Resolution MSC.232(82) is a reasonably large document of 27 pages in its original form.Most of the information contained in it is directed more to manufacturers than users but it is important for users to understand the minimum requirements for a system so as to be aware what a PSC inspector might be looking for during a routine inspection.It is appropriate to say at this point that SOLAS requires ships to carry valid official charts and in the early days of electronic chart systems no official electronic charts existed.Official charts — both paper and Electronic Navigation Charts (ENC) — are produced by, or under licence from, national Hydrographic Offices or other relevant government institutions.Most national institutions are members of the International Hydrographic Organization (IHO) which has developed a set of standards covering collection of chart data and production of charts.Charts for use with ECDIS on SOLAS vessels must have been produced by a national hydrographic office using these standards.
At the NCSR 3 meeting there was also an off-session presentation coordinated by INTERTANKO which reported the wide variations in the skills of “certified ECDIS users”, a prevalent lack of awareness of software maintenance requirements and a lack of appropriate procedures aboard ships.
With regard to ECDIS the most important of these standards are S-52 presentation library which contains all the symbols colours and lines styles required to recreate the ENC on the ECDIS screen and S-57 which includes a description of the data format, product specification for the production of ENC data, and an updating profile.
Another IHO standard, S-63 covering security of data, became a requirement in 2009.
Initial systems were developed by individual manufacturers with little collaboration and to diverging standards as there was no performance standard to comply with.
Despite there being no requirement to install the early systems onboard SOLAS vessels, several ship operators were willing to act as pioneering guinea pigs in the field.