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The International Hydrographic Organization (IHO) has well documented mandatory carriage of ECDIS for SOLAS class vessels, but new technical standards for ECDIS are coming soon.
While accurate and reliable nautical chart information is presented by trained cartographers, the portrayal of electronic navigation charts (ENCs) on an ECDIS screen is controlled by the ECDIS standard S-52. All ECDIS standards are developed and documented by the International Hydrographic Organization.
ECDIS manufactures must comply with these IHO ECDIS standards when developing their ECDIS products in order to be approved and sold in the open commercial market. The new S-52 standard is the latest standard in which ECDIS manufactures must adapt their ECDIS software specifically the latest Presentation Library version 4.0 in S-52. This includes details for the 'drawing engine' within an ECDIS on how to adequately display symbols, line styles, and colors on the ECDIS screen.
The IHO has listened to valuable feedback on the current status of ECDIS use from industry and end users. The new S-52 standard will bring greater consistency in displaying ENC data in all approved ECDIS. The new standard will also bring other benefits to the end user.
The new Presentation Library will focus on the top complaint against ECDIS use; continuous audible alarms. The IHO will solve this problem by providing detailed specifications on objects that should raise an alarm to ECDIS manufactures to be implemented in to their software system.
Additionally, navigation data such as an anchorage or fairway will now appear on the screen of an ECDIS with buoys, lights, landmarks viewable as a 'hover-over' feature. These new features will significantly reduce the time-consuming need to search for this information in an ECDIS pick report.
August 15th, 2015 is the estimated release date of the new ECDIS testing standard publication from IHO. From then on the new version of S-52 will be referred to as part of the approval process for ECDIS to be used for electronic navigation. ECDIS currently being used must be upgraded to the latest Presentation Library within twelve months.
Administrations should inform ship owners, fleet managers, and masters the importance of this change as the International Maritime Organization (IMO) has stated in Circ.266/rev1 That an ECDIS that is not upgraded to the latest IHO standards may not meet the carriage requirements as defined in SOLAS Chapter V 19.2.1.
It is recommended that mariners consult with their ECDIS manufacturer about this change and how to upgrade their ECDIS to the newest S-52 standard, containing Presentation Library v4.0.