Classification societies have turned to remotely operated vehicles, 4G communications and artificial intelligence for surveys and safety services
Demand is rising for remote surveys as the shipping industry tackles challenges from coronavirus-induced travel and port restrictions. It has become difficult and costly to send class surveyors and inspectors to ships and shipyards for surveys, through nations where there are Covid-19 outbreaks.
With this in mind, Bureau Veritas (BV) has collaborated with Nokia and Sembcorp Marine to remotely inspect vessels under construction in multiple locations from one centre using Nokia’s 4G mobile phone communications technology.
A pilot trial was carried out in Singapore in August 2020 with remote surveys on a newbuild vessel under construction at Sembcorp Marine’s Tuas Boulevard shipyard.
Checks were carried out to assess the integrity of the hull components, including material verification, panel fit-up and visual inspections of the sub-assembly block.
Sembcorp Marine’s quality control (QC) inspectors at the vessel’s fabrication and assembly sites communicated with a remote monitoring centre at Tuas Boulevard using Nokia’s FastMile 4G customer premises equipment and cloud-based collaboration platform.
The QC inspectors were equipped with rugged head-mounted cameras with high-definition video streaming and voice communication functionalities. This enabled the BV surveyor stationed at the remote monitoring centre to verify production quality and spot defects.
BV vice president for marine and offshore in South Asia and Pacific David Barrow expects remote surveys to become a new normal for inspections. “The pandemic situation has led to an acceleration of remote survey techniques,” he said.
“As we now move forward in our ever-complex digital world and manage new norms of working post Covid-19, we feel that true success is often about working collaboratively with stakeholders.”
Mr Barrow explained the key benefits from remote surveys. “We have clearly shown in this trial that technology provides both efficiency and quality gains,” he said.
“One major benefit of digitalisation and remote survey that must be emphasised is that of increased safety. Technology reduces the risk for all involved.”
Sembcorp Marine head of research and development Simon Kuik said this collaboration improves project execution and process innovation. “This will enable Sembcorp Marine to deliver safer, faster, and more efficient project turnaround.”
Although remote service delivery is becoming more commonplace on ships, it is still rare underwater but this is changing.
DNV GL marked an industry first when it completed in-water remote ship surveys using a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) on three vessels managed by Wilson ASA. The first of these was completed on the Wilson Fedje in December 2019 by a surveyor from Høvik, Norway.
DNV GL’s latest survey was conducted in July on another Wilson-managed vessel in Bergen, Norway with a remote surveyor attending the survey from DNV GL’s hub in Piraeus, Greece. All three surveys were performed in collaboration with VUVI, a Norwegian inspection company certified by DNV GL to perform underwater inspections for ships and offshore platforms using ROVs.
DNV GL maritime chief executive Knut Ørbeck-Nilssen said this collaboration enables a new approach to remote surveys at a time when sending surveyors to ships became more challenging due to travel restrictions introduced during the coronavirus crisis.
“Naturally, the pandemic has pushed us to scale up the intensity of remote service delivery,” he said, “and we are fortunate that our longstanding commitment to digital advancement has meant we are well positioned to respond to the needs of our customers during this difficult time.”
Prior to the survey, a class surveyor reviewed hull drawings to optimise the level of assurance. During the inspection, the surveyor used VUVI’s sonar technology to scan the vessel’s bottom to locate the hull equipment, such as echosounder sensors, speedlog sensors and sea chests, while simultaneously assessing the general condition of the hull.
Seamless connectivity was ensured throughout the survey through a powerful router. Digital industry platform Veracity was used by VUVI, DNV GL and Wilson to ensure secure data transfer when saving and sharing the video stream from the remote survey.
Statutory and class regulations require two bottom surveys of a vessel within a 5-year period, with an interval of less than 36 months in between.
As more ships require remote surveys, BV has opened a new centre in the US for these services. It has seen increasing demand for remote inspection, and verification services in North America and has opened a new centre in Miami, Florida, and a surveyor office in Seattle, Washington state.
As an example of this increasing demand, Bureau Veritas has provided remote survey services for three vessels operated in Caribbean trades by Florida-based Tropical Shipping.
Tropical’s general manager Michael Wardwell has seen the safety and cost reduction benefits of remote surveys.
“Using remote surveys has allowed us to meet various requirements including the ability to complete class surveys in locations commercial flights are not servicing, as well as reducing the risk of Covid-19 exposure to our crews,” said Mr Wardwell.
Meanwhile, Lloyd Register (LR) has partnered with STC Global to use artificial intelligence (AI) to analyse health, safety and environmental (HSE) data unlocking insight from volumes of incident data captured by HSE functions.
LR has integrated AI with root-cause analysis for the first time to improve HSE management.
This joint venture will produce a suite of incident prevention solutions using LR’s SafetyScanner AI data processing tool with STC’s Comet platform and machine learning.
ABS collaborated with Chevron Shipping to trial digital fleet management on a Suezmax tanker, implementing a project using sensor technologies to support remote analytics and enable condition-based surveys.
Chevron’s lightering vessel Pegasus Voyager is the first vessel to receive ABS’ maintenance optimisation notation SMART-MHM (machinery health monitoring). Another Chevron tanker, Polaris Voyager, is expected to receive this notation later this year.
Chevron anticipates more vessels in its fleet of 28 ships will receive this notation in the future in recognition of its condition-based maintenance strategy. The energy company’s asset integrity team and the ABS digital solutions team are working closely on digital strategies to drive enhanced risk management, streamline the class interface and increase asset availability.
Chevron has already gained PMP (preventative maintenance) notations for its fleet and is employing a range of ABS remote survey services.
By implementing ABS SMART-MHM notation and investing in fleet sensor technologies, Chevron is supporting remote analytics and utilising machinery data for class crediting.
This notation enables both vessel owner and classification society to align maintenance strategies for Pegasus Voyager and Polaris Voyager to specific condition-based survey approaches.
Optimised ship operations will be discussed in depth during Riviera Maritime Media’s Vessel Optimisation Webinar Week, from 7 September. Use this link for more details and to register for these webinars