Making Way for Digital Shipping’s Future


Leading classification society, ClassNK enters 2018 responsive to the sector’s new challenges and opportunities. Increased digitalisation has been a dominant theme for ClassNK over the last 12 or so months, as it seeks to further enhance the quality of the technical services it provides to ensure safe and efficient vessel operation.

Advanced data analytics are triggering dramatic changes in the way all industrial sectors function. While maritime stakeholders are cognizant of the opportunities for efficiency and performance improvements, many remain cautious.

This guardedness often stems from concerns over data security, integrity and ownership. Sympathetic to these worries,  ClassNK has established a wholly-owned subsidiary Ship Data Center Co. Ltd. (ShipDC). ShipDC operates a land-based data center in which information from ship VDRs and other sources is collated and securely stored for utilisation in Big Data applications.

Greater dependence on data and connected operations also creates new risks. Like many industries today, commercial shipping is wrestling with the issue of cyber-security. The past year has been punctuated by a number of high-profile cyber intrusions, which have highlighted the sort of vulnerabilities both to back-office functions and actual vessel operation that malevolent actors inhabiting information space may seek to exploit.

Recognising that this problem isn’t going to go away, ClassNK is collaborating with United States Maritime Research Center (USMRC) in a research initiative aimed at building a maritime cyber assurance framework.

Outcomes from this joint endeavor will be integrated by ShipDC, and will provide a foundation for establishing greater cyber resilience more broadly among vessel operators. In fact, ClassNK believes that class should be driving the implementation of maritime cyber assurance standards not only for a new generation of Big Data solutions but for existing equipment and integrated industrial control systems. Moreover, it has to interface with the users of these systems.

Implementation of these standards will serve not only to protect Big Data usage but also contribute to supporting the uninterrupted operation of marine engineering, cargo management and navigation functions.

Class also has a responsibility to develop auditing standards based on empirical research to assist the industry to transition smoothly to data-centric operations. Again, the responsibility needs to look beyond technology alone and to consider the human element.

In this respect, ClassNK is supportive of the work of industry associations such as BIMCO on the formulation of practically-focused guidelines for owners and crew.

To be truly scalable, the principles of digitalization need to be embedded in all aspects of operations. ClassNK CMAXS LC-A and e-GICSX – a condition monitoring platform for the entire engine room – offers just such a solution. Undergoing continual revision, the CMAXS LC-A and e-GICSX provides automated diagnoses of the actual condition of on-board machinery.

In this way, the CMAXS LC-A and e-GICSX assists crews to optimize operations by identifying patterns in machinery performance indicative of impending failure, which may otherwise have gone undetected until it was too late.

Aside from functioning as an early warning system to prevent machinery damage, minimize downtime and reduce major repairs, the classification society is now exploring the system’s inherent potential for streamlining traditional class surveys.

While Big Data may continue to provide the big headlines in 2018, shipping realities mean that there are plenty more ‘conventional’ ways to make the industry more efficient. In 2017, for example, ClassNK became the world’s first classification society to receive authorisation from the Liberian Registry to provide Liberian flagged vessels with electronic certificates for statutory surveys, including Load Line, SOLAS, MARPOL, MLC among others.

Developed in accordance with IMO guidelines, ClassNK’s e-Certificates enable secure transmission of certificates from ship to shore and vice versa. Most importantly, the system includes an online function to determine the validity of certificates and to make sure that they have not been falsified or tampered with.

Furthermore, it addresses growing calls from owners and seafarers for the paperwork load needed for compliance to be lifted. More generally, as one of the world’s leading class societies, it is ClassNK’s responsibility to support and develop thinking on new vessel designs, and 2017 was no exception. During the year, ClassNK issued new Guidelines for Liquefied Hydrogen (LH2) Carriers.

This marked a significant milestone for a material that holds considerable potential as a source of clean energy which may contribute to the efforts for a  zero-emission society. Carrying LH2 by ship would be an efficient way to move large volumes over long distances, but the IGC code currently lacks definitive requirements that take into account the associated hazards of handling and carrying LH2, which must be kept at temperatures below −253°C.

As ever, 2017 also proved a busy year for major rule changes on marine environmental protection, with highlights including updated guidelines for exhaust gas cleaning systems (EGCS) and ballast water management systems (BWMS). Meanwhile, ClassNK expects strong interest to emerge for its ClassNK-PEERLESS software in 2018, which can easily convert massive analogue data to CAD format data with high-resolution 3D laser scanners. This system can shorten the time and tasks for data preparation required to support the installation of such systems  in existing ships.

Sea News, January 5

Baibhav Mishra
Author: Baibhav Mishra