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written by: Kristina Dems•edited by: Rhonda Callow•updated: 10/21/2010

An electronic chart display and information system, or ECDIS, is a navigational tool that uses digital charts. It provides easy route planning and monitoring for navigators. Using several sources for plotting routes, an ECDIS can provide more safety than traditional navigation systems.

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    What is ECDIS?

    ECDIS An electronic chart display and information system, or ECDIS, is a navigation system that uses digitized information, specifically electronic navigation charts. It allows navigators to access digital navigation data in an easy and fast manner to aid them in ship navigation. It can be used instead of paper charts used in traditional navigation, but it needs to comply to the standards and regulations set by the International Maritime Organization, or IMO. Here is some more information about the ECDIS and how it is used.

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    Are All Electronic Chart Navigation Systems Considered ECDIS?

    Not all navigation systems that use electronic charts can be considered an ECDIS. A navigation system needs more than just the ability to read digital charts to be considered an ECDIS. It needs to incorporate other information into electronic navigational charts, or ENCs, like global positioning system data, or GPS data, fathometer data and radar data in assisting navigators plotting courses and voyage routes. Other information and data can be used to be layered into the usual digital navigation information as long as they all comply to standards and regulations of the IMO. This means that only digital navigation systems that use IMO compliant data are to be considered ECDIS.

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    Components of an ECDIS

    The major elements that compose an ECDIS are the computer system (including all essential hardware to make it work), a display, software and, of course, IMO compliant electronic navigation charts. For an ECDIS to be considered an ECDIS, it needs to be installed according to the standards and regulations set by the IMO. Installation includes the setup of the computer hardware, the display and the application software.

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    Capabilities of an ECDIS

    The functions of an ECDIS include planning, plotting and monitoring routes, displaying of electronic navigation charts in different modes by accessing a database of IMO compliant digital charts, warnings and alarms, customization of display colors and sizes, tracking of ships, recording and playback of navigational events and logging of preset navigation targets. With this features and functions, the navigators of a ship can safely plot their course using several sources of approved data. Other tools for monitoring course and planning of routes can be utilized but the ECDIS can function as the main navigational tool in a ship.

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    Using and Maintaining an ECDIS

    Using and maintenance of an ECDIS goes beyond just displaying electronic navigation charts. Its display can be controlled in terms of brightness, color and size, so some training is required to use and interpret the data presented on the ECDIS display. It needs to be regularly checked for optimal performance. Constant monitoring of its temperature, vibration and any kind of electromagnetic interference must be observed to make sure that is functioning properly. Calibration should be administered every once in a while to make sure that it is providing the correct data to navigators in a safe and accurate manner. Performance standards set by the IMO should be satisfied first before an ECDIS is approved for official use in a marine navigation.

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