ECDIS offers the same range of features as paper charts and facilitates more simple, faster and, above all, more accurate work on the basis of constantly updated data. Functions such as route planning, inserting personal notes, determining a ship’s position and corrections no longer pose a problem.
The hardware required is a computer capable of displaying graphics, installed in the console of the vessel’s wheelhouse. If the chart is used as a navigation device, in addition to its purpose as a source of information, it must be linked to other components on board of vessels. If a connection to positioning sensors is installed, more specifically with a GPS, the current position of the vessel can be displayed on the chart. In order to increase the accuracy of the position, the charts can be displayed underneath the radar image. In addition, a connection to the ship’s tachometer, the rate-of-turn indicator and the compass is possible.
The software consists of the graphics interface and the so-called ECDIS kernel. The kernel facilitates the presentation and handling of charts and is also called a functions library. Furthermore, the user interfaces of the viewer programmes offer numerous buttons and menu items which are intended to significantly simplify software handling. The charts are presented as Inland ENCs (Inland Electronic Navigational Charts) and are available on CD Rom or – like in Austria – on the Internet.