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There may be three dozen OEMs supplying ECDIS hardware, but probably 80% of shipping companies are selecting equipment from 20% of those brands. It’s difficult to maintain support of less popular systems

updating of procedures to ensure safe operation. Now, Broster believes, it is necessary to look beyond the vessel and at the wider ecosystem of organisations that come into contact with ECDIS. In addition to colleges, port state inspectors are a key constituency. Crews are using these systems on a daily

basis. Some have become very adept, while others are still getting to grips with it . No doubt a fair few have picked up bad habits along the way. According to Broster, the rationale for having training, or for that matter having inspections, is that there is always someone cleverer than you, who can point out the error of your ways – either to set you on the right path or to maintain industry-wide standards. What Broster fears is the emergence of a capability gap. Without up-to-date knowledge or experience of electronic navigation, both lecturers and inspectors (in particular the latter) are at risk of disempowerment.

train for the equipment actually being used on modern vessels,” he elaborates. Of course, in its entirety the Turkish project

took much longer than five days. In fact, the design and pre-commissioning took the best part of the year. Even the factory acceptance tests were carried out at ECDIS Ltd’s facility outside Southampton, UK, before the kit was packaged up to be shipped to its permanent home – as was the case for other projects destined for the US, India and on home ground. “These maritime colleges and academies

are a bit like the ships whose personnel they train: they can’t afford to be out of action for long. Closing down the department for six months or a year to install new hardware is generally off the cards,” the ex-Royal Navy lieutenant commander continues.

Wider transition

Because of the IMO mandate, most SOLAS tonnage already does or will soon carry ECDIS on board. To date, the discussion about transition has focused on the ship: the fitting of suitable hardware, the training of crew, and the

Hardware issues

With between 35 and 40 manufacturers serving the market, ECDIS comes in a multitude of shapes and sizes. New models and software updates are released on a recurring basis. This places training providers with limited resources in a quandary: which horse(s) to back? This, says Broster, is in stark contrast to civil

aviation, where there are only a handful of navigation systems to choose between: “Air pilot training facilities can afford to cover all bases. That’s not a realistic option in the shipping scenario, with several dozen options in the marketplace. How are we, as an industry, supposed to deliver effective training with such diversity of equipment out there?” Colleges and some of the larger shipping companies are investing millions of dollars in new training facilities. But maybe, Broster postulates, they are chasing an impossible dream. “If the hardware variations and combinations continue to proliferate, is such spending sustainable?” he asks. System obsolescence and market consoli- dation are related issues. There may be three

dozen OEMs supplying ECDIS hardware, but Broster suggests the 80:20 rule applies: “80% of shipping companies are selecting equip- ment from 20% of those brands. As a training provider, it’s difficult to maintain support of less popular brands if we only receive a booking once a year! And we are not alone in this: it applies to all training providers. If officially endorsed training dries up, then the shipping companies using those brands are in danger of becoming non-compliant.” Then there’s the possibility of a supplier

ceasing to trade. This almost happened when the Dutch systems integrator Imtech called in the receivers earlier this year. Fortunately, the company’s prosperous maritime business was rescued within days of the announcement. However it highlights another fragility in the support network. Divergence in user interface (UI) design is

another concern. In the early days of ECDIS, UIs were broadly similar across different brands. Unfortunately they came under fire for also being consistently difficult to use. OEMs have since made great strides in improving user friendliness. Some have virtually done away with complex menu structures, some retain the traditional right-hand panel, while others have gone full screen. Some are stripped down to absolute minimum function- ality to meet the rules, while at the other end of the scale are systems with no end of sophisti- cated features and advanced e-navigation add-ons. The upshot is less commonality, says Broster. “The divide between manufacturers is growing far wider. This makes life much harder for an officer switching between systems.” The practical challenges in the provision of shore-based training are such that Broster wonders whether the pendulum might swing back in favour of greater onboard training. “Shore-based training and the use of simula- tors training took off in the late 1980s,” he says. “Analogue trainers, among the earliest form of simulators, date back even further. These were favoured over traditional on-the-job training (OJT) because they were seen as being more


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