New Normative References for the Type Approval of ECDIS

The International Hydrographic Organization (IHO) has published new versions of some of its ECDIS Standards. These have been reviewed and updated to reflect lessons learned from earlier reports of unexpected chart behaviour in some ECDIS. The updated versions of the Standards are a significant contribution by the IHO to supporting navigational safety by ensuring that all identified ambiguities and inconsistencies relating to the display of Electronic Navigational Charts (ENCs) in ECDIS have been resolved.

The IHO has published the following new editions:

  • IHO Specifications for Chart Content and Display Aspects of ECDIS
    S-52 Edition 6.1 – October 2014
  • IHO Presentation Library
    S-52 Annex A Edition 4.0- October 2014
  • IHO Test Data Sets for ECDIS
    S-64 Edition 3.0 – December 2014
  • IHO Data Protection Scheme
    S-63 Edition 1.2 – January 2015

Commenting on the updated IHO Standards, Robert Ward, President of the IHO, said: “When the various parts of the revised Standards have been implemented by ENC producers, ECDIS manufacturers and ECDIS testing authorities, it will result in an improved ECDIS experience for the mariner.”

The updated IHO Standards include a number of changes that will bring significant benefits to the mariner. Discussing these changes, Thomas Mellor, Chairman of the IHO ENC Standard Maintenance Working Group responsible for S-52 – the IHO Standard for the display of ENCs in ECDIS, commented: “One of the biggest benefits of upgrading ECDIS systems to the latest S-52 Presentation Library will be a reduction in the number of audible alarms triggered by ECDIS, helping ease the issue of alarm fatigue on the bridge, whilst still maintaining safety at sea. The introduction of an alert model, based on the requirements in the IMO ECDIS Performance Standard, will also harmonize ECDIS behaviour across different manufacturers’ systems.”

A number of significant changes to the Presentation Library reflect mariner feedback. For example, the names of Fairways and Anchorage Areas will now appear on the ENC display. A “hover-over” function for certain charted features has also been introduced.

A number of new symbols have been added to the Presentation Library. These new symbols help draw attention to features that need to be highlighted, including the location of automatic ENC updates and ENC features that have a temporal (time-based) attribute.

To support the complex process of ECDIS type-approval, the IHO has worked closely with a number of prominent Notified Bodies and improved the ENC tests and test data sets. The restructuring of the data sets and the inclusion of more specific tests will ensure that the proper display of ENCs is more thoroughly checked during type-testing process in future.

The IHO has updated S-63 – the ENC data protection scheme, to include specifications for an ENC update status report, which is a provision that had not been available previously. The update status report will allow mariners and Port State Control inspectors to confirm that the ENCs installed in an ECDIS are up-to-date.

It is planned that the new editions of S-52 and S-64 will enter into force on 1 August 2015. This will align with the publication of the new edition of the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) ECDIS testing specification IEC 61174. From this date, the new editions of the IHO Standards will be the normative references for the type approval of new ECDIS.

There will be a 12-month transitional period when the current editions of S-52 and S-64 will remain valid. The 12-month transition period ending on 31 July 2016 is intended to provide time for ECDIS manufacturers and national authorities to move towards type approval of new ECDIS based on the revised Standards and to enable ship-owners and operators to update existing systems to conform with the new Standards in accordance with the requirements of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) circular SN.1/Circ.266, as amended, covering the maintenance of ECDIS software.