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Ecdis: Drive to improve management of electronic and paper navigation charts

Tue 11 Jul 2017 by Martyn Wingrove

Ecdis: Drive to improve management of electronic and paper navigation charts
GNS software is combined with touchscreen display on Seall Ecdis to enable faster and easier access to critical navigation information

The London P&I Club has highlighted the need for shipowners to ensure that chart folios are updated with key navigational safety notices, even when paper charts are used as back-up to electronic systems

Shipowners and shipmanagers are urged to improve the way they manage electronic and paper navigation charts and ensure they are kept updated with the latest safety information. Insurance inspectors are regularly noting negative findings on ships in connection with the management of ships’ chart folios and associated publications. But the biggest issue for insurance inspectors is the lack of awareness on ship bridges about managing navigation warnings and notices to mariners.

The London P&I Club highlighted the issue in an industry statement in mid April to reduce the risk of navigation accidents. The club’s loss prevention manager Carl Durow said he was also concerned about the approach adopted by deck officers towards the management of external navigational warning information from Inmarsat C and Navtex.

He said the most common negative finding from inspections was the lack of application of temporary and preliminary notices to mariners on voyage charts. “Officers in charge of such activities are reminded that, while often temporary, temporary and preliminary corrections should not be regarded as less important to safe navigation than weekly permanent chart corrections,” Mr Durow commented.

Shipowners and managers were reminded that there should be clear and concise guidance on how the nautical publications are to be corrected in a ship’s safety management manual. This should “avoid inadequate and personal approaches being applied by ships’ officers,” he added. Inspectors are also finding poor management of permanent chart corrections on ships.

Mr Durow said it could be time consuming to apply permanent and temporary notices and safety warnings to paper folios, but it is an essential aspect of safe navigation and bridge operations. “Where paper charts are in use, they should be kept corrected to the latest onboard edition of notices to mariners,” he commented. “Owners should consider the time-saving and most accurate step for supplementing their notices with the appropriate tracings when they are not provided.”

The London P&I Club believes that consistency in the approach to managing chart folios is important. The most risky part of a voyage, when this consistency could be eroded, is the crew change-over period. The club said that consistency can be maintained if incoming officers, with potentially subjective approaches to the task, take instructions from company policy and follow them for chart updating.


Shipowners that are using paper charts as back-up to ecdis should still ensure that folios are managed correctly. For electronic navigational chart (ENC) folios, there are programmes and packages that automate chart management. For example, Navico has unveiled an integrated package of electronic charts, ecdis hardware, chart management and training. It includes ENCs from the United Kingdom Hydrographic Office’s Admiralty services, Norway’s Primar and other international chart suppliers. The package also includes digital publications from Admiralty and e-books from Witherby Publishing Group.

The hardware comprises Simrad equipment including the Simrad Maris Ecdis 900 platform and the Simrad Maris Bridge Assistant that enables navigators to easily manage electronic charts, paper chart portfolios and digital publications. This is optimised for efficient chart updates over shipboard internet connections, and integrates with the Simrad Maris customer portal for fleet management. This is a web-based tool that keeps track of everything from chart management to logging and reporting to help ship operators control costs and order electronic charts.

ChartCo expanded its services in April when it acquired digital document management company Docmap. This provides health, safety, environmental and quality (HSEQ) software to shipowners and managers for onboard and onshore applications. Its latest program, Docmap 8, has standard web browsers and incorporates modules for audit control and risk assessment. ChartCo chief executive Martin Mr Taylor said that Docmap 8 will be integrated with Regs4ships and will be capable of replicating shipping company safety management systems.

Global Navigation Solutions (GNS) and Seall Ecdis Ltd will collaborate to introduce a new generation of ecdis and navigation software. They will combine GNS’s expertise in back-of-bridge navigation software and navigational data with the new Seall Ecdis that has advanced touchscreen technology.

The initial area of focus for the new partnership is the launch of the touch-technology Seall Ecdis that introduces a new user interface, using multi-touch displays from Hatteland and new software. The Seall operating system should enable faster and easier access to critical navigation information and simplified front-of-the-bridge operations.

GNS chief executive Paul Stanley expects the strategic partnership to deliver maritime solutions for the next generation of ecdis. “Together, we believe we can achieve exciting new digitally-led efficiencies and safety improvements on board,” he said. He added: “Navigators face multiple challenges around the user experience with ecdis and back-of-bridge integration. By working to innovate around interface design, GNS and Seall can help shipping companies achieve the efficiencies and improvements promised by digital navigation.” 

“Using big data, crowdsourcing and machine learning we are able to create this innovative voyage planner” Kjetil Bentsen (Nautisk)


Developments in e-navigation through collaboration

Suppliers of e-navigation services are collaborating more closely with satellite communications and e-document providers. This is in reaction to the greater numbers of merchant ships required to carry and use ECDIS and electronic navigational charts (ENCs).

In May ChartCo acquired environmental information provider Marine Position to complement its electronic chart business. ChartCo said this deal extends its core product strategy of providing a centralised digital platform on board vessels which is linked to key shoreside activities.

Marine Position provides maritime environmental regulations and compliance services covering local, national and international requirements. ChartCo has promised to invest in the Swedish office of Marine Position to expand these services and integrate them with its own.

The benefits include pre-voyage environmental planning, shoreside visibility of compliance and integration with digital log books.

KVH Industries announced a link-up with ChartCo during the Nor-Shipping exhibition in Lillestrøm, Norway in May. ChartLink for ChartCo will deliver ENCs, digital publications, weather forecasts, notices to mariners for chart corrections and navigation warnings to ships over KVH’s IP-MobileCast content delivery service.

Ships using this service will have the latest ENCs and e-navigation documents on board automatically, said KVH director of IP-MobileCast services Robert Hopkins.

Further collaboration has been demonstrated by UK-based Marine MTS as it secured a partnership with Norway-headquartered Nautisk. The arrangement involves Marine MTS supplying key components and communications protocols that will enable the delivery of live and automatic updates to ECDIS. Nautisk is using these protocols in its new voyage planning suite, NaviPlanner.

Nautisk introduced NaviPlanner as a voyage planning station with a touchscreen display and ENCs loaded from a cloud service run on the Microsoft Azure platform. Nautisk head of product development Kjetil Bentsen said NaviPlanner was designed to make the operational task of planning and managing voyages simpler and more effective.

“Using compliant navigational chart data and digital publications, NaviPlanner allows bridge officers and shore-based staff to utilise the latest in navigation technology whilst being assured that all data is up to date and compliant,” he said. “Using big data, crowdsourcing and machine learning we are able to create this innovative voyage planner.”

The deal with Marine MTS means that real-time chart updates, which were not available with existing ECDIS, will be loaded on NaviPlanner.


“Using big data, crowdsourcing and machine learning we are able to create this innovative voyage planner” Kjetil Bentsen (Nautisk)

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