3rd International ECDIS Conference - 29/12/2009

Dr Lee Alexander, University of New Hampshire (USA)

The 3rd International ECDIS Conference and Exhibition was held in Singapore on 19–21 October 2009. Co-organised by the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) and the UK Hydrographic Office (UKHO), it was attended by more than 300 visitors from 29 countries.

The Conference was entitled ‘ECDIS - Beyond Navigation', and its main theme was ‘2012 Mandatory Carriage of ECDIS: Are You Ready?' A variety of ECDIS-related topics were addressed including international standards development, ENC coverage, the status of shipboard implementation, operational considerations, economic benefits, training, new technical developments and future trends. Presentations were made by representatives from international organisations, government agencies, manufacturers, maritime training institutes and shipping companies. Those attending the Conference heard a variety of perspectives on how best to prepare for the phased-in mandatory carriage of ECDIS onboard SOLAS vessels starting in 2012.


However, in some respects, this was not your typical professional conference on maritime navigation. Instead, it had characteristics of a sales and marketing event that promoted products, services, experiences and solutions. The Conference was moderated by Melissa Hyak, a television host from Channel NewsAsia. During the three-day event, she actively engaged speakers and panel members, and fielded questions from the audience. What she lacked in technical knowledge or experience with ECDIS, she made up for in her ability to engage the audience and ask probing questions.


Some memorable quotes heard during this Conference included:

- "The modern mariner bases his judgment on facts and experience - and not ‘experience and estimations'."

- "Don't wait for 2012. Do it now!"

- "ECDIS does not save money, it makes money."

- "Trust: technology works; large institutions don't."


There were a number of topics discussed from which useful insights were gained:

- Shipping companies firmly believe that the ECDIS is superior to the paper chart. However, it is more than just a ship ‘going paperless' - ECDIS is a better way to navigate.

- Worldwide ENC coverage of major shipping routes and ports is near completion. However, there are some issues regarding availability, cost, updating and value-added services.

- While most agree on the need for standardisation of key operational functions for ECDIS, there is less agreement on what it entails - or who should decide. In particular, there were different opinions about developing a ‘Standard (or S) Mode'.

- Most maritime training institutes offer ECDIS training based on the IMO Model Training Course. While these general courses are useful, there is a need for mariners to receive customised training on the specific ECDIS equipment that is installed onboard their vessels.

- There is an increasing realisation that ECDIS can reduce the stress and workload of the crew, but overburdening the mariner with information overload is a concern.


Perhaps the most interesting presentation was by Mike Casey (IIC Technologies) who spoke about the future impact of the ‘download generation'. He said that this group learns from its peers. They are digital natives while the older generation are digital immigrants. They will take technology in a totally different direction. Quite likely, this could be a major factor for ECDIS and the next generation of mariners.




Last updated: 05/03/2020