An apparent rise in the number of ECDIS-related detentions by Australian Port State Control agency AMSA this year may have hit the headlines, but closer inspection reveals more to the story than meets the eye.
Though AMSA already has a reputation for being a stickler on vessel safety, its ire was raised when a ship it detained had a trainer flown from Hong Kong to get the crew up to speed.
This done, the ship was duly released, but AMSA kept up the pressure, detaining eight ships in five months. The message was clear: you should expect to be competent on ECDIS before you come to an Australian port and demonstrate it while you are there.
The question this poses is not why AMSA, along with other port states are focussing on ECDIS, but why they should need to. So long has been the process of mandation and implementation that the casual observer might believe that the well-documented teething problems with ECDIS are by now, non-issues.
Not so. In fact, by some measures, they have never been as important – or the standard of competence as varied – as it is now. In a downturn that sees owners scraping by, cutting training budgets and deferring maintenance, the risk is genuine that more, not fewer incidents will be reported.
The process quietly took a step forward last month, when another milestone was passed, as existing cargoships above 20,000 gt joined the ECDIS-mandated fleet.
Having worked through the passenger ships and tankers considered ‘blue chip’ for meeting oil company vetting or passenger safety requirements, this brings ECDIS into the mainstream of the shipping fleet.
Put bluntly, the industry is now getting down to shipping companies whose officers may not have the skills or competence required for what remains a critical piece of safety equipment.
Harry Gale of the Nautical Institute is quick to praise the competence of AMSA PSC inspectors among others, but says the reports the NI receives suggest that not all inspecting personnel are as up to speed on ECDIS as they should be.
But this pales into insignificance compared to the feedback the Institute hears of ECDIS competence among serving officers. Gale says information received indicates in some cases an ‘appalling’ lack of competence among serving crews. These are seafarers who will have done their generic and familiarisation training but still have ‘nowhere near enough experience to get fully up to speed’.
Read the full post: http://www.greatcircle.co/article/closer-inspection-ecdis-detentions