The Triton


ECDIS voluntary, requirements mandatory


Each year, or several times each year, a new set of regulations enters into force within our industry. These can involve smaller projects like new oil record books or modifications to an existing manual. At the other end of the spectrum we see major projects such as new ways to build fuel tanks or modifications to structural fire protection.

In between these two extremes, we usually find technological advances for the safety of navigation and communication. New navigational devices in our tech-savvy economy are a personal favorite of owners and captains alike. A system that has been in development for several decades is the Electronic Chart Display and Information Systems. This is more commonly referred to by its acronym: ECDIS.

ECDIS is a computer-based navigation information system that complies with the International Maritime Organization (IMO) regulations. It can be used as a primary means of navigation and an alternative to paper nautical charts mandated by SOLAS Chapter V, Regulation 19. It is important to note that not all computer navigation systems are ECDIS. Unless the system is specifically approved against the international requirements and certified as such, it is simply an electronic chart system (ECS).

An ECDIS system displays the information from electronic navigational charts (ENC) or digital nautical charts (DNC) and integrates position information from the Global Positioning System (GPS) and other navigational sensors, such as radar, gyro compass, and the automatic identification systems (AIS). It may also display additional navigation-related information, such as sailing directions and data from the fathometer. The amount of information integrated with the ECDIS is only limited by the features offered by the particular manufacturer.

In discussing ECDIS, there are two distinct, yet parallel issues with this new requirement. They are the implementation dates for installation of the equipment and personnel training for use of the equipment.

For installation of ECDIS, the following dates have been established. They are phased-in based upon vessel type, size, and date of construction. As yachts are considered cargo ships for regulatory purposes, there are two potential deadlines. New cargo ships from 3000 gt up to 10,000 gt must comply no later than July 1, 2014. Existing cargo ships of 10,000 gt up to 20,000 gt built before July 1, 2013 must comply no later than July 1, 2018.

For those existing commercial yachts that are certified as passenger ships (ie. can carry more than 12 guests), those of 500 gt and greater must comply no later than July 1, 2014.

Any ships which are constructed before its application date, but delivered after the due date as above, ECDIS shall be installed no later than her initial safety equipment survey.

Flag administrations may exempt ships from the application of the above equipment requirements of ECDIS when such ships will be taken permanently out of service within two years after the implementation date. 

As one will cite from the above information, yachts of less than 3000 gt are not required to install ECDIS. They fall below the lowest tonnage threshold. However, if a yacht decides to utilize ECDIS voluntarily, it must meet the same requirements as if the equipment was mandatory. This includes training.

All captains and navigational officers that are serving on yachts that have ECDIS as their primary means of navigation must complete both the generic and ship-specific equipment training.

Generic training can be accomplished by attending an approved course at a training school. The course must be based upon on the IMO Model Course 1.27 and certified by the flag administration.

ECDIS-specific equipment training should relate to the make and model of the actual equipment fitted on board. And yes, this will require attending a training course for each different system that an officer is expected to operate. The training is usually provided directly by the manufacturer. This is done in either a classroom setting, distance learning, online, or on board. Cascade-type training, where an officer trains another, is not allowed.

With the new revisions to STCW that entered into force this past January, the above training completions must be documented as part of the officer’s certification. Depending on the particular flag-state, this may involve the endorsement of the license or issuance of a separate certificate to be maintained on board.


Capt. Jake DesVergers is chief surveyor for International Yacht Bureau (IYB), an organization that provides flag-state inspection services to yachts on behalf of several administrations. A deck officer graduate of the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy at Kings Point, he previously sailed as master on merchant ships, acted as designated person for a shipping company, and served as regional manager for an international classification society. Contact him at +1 954-596-2728 or Comments on this column are welcome at

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