COVID-19 pandemic has given an impetus to maritime authorities, ports and classification societies for facilitation of projects on digitalization and remote access. Those who had actively invested in such technologies before the pandemic have gained competitive advantages.
Rapid expansion of the coronavirus infection and transfer to remote work en masse has forced classification societies and port authorities accelerate introduction of digital technologies.
Convenient service for a convenient flag
In March 2020, the Liberian International Ship & Corporate Registry (LISCR) approved the use of RINA’s remote technology for inspections of Liberian flagged vessels. The flag of Liberia is among the most popular ones in international shipping. Other flag authorities are expected to follow LISCR.
RINA, the Italian classification society began trialling remote inspections as part of the society’s broader digitalisation initiative back in May 2019. This initiative included surveys, but also electronic certificates, fleet performance online monitoring tools, electronic logbooks, virtual reality training and general remote inspection techniques. Approximately 300 inspections have taken place so far.
Virtual but realistic
Remote inspection technology is in the focus of other leading classification societies. For example, DNV GL succeeded with the first remote delivery of a ship after an upsurge of COVID-19 in China. Qingdao Beihai Shipyard delivered the 325DWT Ore Yantai on 12 February 2020.
“Our digitalization initiatives are really paying off now. It is vital that our customers can continue to operate without disruption of class services; at the same time it is essential not to compromise the safety of crews and surveyors”, said Norbert Kray, Regional Manager Greater China, DNV GL.
According to him, there is a wide range of digital services, such as DATE, which provides 24/7 direct access to technical experts with short response times. DNV GL’s open data platform Veracity is another great example of how we connect with customers in the digital age. This portal lets customers share data to enhance ship performance and safety, use our Smart Survey Booking service, access electronic certificates, or use our digital apps for fleet management and other purposes. It also provides direct access to many other DNV GL services, rules, regulations and documents, all on demand without requiring physical presence.
“There is no doubt that many lessons are being learnt during the COVID-19 crisis. Once we have successfully fought the virus, I am sure we will always think twice before arranging a face-to-face meeting involving a long journey. We are discovering that a videoconference or Teams meeting is often just as effective. Quite apart from the pandemic, at DNV GL we will continue to pursue our digital strategy and improve our services, having seen how powerful they are especially in a crisis”, said Norbert Kray.
Bureau Veritas has also deployed remote inspection.
“During this difficult time, the Group is leveraging this digital experience to continue supporting its customers in real time. Remote inspection solutions are effective alternatives when there is limited or no physical access to site, when experts are not available immediately or when sites are affected by travel bans or restrictions”, says the company.
The French classification society offers different types of remote inspection via the internet involving a variety of gadgets including smart phones. Digital solutions with augmented 3D inspections can also be deployed.
What about Russia?
Russian Maritime Register of Shipping, in its turn, announced the maximum possible reduction of personal contacts during the operation process through transition to electronic communication within RS staff as well as between RS personnel and clients.
“Decisions on whether the compliance with RS requirements could be confirmed by applying any alternative measures, without physical presence of RS surveyor(s), are made individually on a case-by-case basis upon customers' requests”, said RS.
It also should be noted that in late 2019, the Presidium of RF Government’s Commission for Digital Development and Use of Information Technologies approved the Digital Transport and Logistics project of the Ministry of Transport. The project foresees creation of digital transport infrastructure for digital control of transport, coordination of different types of transport, ensuring safe transportation, introduction of unmanned transport facilities.
New prospects are opened for the port industry. First of all, it is applicable to automation of transshipment terminals. An example is Multipurpose Sea Cargo Complex Bronka in Saint-Petersburg where driveless electric trucks are planned for transportation of containers.
In general, there is no doubt that the experience of coronavirus crisis will boost fast development of digital technologies: with the economic effect not obvious earlier their advantages have been widely tasted by now.