How much value in traditional navigation plotting skills?

That may be true for large ships that trade over a large area and have a large portfolio of charts but that isn’t the vast majority of commercial vessels. Most commercial vessels don’t have even one ECDIS, they use a laptop plotting program with paper charts as backup.

True, but there’s a difference between the risks of YOU losing YOUR GPS and the entire constellation going down. It’s fairly easy for your GPS to fail, antennas and antenna cables go bad. Most chart plotters in use on commercial vessels only have one GPS feeding them so even if there’s multiple GPSs on board, if you lose your primary GPS you’ve lost your ECS.

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No, they’re saying knowing how to do it has value.

Remember, the entire point of this thread is:

I could be mistaken but the way I read this:

Is the first part is the inherent value of plotting and the second part is the “what if”.

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He says your “abilities”, as in, since you’ve been trained to plot you can look at the ECDIS and interprete what you’re seeing better. Not, you should be constantly plotting.

I don’t want to judge anyone, but should we specify the boundary conditions before further discussion.
What kind of ships are we talking about?
What do we understand by ECDIS and eNav?

Once again, in a nutshell.
Every ECDIS has at least two position sensors which very often works in a different GNSS system.
Each ECDIS should meet very strict software, hardware and power supply requirements.
Before commencing a sea voyage, each route/track should be properly planned, configured and checked. All alarms, safety settings, lookahead sectors must be predefined and active.
Each user of the ECDIS system is properly trained, i.e. has completed a model IMO generic course and a type specific training authorized by the manufacturer.

I work for European operator of chemical parcel-tankers. Our fleet consists of around 40 small vessels, say 2500GT to 10000GT, ranging in age from 5 to 25 years old. There are no paper charts on any of them and this is no exception.

No it is not.

Its going to be like the airline industry, they will make the planes/ships fool proof so idiots can fly/pilot them.
Saves money not training them to have any manual flying/navigation skills.

Talking about a specific incident but one that would quickly switch from a technical discussion to one about who’s to blame and go off topic


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Not that good of an analogy. A comparison to shiphandling would be more apropos.

I was thinking the path to autonomous ships is removing on board skills hence autonomous will work if all the ships are under the same control like aircraft in controlled airspace, what skill does the pilot need?
Dynamic positioning absorbs the environment to initiate the command you choose, maybe not as good as a good operator but its can do it 24/7/365
Aircraft dont crash into each other in the sky or on the ground as an external person makes the decisions most likely as they have a better overview and thats in 3D

Getting oriented to a new area requires two steps, step one is finding your position on a chart and than step two, knowing that, orienting to the immediate environment.

The electronic chart allows the navigator to skip step one and go directly to step two. The ECDIS greatly reduces the time it takes to orient oneself in an unfamiliar port.

Using the ECDIS, to some degree, gives a similar advantage as having made two or three trips into a port already as compared to entering for the first time.

The autonomous ship can use the exact path of the previous trip or any other vessels trip they care to load up and or any offset programmed in.
We are redundant.
Engineers will survive.

Any commercial vessel requiring a license to operate, since the original question was why is the USCG still testing prior on chart plotting if paper charts are obsolete (they’re not).

So what are your emergency procedures for if you lose GPS feed? Run around the bridge screaming in panic?

Make sure that all the mates know how to switch over to dead-reckoning mode and can plot bearing and ranges on the ECDIS. Then no need to run around the bridge, just stand over the mate’s shoulder and scream at them in panic while they make the switch. :upside_down_face:

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And I think it’s useful to know how to plot on paper charts because you’re learning the WHY at the same time so plotting on ECDIS will make sense when you need to do it.

Additionally, it’s much easier for a student to learn on paper charts because then they don’t need their own ECDIS in order to practice. Then the only thing they’d need to learn would be type specific data input.


GPS is not a synonym for a position sensor in ECDIS.
Anyway, this form of discussion does not suit me, sorry.

Does your ECDIS have any automatic position inputs that AREN’T global satellite systems?



A manual fix isn’t an automatic input and dead reckoning is what the system does when it loses all automatic position inputs.

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Many years ago when I was third mate on a missile tracker the main electronic nav equipment (loran C, SATNAV) was giving conflicting information. A sunline settled the question. We shouldn’t abandon traditional skills just because some shiny new method appears.

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I visited what was then a modern Seismic Survey vessel in Balikpapan in 1971 and was very impressed with the Inertial Navigation System they had, showing position changes even when swinging at anchor:

Some months later I met the Captain again in Singapore, where his vessel was under repairs after running aground in East Indonesia while in transit between jobs.
The INS was still active when the 2nd Off. was alone on watch in the afternoon. He saw a small island dead ahead, looked at the chart and the INS position and figured out that they were going to clear with good margin. He only realized too late that his eyes were more reliable that the INS and managed to slow down before hitting the island, which was charted 1 1/2 n.mile wrong by somebody back in 1880s.
Not unusual in those days and nobody had corrected the mistake since then.

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