The shipping industry has had to adopt remote working, regulator meetings, IT maintenance and surveys
This year’s outbreak of Covid-19 coronavirus is accelerating adoption of remote working, e-learning, remote inspection and advanced digitalisation. Shipping is heavily affected by the global coronavirus pandemic with companies forced to implement digitalisation technologies and promote remote management, network diagnostics and intervention.
Owners and managers cannot send engineers to ships, so are increasingly accessing IT networks remotely for software updates, cyber security upgrades and fault troubleshooting.
Regulators had to adapt to Covid-19, and World Health Organisation (WHO) recommendations. IMO cancelled face-to-face and committee meetings, then started conducting virtual meetings and extraordinary council meetings. On 23 April, 155 permanent representatives and liaison officers from 78 IMO member states, and one associate member, joined IMO secretary-general Kitack Lim in an extraordinary session, held by correspondence, of the IMO Council.
Mr Lim highlighted the need for seafarers to be designated as keyworkers and their need for safe passage to and from ships in ports.
On ships, seafarers are feeling more isolated and may be unable to complete crew changes and land-based training. There are estimated to be around 1.6M seafarers unable to leave their vessels or stranded onshore in accommodation away from their families.
This is encouraging higher bandwidth use on ships, investment in crew welfare and e-learning technologies. Satellite communications providers were boosting bandwidth to ships and introducing lower cost and free crew calls, including to charities such as Sailor’s Society and International Seafarers’ Welfare and Assistance Network.
More ships also implemented electronic training platforms. This growing trend led to Ocean Technologies Group increasing its scale and expertise by adding Seattle, US-based Maritime Training Services (MTS) to its growing group of companies.
MTS joins COEX, Seagull Maritime, Tero Marine and Videotel under the private equity-backed umbrella group that invests in advanced maritime training solutions.
Ocean Technologies Group chief executive Manish Singh says MTS enables the group to produce bespoke client-specific training programmes and enhance its technology rollout.
Mr Singh tells Maritime Optimisation & Communications Ocean Technologies will invest in e-learning technologies such as gamification, micro-learning, virtual and augmented reality, 3D animation and video content.
Classification societies are conducting remote ship inspections instead of sending surveyors on board as movement restrictions tighten.
ABS completed a pilot project using 3D digital models for class surveys and created a five-step process to simplify the scheduling and delivery of remote survey and audit requests. It extended remote audit and surveys to equipment and materials manufacturers and for drydocking extensions and radio renewals.
Bureau Veritas (BV) opened a remote survey centre in its north European head office in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, for remotely inspecting vessels through live streaming and smart devices.
BV has completed a full programme of tests and proof of concepts confirming relevant technologies are mature enough to enable remote surveys. Enabling technologies include optimised live-streaming solutions, connected devices and connectivity on ships and to the operations centre.
Smart devices include smart phones, tablets, Go-Pro cameras, smart glasses and augmented reality. Connectivity is provided by mobile phone networks of 4G and soon 5G.
BV tested different operating modes during development trials: operating offline, partly online, and fully online. An onboard client uses connected devices to display the ship’s condition in real time to a remote surveyor. These are applicable to classification surveys and specific statutory items which can be agreed by flag administrations.
There are multiple benefits to shipping companies, including speed of response, no travel or waiting time, quicker decision-making, live-streaming solutions, continuous improvement in service quality and cost controls. BV’s remote centre will carry out a combination of remote surveys with close proximity inspections and plan approvals.
RINA gained flag approval and secured its first shipping company for remote inspections. Liberian International Registry has approved RINA’s remote technology for inspecting Liberia-flagged vessels.
Shipowner d’Amico will trial this technology in a pilot remote inspection on its fleet. Drones will provide images and measurements to surveyors working remotely from the inspection site.
RINA started trialling remote inspections as part of its broader digitalisation initiative in May 2019. From then to February 2020 it completed around 300 remote inspections.
IMO virtual meetings
To ensure maritime regulations’ decisions continue, IMO is planning a series of virtual meetings and committee sessions. Its council proposed rescheduling IMO meetings that were postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic. IMO created a priority list of key meetings to be considered at the next extraordinary session on 4 May.
The proposal for virtual meetings gives priority to a regular session of the IMO Council, followed by meetings of the Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC).
This will be preceded by a virtual version of the seventh meeting of the Intersessional Working Group on Reduction of Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Ships. MEPC will be followed by a virtual Maritime Safety Committee (MSC). This will enable IMO to discuss e-navigation and communications developments and progress on regulations changes for testing autonomous ships. MSC was planning to approve several regulation and navigation route changes and initiatives in these areas.
Further council meetings will be held by correspondence over two months to allow time for member states to communicate on various agenda items.
IMO says resuming physical meetings will depend on guidance from the WHO, UK Government guidance and the national situation of IMO member states.
Riviera will host a series of free to attend 45-minute webinars on subjects ranging from maritime propulsion to vessel optimisation, ballast water management, maritime air pollution and maritime leaders among many others commencing 5 May 2020. Find a list of the webinars and register your interest now