ECDIS Set-Up and Alarms

The point is that the choice is not leave the alarms on or silence them. There’s a third option and that’s to set-up the ECDIS properly which, in my experience at least, will greatly reduce the number of nuisance alarms.

My original goal in writing up a procedure was just to have depth contours displayed at relevant depths, having the amount of nuisance alarms cease to be a problem was an unexpected benefit.


This plan unfortunately is only as good as the ENCs we sail on. The Chesapeake bay ENCs appear to be on a 5 contour system, which leaves tons space in between and sailing over the safety contours. I know NOAA is working on re-scheming their ENCs, and there are some high def 1 meter ENCs available to the public, but I think we are a ways out from that on a national scale (looks like FY2024 for Chesapeake). I dream that one day, Safety contour alarms result in concern and not annoyance.

I love me some bathymetry as well, and you can see how much of our waters we’ve actually covered. I think that’s the first step in fixing the ENCs. I like to think the government is doing their best, but maybe I’m overoptimistic.

On the Lakes we find the Safety Contour, Safety Depth, anti-grounding and hazard proximity alarms to be very annoying, distracting and potentially more dangerous then them not being there since we are navigating in pilot waters and close river situations most of the time. Everytime, I turned into the Rouge River drawing 27 or 28 feet of water the system would freak out since the channel had a project depth of 19 or 21 foot. The solution often is to KILL all the alarms, not ideal. By the way who decided we have to know about rocks awash in 3 feet of water so the part of the chart you want to see, the shoreline, is covered in purple phillips screw heads. Useless and dangerous since they obscure the detail you may want when trying to find something on the radar.

1 Like

Having multiple alarm noises and intervals at which the alarm sounds is another option.

A soft noise sounding at one minute intervals when I’m out of my planned depth is a good reminder but not distracting to navigation or radio communication.

Not every alarm noise needs to be alarming, nor do they have to sound continuously until silenced.

People tend to look at tools as binary options instead of learning to adjust them to their situation.

1 Like

There’s a real issue with nuisance alarms. I’ve no problems with shutting off alarms that are doing more harm then good but that action should be based on a solid understanding of why they are going off.

What’s the point having tolerating BNWAS alarms in pilot water for example? There is also a problem with NOAA charts and depth contours but the reason for the alarm should be fully understood before deciding just to shut the whole thing down.

Most that I have used will turn off once the helm is switched from auto to hand steering, but some do not. If there are ships requiring this system to be functional with a pilot onboard, or even two officers on the bridge, they should probably revisit that policy and change it.

1 Like

Wish we could. SIRE however takes a different view of the topic.

I think the intention would be to bring the safety frame down to like 3 Minutes ahead and .05nm on either side, which likely also isn’t ideal because (at least on Wartsilla/transis) the safety frame is tied to your HDG/SOG vector.

Have you checked that the safety contour set properly? The purple Philips heads screws are for isolated dangers that stick though the safety contour depth. I love getting those for wrecks of unknown depth in 1,000 meters of water, technically an isolated danger that could extend into our safety contour, but mostly a programming error on the part of the cartographer. It shouldn’t be obscuring the coastline though.

Almost all SIRE/OCIMF and/or CDI recommendations are based on current law.

You are wrong;

4 From the operational point of view, automatic interface with activation of the ship’s heading or track control system (HCS/TCS) is a superfluous function because SOLAS regulation V/ requires the BNWAS to be in operation whenever the ship is under way at sea. This creates an inconsistency between SOLAS regulation V/ and the “Automatic mode” provisions in the performance standard. In addition, from the technical point of view, it is noted that this issue is also addressed in the “note” to section 3.1.1 of IEC 62616:2010 – Maritime navigation and radiocommunication equipment and systems – Bridge navigational watch alarm system (BNWAS), which states:

  • “NOTE: The Automatic mode is not suitable for use on a ship conforming with regulation SOLAS V/ which requires the BNWAS to be in operation whenever the ship is underway at sea” .

