As we approach the second anniversary of the lockdown, it’s a good time to reflect on changes within marine consultancy and how as an industry, we have rebounded and are stronger and more resilient in our ability to support the maritime community.
A significant part of our company’s work is undertaking audits on Dynamic Positioning, (DP), Class vessels and performing inspections to support the Offshore Inspection Vessel Database (OVID).
Traditionally these activities required personnel to board vessels during the audit and inspection processes. However, at the onset of COVID-19, the curtain came down on international travel, and our ability to visit vessels. An alternative method to perform these vessel-based activities was needed.
It was recognized, even before COVID, that we needed to move our services into a digital platform to perform services remotely. So Global Maritime had already been developing ‘Remotely Witnessed DP Audits’, and we were in an advanced position to deploy remote operations. The pandemic simply accelerated these remotely witnessed DP Audits and OVID’s as well as Remote Certification of Approval and Sail Away. We knew we could apply the same rigour and competency to undertake witnessing of surveys remotely, through our standardized framework of inspection.
Remote Witness via 4G
When performing Remote Witnessed DP trials, the vessel crew ‘live-streams’ audit activities to a Global Maritime marine surveyor based in an office. The vessel and the offices are connected via a 4G or satellite connection. This allows real-time communication of data from the vessel to the surveyor with an exceptional quality and volume of data. If required, the client or a Class Authority can simultaneously monitor the trial.
Working remotely means the DP operator handles the vessel without any distraction. And because all data is transferred in real-time, the auditor can immediately respond to any anomalies identified. As the activity requires a large volume of data to be transferred digitally, it does pose a potential cyber security threat. This risk must be addressed at the outset with mitigations put in place.
The ability to perform remote witnessed activities doesn’t come without costs. Both hardware and software must be installed on the vessel. The software allows the live-streaming to take place and hardware including cameras, headsets and tablets all incur additional costs. This is offset by the reduced travel and accommodation costs.
The ability for Global Maritime to perform remotely witnessed DP Audits during the pandemic was essential for ship owners and operators. With little travel permitted during this period, the traditional mode of vessel audits was practically eliminated. Now, this remote witnessing technology is a post-COVID opportunity. At a time when we are looking to minimize unnecessary travel and lower carbon emissions, this service provides a competent and robust audit trail for vessel assurance and inspection.
Hi to Hybrid
Is the traditional form of inspection now at an end? Not quite. The reality is that there are advantages with both in-person inspections and remote witnessing. Being physically onsite allows you to build rapport with vessel personnel and expedite fault finding. However, remote inspections necessitate greater engagement by vessel personnel who become more involved in the process. It’s also possible to acquire huge amounts of data during inspections. This information can support post-inspection diagnostics assessing failure modes and high frequency alarm lists for future operations. Now a mix of inspection solutions exist that offer greater versatility.
The future of vessel inspections and audits is yet to be defined. There are definite benefits to remote witnessing. And the standardized framework to deploy inspection and audit activities permits the dissemination of lessons learned, creating training opportunities for personnel.
Five years from now, I’m sure the technology will have again transformed. The deployment of 5G networks and the advent of ‘web3’ digital integration will increase exponentially. The use of VR/AR headsets will be commonplace. Developing a virtual space, a ‘Marine Metaverse’ will revolutionize inspections, audits, and marine operations. An immersive reality where vessel audits and inspections can be performed in a seamless digital environment.
COVID-19 has changed our attitudes and behaviors to work, accelerating the requirement to provide support remotely, over the last two years. By developing new and enhanced ways of working we can continue to support the maritime community with greater responsiveness without compromising on quality or competency.