Electronic Nautical Charts (ENC) and Electronic Chart Display and Information Systems (ECDIS)

Ships have long been required to carry nautical charts and nautical publications to plan and display the ship's route for the intended voyage and to plot and monitor positions throughout the voyage.

The advent of electronic charts in the 1990s provided ships with additional information, including real time information which could be displayed on screens on Electronic Chart Display and Information Systems (ECDIS).

IMO adopted performance standards for electronic charts in the 1990s. In 2000, IMO adopted the revised SOLAS regulation V/19 - Carriage requirements for shipborne navigational systems and equipment to allow an ECDIS to be accepted as meeting the chart carriage requirements of the regulation. 

Recognizing the advantages of ECDIS for navigation, in 2009, IMO adopted further amendments to regulation V/19, to make mandatory the carriage of ECDIS.

The amendments entered into force on 1 January 2011, making ECDIS mandatory for new ships built after set dates and also phasing-in the requirement for existing ships.  

ECDIS carriage requirements

The amended SOLAS regulation V/19 requires all newly built passenger ships of 500 gross tonnage and upwards, as well as newly built cargo ships of 3,000 gross tonnage and upwards engaged on international voyages to be fitted with ECDIS. For existing ships, phase-in introduction of fitting requirements are being introduced for all ships of certain size engaged on international voyages (See SOLAS regulation V/19.2.10 for details).

ECDIS – Guidance for Good Practice

The undeniable safety benefits of navigating with ECDIS were recognized through Formal Safety Assessments submitted to the Organization and experience gained by the voluntary use of ECDIS for many years.

ECDIS is a complex, safety-relevant, software-based system with multiple options for display and integration. The ongoing safe and effective use of ECDIS involves many stakeholders including seafarers, equipment manufacturers, chart producers, hardware and software maintenance providers, shipowners and operators, and training providers. It is important that all these stakeholders have a clear and common understanding of their roles and responsibilities in relation to ECDIS.

Further information

Guidance for Good Practice (MSC.1/Circ.1503/Rev.1).