Following publication of ABS' Guidance Notes on Smart Function Implementation in November, the class society’s senior vice president for engineering and technology Derek Novak explained to Maritime Digitalisation & Communications the future of smart shipping.
Real-time monitoring techniques, data analytics applications and streaming data for troubleshooting and operation assistance are changing vessel operations and management. Machine learning algorithms, used to extract data correlations from processes on board are being deployed and developed on many fronts.
At the industry’s leading edge, a fully instrumented ultra large container ship could have as many as 7,000 channels monitored for situational awareness and alarms, with as little as 0.05 seconds between each measurement. This ship could have 2,800 sensors hardwired into its main control system, collecting and storing up to 2 GB of data every day.
However, the industry has embraced smart ships by plugging in new systems and software and seeing how they work. For asset owners, the need is to bring together what have so far been piecemeal developments, while service providers need to gain more tangible recognition of their products and services in a class context.
Not every owner knows where to start and for some, using new technology can be overwhelming. There has been a spectrum within the industry of adoption. Many owners are interested in using technology to their advantage but are trying to figure out how to get smart functions on board.
The key goal of the recently-released ABS Guidance Notes on Smart Function Implementation is to recognise that the industry is embarking on a journey towards smart functionality, with more smart equipment and systems being installed on vessels every day.
ABS defines smart as a system that collects, manages and analyses data to allow the people using that technology to make more informed decisions.
The process to implement these technologies needs to be flexible to allow for further advances, but to start the process owners need to have a specific goal in mind, for example to improve operational efficiency, to make surveys less intrusive, or to improve performance of the asset overall.
The ABS guidance helps owners use technology to achieve their operational targets. It takes the process one step at a time to leverage the technology, providing a well-designed framework that will let them set and achieve their goals.
A good proportion of the industry is ready to embrace smart technologies because there is increasingly demanding regulation, which is driving the collection and reporting of data that has a smart element.
Shipping is increasingly understanding how to use technology to find value and to benefit their operations.
As the benefits become more embedded, flag states and regulators recognise that having this information available could provide some equivalency to the way requirements are now being fulfilled.
Technology will always have to be proven and accepted. But, in the longer term, the need to open and inspect equipment on regular intervals should be reduced. There will be early adopters and smart functionality is a philosophy the industry will get squarely behind.
Emissions and autonomy
There will be a greater need for smart information to meet IMO 2020 and IMO’s requirements for carbon emissions reductions after 2030 and 2050. A lot of data will need to be collected and analysed – much more than now – on vessel operations to meet a challenge on that scale.
Smart functionality is also part of the journey to autonomy. Years ago, most vessels were pretty basic in terms of data technology and humans made the majority of the decisions.
Now, we collect and analyse data so that humans can make smarter decisions. The way shipping is heading, the next step is semi-autonomy where machines make decisions with humans providing oversight and intervention.
The last step is full autonomy. For that, a lot more information about operations and maintenance will be needed. To go down that path, shipping really needs to take that step fully into smart before it can truly go towards autonomy.