Everything You Need to Know about the Electronic Chart Display and Information System (ECDIS)

Marine navigational technology has undergone countless transformations over the years, but perhaps some of the most prolific and efficient inventions that come to mind are the introduction of electronic chart displays—particularly the revered Electronic Chart Display and Information System (ECDIS). Keep reading to learn everything you need to know about how these marine display units have revolutionized the face of navigational technology.

What Is the Electronic Chart Display and Information System?

The Electronic Chart Display and Information System (ECDISs) is a digital navigational system that helps marine crewmembers accurately chart their routes or voyages in real-time rather than relying on static paper charts that can quickly become outdated and irrelevant. ECDIS meets the standards and regulations specifically outlined by the International Maritime Organization that dictate safe, secure, and efficient marine navigation.

This system is specifically designed and implemented with the intention of helping marine vessels reach their destinations with minimized risk of dangerous incidents. It utilizes Global Positioning System (GPS) technology to help marines navigate their routes in real time and anticipate any potentially dangerous elements, objects, or situations well ahead of time and prepare themselves accordingly.

The purpose of this innovative technology is to track the position of marine vessels as well as record and report pertinent nautical information such as their location coordinates, speed at which the vessel is travelling, up-to-the-minute water pressure, as well as estimated time of arrival to their assigned destination.

This type of electronic chart display system also features the following interfaces: Automatic Identification Systems (AIS), radar capabilities, depth sounders, and Navtex. Although some navigational experts have expressed their concerns in the past regarding the security of these GPS-based systems and their potential vulnerability to being easily infiltrated by opposing parties, these reservations have largely been disproven by the fact that ECDIS charts also include warning signals that sound off when the vessel comes within close proximity of potentially dangerous unidentified objects in the water.

Loud alarms ring throughout the interior of the vessel, alerting all naval officers onboard and even those manning the control panels on land of any possible threats that may arise and compromise the safety of the seafarers and their mission.

Advantages of ECDIS

Aside from the fact that ECDIS display units embody extensive safety features, there are also other noteworthy advantages that naval officers should take into account when using this technology. Here are just a few of them:

  • Information is processed and communicated in real-time, which means that users have easy access to immediate location coordinates and can track the exact position of a vessel at any given time during its voyage. This feature is also instrumental in guaranteeing the overall safety of crewmembers and gives them ample time to prepare for impending dangerous situations. As a result, they’re enabled to change the course of their voyage instantly and notify the other crewmembers immediately.
  • State-of-the-art zooming in and out features allow navigators to quickly and accurately identify potential signs of danger or harmless objects throughout the voyage and make more informed decisions on the fly rather than relying strictly on gut instincts.
  • Crewmembers are also empowered to establish highly accurate estimated times of arrival based on real-time and automatic calculations that garner exact geographical positioning of the vessel in relation to the nearest land mass and intended destination.
  • Customized charts are an option and can be formulated based on the specific needs of each voyage and individual crewmembers. Additionally, charts can be altered throughout the voyage if necessary to render the most accurate possible coordinates, positioning, and estimated time of arrival as well as keeping all naval officers updated. Even if the speed or direction of travel changes, the ECDIS will be able to pick up on this information immediately.
  • Passage planning is also made a lot easier because preliminary plans can be revised at any given point throughout the voyage as the crewmembers see fit. The unpredictable nature of life on the sea means it’s often difficult for route planners to predict every single possible circumstance crewmembers will have to face, including changing weather conditions or rising water levels. Hence, crewmembers need reliable radar-compliant tracking devices such as ECDIS to help them accurately predict any upcoming hazardous obstacles or conditions along the way.

Types of ECDIS Charts

There are two specific types of ECDIS navigational systems that are most commonly used by the marine forces:

Electronic Navigational Charts (ENCs)

Also known as vector charts, these electronic marine displays are often used in conjunction with ECDIS and they’re highly adaptable to a number of nautical circumstances and missions. ENCs are primarily used either as the main or an additional security precaution to supplement those already included in ECDISs. The mechanisms themselves must be officially certified and comply with the standards outlined by the International Hydrographic Organization as well as government mandated hydrographic offices.

The main benefit of incorporating ENC interfaces in naval navigation systems is their capability to project the trajectory of any given voyage with near-flawless precision, allowing naval officers to make vital and well-informed decisions as quickly and safely as possible.

Raster Navigational Charts (RNCs)

Raster Navigational Charts, on the other hand, are digital versions of paper charts that are converted into computerized modules using high-end scanning devices. These images are scanned into various naval and governmental databases and then archived for present or future use. These images are typically akin to and of the same quality as those captured by digital cameras and are highly useful in broad-spectrum naval operations. Naval officers are capable of zooming in and out of a single image as many times as necessary and they also have the ability to print out those reconfigured images for later use by their commanding officers.

For over 20 years, Nauticomp Inc. has been trusted and recognized as one of the leading designers and suppliers of state-of-the-art marine displays and our products have been used by naval forces worldwide. With a variety of fully customizable ECDIS display units available, we guarantee that our products are the right fit for your needs. To learn more about our company or inquire about how our commercial or industrial-grade displays can benefit your operations, please contact us.