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07 July 2015

The new S-52 ECDIS Standards: What do they mean for you?

​​​​​​Tom Mellor, Head of OEM Support and Digital Standards at the United Kingdom Hydrographic Office (UKHO) and Chairman of the IHO’s ENC Working Group, looks at the benefits of the new ECDIS Standards.​​

Much has been written about the mandatory carriage of ECDIS, but one of the most important initiatives currently underway is the revision to the technical standards for ECDIS.​​

On an ADMIRALTY paper chart our highly skilled cartographers have presented accurate and reliable information to the mariner for over two hundred years.  However, the responsibility for the portrayal of an ENC on an ECDIS screen is controlled by the ECDIS standard ‘S-52’. This is authored by International Hydrographic Organization (IHO).

ECDIS manufacturers refer to these IHO ECDIS Standards when developing their software, specifically the latest Presentation Library within S-52.  This contains instructions for the ‘drawing engine’ within the ECDIS on how to display symbols, colours and line styles on the screen. 

​At the UKHO the safety and integrity of the data we provide is of paramount importance, and we want the mariner to see all the information provided whether it’s on an ADMIRALTY paper chart or as an ENC within the ADMIRAL​TY Vector Chart Service.  However, without the latest Presentation Library (version 4.0) this won’t be the case with an ENC. 


What are the changes within the latest Presentation Library?

The IHO has listened to mariner feedback.  As well as ensuring greater consistency in the display of ENC data across all ECDIS, the new standards deliver other benefits for the mariner. 

Firstly, the latest Presentation Library addresses the number one complaint leveled at ECDIS; constant audible alarms.  By providing clear guidance to ECDIS manufacturers on ENC objects that will raise an alarm, the IHO has tackled the issue of alarm fatigue on the bridge. 

Also, information such as fairway and anchorage area names now appear on screen, with landmarks, lights and buoys viewable via a ‘hover-over’ function.  Both initiatives reduce the time-consuming need to find information buried in a pick report.​


This before and after photo demonstrates the inclusion of fairway and anchorage names within in the latest presentation library. This change reduces the need to find important information in a pick report ​



When are the new standards due to enter into force​?

The new ECDIS testing standard publication date is expected to be August the 15th 2015.  From this date the new edition of S-52 will be the reference for the type approval of new ECDIS.  Existing ECDIS will have to be upgraded to the latest Presentation Library within twelve months.

It is worth noting that the IMO state in Circ.266/rev1 ‘ECDIS that is not updated for the latest version of IHO Standards may not meet the chart carriage requirements as set out in SOLAS’.


How can I find out more?​

You are not alone; the UKHO and author​ised ADMIRALTY Chart Agents are on hand to provide advice and guidance via a mixture of free seminars and ADMIRALTY publications. We were recently at Nor-Shipping in Oslo (see video below), where we met with many ship owners, operators, managers and others to discuss the benefits of the updated Standards and the transition process. In the months ahead, we will continue to focus on the new ECDIS Standards at our free-to-attend ‘Living with ECDIS’ Semi​nars, where you are welcome.

As a next step, I recommend you contact your ECDIS manufacturer and ask how they can help you to upgrade your ECDIS to the latest S-52 standard, containing Presentation Library v4.0.

Find out more about the UKHO’s ‘Living with ECDIS Se​minars’

Find out more about the ADMIRALTY Vector Chart Service