Setting the standard: S-Mode e-navigation guidelines

ECDIS display in operation. Credit: Shutterstock

The long-awaited guidelines for ECDIS standardised ‘S-mode’ were submitted to the IMO in June, promising improvements in navigation safety.

Industry bodies have appeared to have found common ground in the design of the long-awaited S-mode for ECDIS, with the guidelines approved at the International Maritime Organization’s (IMO’s) Maritime Safety Committee (MSC) 101st session (5–14 June 2019).

It is hoped that the standardised mode will be more user friendly. Ultimately, the reasoning behind the call for standardisation was to improve operational safety onboard and promote effective training. This would be through a standard display, menu system, and interface design. This would, in theory, reduce the amount of Electronic Chart Display and Information System (ECDIS)-led errors and groundings that arose with the increased reliance of the navigation technology.

However, with the initial proposal put forward by the IMO dating back to 2007, as part of its ultimate vision of e-navigation, teamed with development input by the Nautical Institute, the process has by no means been plain sailing. E-navigation, as defined by the IMO, is the “harmonisation of maritime information onboard and ashore by electronic means to enhance berth-to-berth navigation and related services, for safety and security at sea and protection of the marine environment”.

As a part of the IMO’s desire for a standardised e-navigation system that would be led and defined by user needs, it made the call to create “Guidelines on the Standardisation of User Interface Design for Navigation Equipment”, or S-mode.

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