Database and interface systems

The ECDIS, ENC & SENC

The introduction to software and database has been made possible through the development of globalization and continous upgrades of technology. For the topic of today, we can note that technology has allowed to make navigation safer and more efficient. However, it would be inconsiderate for any sailor to not know the essential navigating concepts unrelated to software. For example, celestial navigation is a very notable "know how", since it is based on the stars and the sun. John Vigor references the book Celestial Navigation for Yatchsmen by Blewitts as a good guide.
For the shipping of goods, oil or livestock from point A to B you will need a route and clear directions in which the surrounding vessels are heading towards. If a vessel is incoming straight ahead of you, it will be question of right-of-way for who's route shall differ. A useful tool to anticipate this situation would be the radar, for example. 
However, how would one know if moving to starboard or portside is a better and safer choice ?

For this purpose, they have created ECDIS. This is an achronyme meaning : Electronic Chart Display and Information Sytem. SIMRAD defines ECDIS as a geographic system used for nautical navigation that complies with the IMO regulations and the up to date charts of the SOLAS requirements. The SOLAS Convention is regarded as the most important of all treaties concerning the safety of merchant ships (IMO). 
Thereof, the system is an alternative to paper charts and reduces the navigators workload. Following the topic of workload, it would be important to note that an average seafarer for Maersk works approximately 98 hours per week (Rose George, 2013), so the reduction in workload comes as a benefit and slightly better labor conditions. Hence, the concept behind ECDIS is to give capabilities in route monitoring, ETA computation and ENC updating.

Now, let us diverge from the ECDIS and explain what the Electronic Navigational Chart (ENC) is. 
The ENCs are computer generated charts which have greater accuracy for safe navigation which may be updated ever so often by the hydrographic offices. The fact that is important to note is : you cannot actually draw a course on the ENC. It is a database which gives access to drawing courses through the SENC, a different interface. Lastly, in order for the ENC to function it must be in parallel with the ECDIS and SENC. (Steering Mariners, 2021; Marine Insight, 2022; Hydro International 2010)

Finally, we have the SENC which stands for System Electronic Navigational Chart. The SENC is essentially a chart format, thus every ECDIS provider has there own SENC format. This database can access the ECDIS and input the display generation and other navigational functions. Essentially, we can note it as the equivalent of an up-to-date paper chart.

Therefore, we can conclude that if you were to only have ECDIS, than it would only give a display screen. But with the addition of database such as the ENC and SENC, it will give you the complete access to the system, and thus fulfilling its purpose. In other words, it reduces the navigational workload and gives reliable updates to the electronic navigational charts. 
 

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