ECDIS Standards IEC 61174 – The Facts

August 10, 2017


Whenever a new regulatory requirement comes into play there is inevitably some confusion over what is fact and what is fiction.  The new ECDIS standards IEC 61174 are a prime example with some misleading commentary already being shared on various social media channels.

We’ve asked Mike Bailey, Head of Navigational Products here at GNS to set the record straight and share with us his knowledge and expertise on just how these standards will really affect the industry…

Why have the ECDIS standards changed?

Essentially, it’s the way that the data is presented to the end user that is changing, standardisation of symbology, addressing some anomalies in presentation amongst a number of other additions of attributes, which by doing this, greater functionality can be achieved and it will also reduce the number of alerts and alarms on the ECDIS.  Rather than different ECDIS having different file formats, now there will be a single Standard Route Exchange File format – .RTZ

What new enhancements can the user expect to see?

The improved functionality will act as an enhancement to the Safety of Navigation and will include consistent use of Symbols and Abbreviations.  We can expect to see more standardization of displays, vocabulary and operational functionality, regarding Alarm Categorization and Alarm Visualization, for example.  In addition, these new changes bring about enhanced security which is a key focus in our industry.

Will this reduce the burden of ECDIS type specific training?

By implementing this set of standards, we can also reduce training needs and offer smoother integration with the Voyage Data Recorder (VDR), Bridge Alert Management (BAM) and Bridge Navigational Watch Alarm System (BNWAS).  This will help to make alarm management more acceptable on the bridge for mariners which will help to enhance safety.  The mandatory terminology and abbreviations applied in the ECDIS have been included to educate users and minimize confusion when operating different ECDIS brands.

Do mariners need to be concerned that their ENCs won’t be in the correct file format?

No!  All ENCs are already in the format that is readable by the ECDIS.  The new standards won’t change anything in this respect.

What will change in terms of functionality?

There is a considerable amount of new functionality included as part of IEC 61174 such as the standardised ability to access information of ENC updates and generate report on the same, so that the chart inventory can be audited internally or by a ship inspector.  There will also not be an auto-run from a USB stick which will help to ensure virus protection.   A key piece of functionality is the ability to set a default user setting in a single step.

A new requirement for anchor watch has been included, as has a declaration of highest latitude on which the ECDIS can operate, so if it’s higher than 85 degrees, the ECDIS must comply with the new polar requirements. Finally, there is now the ability for the ECDIS operator to turn off alarms for CPA/TCPA for AIS and AIS lost target.

You’ve shared with us some of the benefits to these new standards, how have these been achieved?

There is a new design of Chart object information functionality (also known as the Pick report) which makes access to ENC chart information easier and understandable for user.  It’s imperative that the ECDIS is simplified where possible to ensure proper use.

A reorganization of alert management has resulted in less alarms being generated by ENC objects, for example: crossing navigational hazards (isolated dangers and aids to navigation) as well as areas with special conditions (TSS, anchorage areas, etc.) will generate only visible alarms now.  Whereas safety contours will continue to create audible and visible alarms

By standardising the way of making an ENC update status report will allow mariners and Port State Control inspectors to confirm that the ENCs installed in an ECDIS are up-to-date resulting in an easier inspection process.

Mariner feedback has been sought in relation to the ECDIS viewing groups extension for a more detailed control of ENC features.

Will the IEC 61174 changes pose a problem to the end user?

Not at all, the changes will make life much easier on the bridge and will offer a greater opportunity to bring about efficiencies and enhancement of safety when using the ECDIS.  It’s important for the end user to make sure that their ECDIS is compliant with these new standards and they can do that by contacting their ECDIS manufacturer.

To find out more, you can download the IHO Presentation Library Chart here: ihopreslibchart1final-1