5 Accordingly, as an interim measure and pending a revision of the Performance standards for a bridge navigational watch alarm system (BNWAS) – (resolution MSC.128(75)), the automatic operational mode, if it is available, should not be used.

Parent topic: MSC.1/Circular.1474 – Guidance on the Bridge Navigational Watch Alarm System (BNWAS) Auto Function – (23 May 2014)

You should have a valid reason for non-compliance with the bridge procedures, and any such occurrence should be properly reported. Ignorance of the applicable law and/or lack of skills would not be a good reason to do so.

According to MSC Resolution 232(82) there is a list of mandatory alarms and indications which must be active. You are not allowed to turn off the audible alarm, certified ECDIS does not even have such a technical possibility.

Of course you can always act like the captain of the tanker Genesis River. He, at the clear suggestion of the pilot, simply turned off not only ECDIS but also ARPA. Amazingly, this did not surprise officials, as well as many of our forum colleagues.


By regulations, sure. Logically though? “Underway at Sea” should mean on approach to a port or in a narrow channel with a pilot?

I have no idea of your background, but where is the logic in having a dead man alarm with multiple officers or persons on the bridge, the vessel in hand steering, or the addition of a pilot? It is this overkill of regulation in disregard of logic that makes no sense to me. Here you have a forum of mariners and pilots telling stories of nuisance alarms that did nothing to aid the safe navigation and you go straight to the rule book?

I get it. We all have to follow the regulations, but when does it reach the end? Why do we need stuff like this in fully manned bridge conditions? If you create systems with non stop alarms or no logical purpose, mariners will tune them out. It is human nature


Your right and Sirk is right. Feel the pain.

Lol. Lmao.

I guess you haven’t heard of silent mode?

Helpful hint: the default password on the newer Furuno unit is 3000.

1 Like

If you read my posts on the thread you linked to, or my posts on this thread I’ve been saying the same thing on both, that the best option is to set-up the ECDIS such that nuisance alarms are reduced to a minimum.

As far as the “what if something happens”, I never thought that was a good argument, I don’t have the chops to show why statistically but I do recall what one captain used to say to say in response to that: “Yeah?, well what if it don’t?”

I apologize if I misunderstood your intention but it always annoys me “cool professionals” approach.

I knew it quite well, even remember some warning from the instruction manual;
Use silent mode when the ECDIS is not require, like in harbor”

I just haven’t worked on it for a long time and forgot about this feature. I should have written “is technically not available on most types of ECDIS”. Why do you think the access to this function is password protected?

I love arguments like this.
You don’t think it would be logical to just RTFM and follow the procedures.
Don’t they pay us for that?

1 Like

Why do you think the password is in the manual?

If a piece of equipment has an alarm function is it reasonable to assume there is an expectation the alarm is used?

The requirements and recommendations (requirements) are written by people who are not actually living and working in the environment they regulate/audit. ECDIS is just one of many competing devices that, when alarming in concert with say, DSC/GMDSS, BNWAS, IGS, VHF, ICS, ARPA, GPS, UPS, and AIS can result in audible pandemonium.

It’s not necessarily a case of a cool professional or incompetent old geezer setting up the ECDIS. Sometimes it’s a case of survival in a regulatory jungle.

1 Like

If all of these are alarming at once, I would recommend contacting the engine department, as you have likely lost your generators. The pandemonium would directly correlate to the severity of the circumstance, you know, like losing power.


IHO S-52 Presentation Library Edition 4.0 requires that ECDIS have an additional function to highlight all isolated dangers that fall in the unsafe water behind the safety contour, as experience has shown that vessels often have to cross the safety contour when navigating in confined waters.
The importance of ENC and ECDIS familiarisation

I usually find it helpful to have this switched off, but it’s important to remember that symbols such as wrecks and rocks are not part of the standard display, so if you do expect to stray beyond the safety contour…