Electronic chart display and ‘techno-rapture’

You can describe it as gap filling, career development or continuing education. Some of us call it a total waste of time and money.

Regardless, I voluntarily decided to go back to school recently for electronic chart display and information system (ECDIS) certification. It’s an STCW qualification I don’t currently need but wanted to get anyway.

We don’t have an ECDIS on board the tug I work on. Like much of the tug sector, we use Rose Point ECS (electronic charting system) running on a standard PC. But as my instructor at a previous training session explained, while not technically an ECDIS per IMO definitions and requirements, Rose Point ECS is still very powerful and ECDIS-like in many ways.

So, he said, you may as well treat it as an ECDIS for practical usage purposes. But there is no requirement for any training in the use of an ECS, and there are often gaps and blind spots that go unaddressed until enough problems occur to force a change. Despite this, I wanted to update and expand my knowledge, skill set and qualifications.

In the end, assuming I continue to do what I presently do, it’s unlikely that I will ever use a Transas ECDIS again. If I did, it would probably be a newer version of Transas, so I’d need updated training to be at least minimally competent with the new software. But who knows for sure what the future holds workwise?

In any case, I had to work with a new system I was unfamiliar with and think outside the box. It challenged me, despite my years of experience, and that’s always a good thing to do.

I came away with a better overall understanding of the general functions of ECDIS, its limits, and how it can easily get you into trouble if you become trapped by what I call “techno-rapture.” It’s the firm but foolish belief in the infallibility of modern technology to always make good on the promise. But technology can’t do it all and it won’t.

In the end, modern technology is no more infallible than the people who use it.

About the author

Joel Milton

Joel Milton has worked aboard fishing boats, pilot boats, Coast Guard cutters and small boats, dredge tenders, offshore crewboats and supply boats, towing vessels, a small container ship, and a wide variety of small craft including an inflatable yellow “ducky” The Piker.

1 Comment

  1. I’m one of those who think this kind of training is a total waste of time and money. Working on the water for over 40 years has given me a pretty good amount of experience both before, and after all this ‘training’ we must have now. I really can’t see that it’s helped. At all.

    ECDIS itself is bad enough, but they also want “type specific” training! Type specific ECDIS training, really? When every vessel you go to might have a different one? How in the world are you supposed to know which one you need training for before you get there? Should you be required to take EVERY possible course out there, because you might get a job on a vessel that has that one specific type you’re not ‘approved’ to operate?

    Just how much time and money are we mariners supposed to devote to learning every tiny little detail of every possible piece of equipment we might have to operate? Why isn’t just having a good general idea ENOUGH to get by on? When you join a vessel with a specific piece of equipment, you can learn the fine details THEN (IF it’s even useful to know that information).

    This sort of training overload is not just limited to ECDIS. It’s become rampant all over the marine industry. HUET isn’t enough anymore, we need to have T-HUET (which covers the same thing except for one subject which is not used in the Gulf of Mexico). Helicopter escape training is now necessary to work offshore in the Gulf, even when no one is flying helicopters and we’re back to riding crew boats again!
    IMHO, all this ‘training’ serves no other purpose but to run good people out of the industry!

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