Nav old vs. New

What skills? The watch officer can still plot bearings and ranges on an ECDIS, parallel indexing on radar can still be done whether ECCIS is being used on not.

As a practical mater watch officers mostly stopped depending on those tools about 30 years ago when GPS displays starting showing cross track error (XTE) with the 'highway" display. The ECDIS is a huge improvement over that.


Lot depends on the vessel. Modern ship built with electronics in mind usually has independent devices positioned rear of the wheelhouse. Forward by the helmsman who often is also the look out no clutter or light pollution. Watch Officer can keep his eye on running the ship without distraction. Reference the electronics when needed or on schedule depending on were she is. Actually running vessel with eyes and and the compass

Tugs & small vessels often one mate operating, cluttered displays multiple functions distracting. Small display no standards on which button does what. If he can keep focused on running the boat great, electronics draw eyes that should be looking out of the house. They are not all set up that way many retrofitted older boats are.

How many recent groundings and collisions have we seen due to dependence on the screen not paying attention to running the vessel .


I don’t know. Do you?

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some years ago I was working as the tanker safety guy for a refinery - We had a report of one of our chartererd ships being aground in the anchorage. I went out to investigate - when I got to the bridge I was talking to the Captain - who kept pointing at his plotter and telling me he was not aground. My answer was, Captain if you are not aground, why are you pointing in a different direction than all these other ships at anchor ?


Since retiring I don’t read all the reports , but from the press & without research

USS Guardian in the Philippines Wakashio in Mauritius both well known reefs only reason to run aground not paying attention

Ever Given in Chesapeake bay. Pilot on his cell phone

Team Vestas around the world race plotter scale omitted small island detail

Costa Concordia watch officer lost situational awareness full view of obstacle

Recent CG small vessel collision Caribbean lack of proper lookout

I do work on call 45 year old launches retrofitted with tiny multi function Plotters they are distracting

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Finding unlit uncharted buoys in the dark is a bit harder than cruising up the middle of the marked channel on the video screen. These were plastic too, not exactly good radar targets.

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Fair enough. I was checking if you had any specifics, or using a lazy, potentially misleading tactic of implying a great number of examples without giving any. You weren’t.


Lord knows there were no collisions or groundings before these damn screens came out. These were only added to Chart 1 in like 2012 when ECDIS became standard right? I’m sure the Santa Maria would have made it back to Spain if Chris wasn’t on his phone tweeting about the new world.


and get off my lawn


It’s a point impossible to prove, doubt if there is any database number of accidents due to reliance on electronics, ignoring traditional methods. Certainly no reliable data on navigation errors many years ago.

I believe there is general agreement electronics are very good but positions should be confirmed by traditional methods . Either way potentially wrong, cross checking can catch mistakes , The owner I worked for many years required it instructions to masters.

Yes, I think that would be the consensus, maybe not on pleasure craft but at least on deep-draft commercial.

In restricted waters visual and/or radar in going to be used. In an unfamiliar area a position on the ECDIS would be used for orientation and verification to the various landmarks.

Using paper charts required either the officer shift attention to the task of plotting or having two experienced officers on the bridge. The ECDIS alleviated the need to shift attention back and forth from conning to plotting.

The first and best known “radar assisted collision” was between Stockholm and Andrea Doria in 1956:
Reliance on electronic “aids to navigation” has only got worse since then.

Side benefit to conventional piloting is using knowing how to use quick methods to confirm the chart plotter

Example fixed object bears 180 it’s a natural line of position no need to take a bearing right angle obvious. Quick look at the sounder depth often fixes position on the line particularly in a dredged channel . Then confirm the plotter tells the same story.

Without the training and experience conventional piloting could not easily double check the electronics.

Based on the number of pleasure boaters I see beaching themselves on shoals, I strongly disagree.

My post wasn’t clear but I meant that pleasure boaters may be losing piloting skills in restricted waters by just following a track on a screen by GPS but that’s not the practice deep-sea, at least not in my experience.


Sounds like conventional piloting required training an experience to double check the position on a chart.

Ranges, PI lines, looking out the window, all easy ways to confirm position with electronic charts. Shoot, contours are getting better, the end goal is to have 1 meter contours available on ENCs, That’s way more reliable than looking at soundings from WWII.

The quickest way to confirm position is to turn on RADAR overlay, You’re instantly getting a range and bearing off every ATON and points on land at once. We can probably train a 6 year old to push that button and compare the pictures.


Used to be the advice was not to rely upon any single source and to be cautious about using electronic navigation but I don’t think that holds any more, at least not in practice.

The ECDIS is going to be checked during the pre-departure tests but after that, unless a mismatch is experienced, the assumption is going to be that it’s correct.

That said, the problem with over-reliance on ECDIS is that less experienced deck officers come to depend upon the ECDIS to maintain situational awareness (SA) when they should be developing their abilities to interpret visual observations.

What are going to believe the machine or your own eyes !! IMO can be a built in human frailty to be self doubting and conversely to believe what machines tell us. The only way to overcome this is with training and experience

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The plotters can be wrong for a few reasons.

  1. The GPS is wrong. Not common but not impossible.
  2. The chart is wrong. Sandbars move, marks get moved on purpose or they get hit, something gets left off the chart, the chart is just wrong for some reason, or the basic surveys from 200 years ago just don’t match up to the actual lat/lon. That last one has brought more than one vessel to grief, I think that issue is getting better now. I know some experienced ICW sailors will run two tablets at once with two different products and usually find at least one place one of them has you cruising across dry land.
  3. User error. There are a lot of ways to leave stuff off of ENCs you didn’t mean to or add so much you can’t see through the clutter. You need to know also what vanishes at different zoom levels as we all saw in a recent ocean race.
  4. Programming errors. AquaMap,which does the wonderful USACE overlays, would have SOME marks vanish as you zoomed in and out but keep ones on either side of them. This was not at extreme zoom levels either, but at settings you would normally use. In Boston harbor all the marks on just one side of the channel would vanish! I bitched about that and they fixed it :slight_smile:

I find it really hard to convince young people that any of this can happen.


Yes, of course, not in dispute. No reason to think an ECDIS display is immune from the same type failures of other ship’s equipment plus the errors of paper charts.

That’s what I’m saying. I don’t try, instead I try to get the inexperienced junior officers to realize the reason to develop confidence using visual observations is not because “ECDIS might fail” but because it results in better situational awareness with lower workload.