In 2020, Indian Register of Shipping (IRClass) responded swiftly, taking a pragmatic approach to maintaining services to its clients during increased travel restrictions to reduce the spread of Covid-19
IRClass executive chairman Arun Sharma, as chairman of the International Association of Classification Societies (IACS), led the organisation’s rapid response to assist the industry during the lockdown period. The first wave of mitigative measures, which included maintaining the validity of certificates and allowing the sharing of IACS members’ exclusive surveyors, were quickly implemented to allow ships to continue operations and hence, facilitating trade.
During his tenure as IACS chairman, Mr Sharma encouraged class to engage more deeply with industry partners through a structured programme of engagement. A data-driven policy allowed decisions within IACS to be made on objectively justified and scientifically evidenced positions.
2020 also marked IRClass’ 10 years as an IACS member. During its membership, IRClass participated in various IACS bodies and has chaired the IACS group on Quality Policy, the Safety Panel, the Steering Committee on Strategy and Expert Group on Formal Safety Assessment. Further, IRClass also chaired the General Policy Group which is the highest technical body in IACS while making regular contributions in various panels and expert groups. With rapid advancement in technologies and ever-changing regulatory requirements, the role of class is also changing. Expanding class society’s verification fields into data quality assurance is another important aspect which IRClass will continue to champion through its membership. IRClass intends to further strengthen the data-driven policy initiatives taken by IACS.
IRClass saw consistent growth in its foreign flag fleet which is approximately 20% of the total seagoing fleet, reflecting clients’ increasing confidence and the growing international profile of the organisation.
IRClass is also proud of the many milestones it achieved in 2020. Top of list is having received authorisation as a Recognized Organisation (RO) from the US Flag Administration. Today, IRClass enjoys recognition from various flags collectively representing 58% of global tonnage.
IRClass adapted to using remote surveys to overcome movement restrictions. Subsequently physical surveys were also conducted prior to the certificate expiry to check the efficacy of remote surveys.
IRClass continues to closely work and assist shipowners by providing approval and certification services, as well as technical guidance to improve the energy efficiency of ships and achieve compliance.
IRClass is working with industry organisations on technological and regulatory aspects of alternate fuels such as methanol, hydrogen and ammonia to evaluate their safety and potential contribution to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. There is an increasing trend towards using batteries for ship’s propulsion to reduce their carbon footprint. IRClass is carrying out type-approval of Li-Ion battery system based on international standards and Class rules.
Towards development of autonomous shipping, IRClass is working in partnership with a large Indian conglomerate to develop a remote-controlled ship project.
2020 was also the year of two important deadlines for vessel owners as cyber risks on board ships must be addressed as well as the certification of Inventory of hazardous materials (IHM) on board for ships visiting EU ports. IRClass played a key role in advising owners on the regulations and ran regular courses on the topic to assist owners towards their compliance needs.
Offshore projects continue to be a main consideration for IRClass as it classed India’s first LNG floating storage regasification unit, marking a milestone in India’s energy shift towards natural gas. IRClass is proud to be part of the project as it signals the gradual move towards clean energy, cutting emissions in the future. It also oversaw two floating production storage and offloading conversion projects.
Domestically, IRClass continues its strong relationship with the Indian Navy as defence remains an important growth area. In a major first, the Indian Navy entrusted IRClass with single class certification of three major new construction projects – large survey vessels, diving support vessels and ASW-SW corvettes. IRClass is also engaged with other paramilitary and government services, including the Indian Coast Guard, BSF, NDRF, State Police Departments etc.
IRClass engages with all coastal shipping operators and Inland Waterways Authority of India towards strengthening this sector which has a strong growth potential.
The pandemic has changed the way IRClass communicates with its clients. From previously organising workshops and seminars, IRClass pivoted to online webinars to share its expertise and views. Today, IRClass experts are invited to speak to an audience no longer limited by geographical boundaries.
Looking into 2021, IRClass will continue to grow its footprints across the world with plans to open more offices in the Middle East and Africa. It sees significant growth opportunities there and IRClass sets its sights on building long-term commitment in the region.
IRClass Academy has ramped up its e-learning courses and continues to see the opportunity to expand. Digitalisation continues to be a key part of its strategy to enhance its service offerings and value add to its clients.
Mr Sharma said, “2020 has been an unprecedented year which caused unforeseen disruption worldwide. However, the industry handled it incredibly well and ensured the steady flow of global trade. The pandemic has indirectly been a catalyst the world needed to make the leap towards digitalisation.”
“This is the revitalisation the industry needs, and we need to do all we can to support the change. The learnings from this pandemic year will help us emerge stronger and we look forward toward to 2021 with renewed vigour and remain steadfast in our commitment to maritime safety and quality”.
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