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.

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