Modern technology in the wheelhouse — Part I

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.

2 Comments

  1. I was tripping for a Company that kept their boats outfitted with all the latest bells and whistles in the pilothouse.Being the pilot, I worked the midnight to six in the morning watch.Running the NOLA to CCTX run in the dark all light sources needed to be off in the pilothouse in order to see out the window,so I would turn all the fancy electronic gear off or kill their lights except the radar. The young Captain couldn’t understand how I could get along without it.

  2. Captain Steven Hearn on

    Here at the Inland Logistics & Marine Institute in Paducah KY we offer the only Rose Point training that I know of. Our one day class teaches the Mariner the fine points of how to use a ECS system. A lot of using A ECS system is understand more about AIS, in our navigation lab we can explain how ECS and AIS interact. Also I big topic is required voyage planning and how to use the tools in Rose Point to help you meet the sub chapter M requirements. For more information contact me at 270-534-3893

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