Saturday, June 9, 2007

Navy switching to paperless navigation?


There was an article I was reading on about the Navy switching to all electronic charts. The CNO (Chief of Naval Operations) has decided to go without charts and all navigation will now be done with ECDIS-N (Electronic Chart Display Information System- Navy) made by Northrop Grumman. Three USN vessels are now being certified to run free of paper charts.

The story here is a small one, but in the grand scheme of things- this is a major event. In some ways this is good because we have advanced to the point where electronics are reliable enough to do this. It is going to open up a huge can of worms however when one of these vessels goes of course and runs ground.

Computers are changing the way that we are working on land, air, and sea. The maritime industry has always been greatly opposed to change and one of the last to implement any modernization. Steeped in tradition and plagued by thick tomes (called CFRs) that tell us what we are allowed to do- when will this change hit the merchant fleet? What is going to happen when we do? What will the reaction be if an accident occurs?

The new breed of electronics for vessels are outstanding and I am all for technological advancement. But I would hold onto your charts and keep plotting fixes and running DRs for now. I don't think the Coast Guard will be to lenient on officers that feel compelled to stand watch and leave the charts in the drawer during the accident investigations.

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