.


You can see why the regulations have been changed to allow a Captain to turn off the ecdis if be believes the crew are not competent and they have the paper back ups

A lot of the issues that arise with ECDIS are not problems with the ECDIS but problems with the people operating the ECDIS, they are not competent in its use. It is up to the companies operating vessels to crew their vessel with people who are not incompetent in the use of ECDIS.

People who complain about ECDIS are just projecting their own inadequacies because they are incompetent in the use of ECDIS.

Operating the ECDIS should not just be left to the second mates either, the entire bridge team including the master should be fully competent in its use. You get a lot of masters who get paid big money to sit doing nothing in their cabin most of the day, with all that free time you would expect them to be fully competent in the use of ECDIS.

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When radar first became available on ocean going ships, many people at first didn’t know how to utilize it properly. There were many ‘radar-assisted collisions’. I’ve read of some early collisions using radar, when the radar user thought he was on a different scale than he actually was. And yet, I don’t know of any mariner who would think to not use radar today!


Of course the mates and captains should be competent in the wheelhouse.

Typically the second mate is in charge of setting up the ECDIS which is done in the planning stage.

A proper set-up; track-lines, depth contours, running the ECDIS safety check function, all theses things need do be done before commencement of the voyage.

In my experience the ECDIS will likely not be set-up correctly without good written instructions.

As in many evolutions, the outcomes are always better if expectations are made known at the outset with clear instructions and procedures. Just assuming everyone knows what they are will inevitably lead to poor outcomes.

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Stockholm and Andrea Doria for example.

Or, with ARPA almost 25 years later, Exxon Chester and Regal Sword.

Indeed, all Captains & Mates should be competent in the use of any and all essential navigational equipment. There may be “some” validity to “People who complain about ECDIS are just projecting their own inadequacies”, but you can’t discount concerns over power loss issues, crashing of ECDIS’s, and issues when inputting chart corrections. In a perfect world, none of these problems occur, but as you know in the real world technical, mechanical problems can and do happen. As more safeguards are put into place, there will be a lot more confidence in the equipment. Unless the ship is beginning a new trade route, most of the routes should already be saved in the ECDIS and it’s just a matter of loading them up, checking all the settings and alarms (which the Captain should have made standing orders for), having all corrections uploaded, and running a voyage simulation safety check to identify any hazards in the route.

Your comment “You get a lot of masters who get paid big money to sit doing nothing in their cabin most of the day” suggests that you haven’t sailed above 2nd Mate. That’s understandable, as there are a lot of 3rd & 2nd Mates that don’t have the slightest clue as to the responsibilities and work that the Chief Mates and Captains do. In the Captain’s case, very much of his “duties” are out of sight of the crew. If you do happen to sail as Chief Mate and eventually as Captain it will be a real eyeopener for you when you discover how many few hours there are in a day compared to what is “your job and duties” require and what expected of you.


How can you go from a paper chart with manual updates.
Put it on a screen with gps and fail??
Total failure of I.T.

2 posts were split to a new topic: What do Captain and Chief do all day?

ECDIS is perfectly fine when used appropriately but another factor that is often overlooked in my opinion is the age of the hardware and software that is being used. Companies don’t always see eye to eye with the operators of the vessel when it comes to upgrading hardware (or software for that matter) that may have been in service for over 10 years and is starting to show its age.

Most ECDIS systems are built to a fairly robust standard in relation to the typical desktop computer but they are certainly not everlasting. We are talking about a CPU that is almost never shut down. Ship’s require constant improvement to their systems as they age and the ECDIS is no different. When the primary operators start reporting glitches and recurring problems, companies need to be proactive and install new hardware. The band-aid approach is a recipe for disaster if you are putting all of your eggs in the ECDIS basket.

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the DP world has gotten on well with PC’s ( since before PC’s even existed) which realy shows up ECDIS’s issues.