Digital ship in a tablet screen

Accelerating global demand for remote surveys

Jun. 30 2020 - 5 min

The Covid-19 crisis had immediate consequences for shipping, as worldwide quarantines restricted surveyors from going on board to conduct necessary inspections. Rather than leaving ships in limbo, the maritime industry rapidly turned to a new solution: remote surveys.

Remote surveys during Covid-19

While live streaming technologies for remote surveys had already been piloted, the Covid-19 pandemic accelerated their use across the shipping industry. Between March and June, hundreds of remote surveys for extending certificate validity and postponing periodical surveys were requested as a means of safely maintaining business continuity.

Thanks to our global network and digital tools, Bureau Veritas was able to conduct completely remote surveys for clients. Surveyors in Remote Survey Centers worldwide could connect with crewmembers via live streaming technology to assess vessel compliance. Crewmembers used a range of devices – from SmartGlasses to smartphones – to show surveyors around the ship, visiting areas in need of verification.

Read more about our remote survey centers

Technological and statutory limitations

As with all developing techniques and technologies, remote surveys are subject to certain conditions and limitations. Many ships do not have connectivity in all areas (e.g. engine rooms), making it difficult for surveyors to stay connected. While ships can be equipped with intranet networks, fixed routers or mobile hotspot routers to boost connectivity, most vessels are not yet equipped for sustained live streaming.

In addition, the scope of remote surveys in a post-Covid-19 world is restricted. When a requested survey includes statutory items – the scope of periodical statutory surveys is usually aligned with those of class surveys – the agreement of the relevant Flag Administrations is required. For now, this limits the practical applications of most remote surveys to administrative jobs and occasional surveys.

Building experience with evolving technologies

For remote surveys to be successful, owners and operators need to work with highly skilled surveyors with solid experience in physical surveys. Careful preparation and detailed coordination with the client – typically the ship’s technical manager or superintendent – is necessary to correctly and efficiently meet the required survey scope. Because of this, remote surveys currently require more preparation time than physical surveys.

Despite the unexpected scope to which remote surveys have been applied, the shipping industry has had the opportunity to use live streaming technology to an unprecedented extent. We have been able to provide clients with an optimized solution for low bandwidth, helping owners overcome connectivity issues and undergo remote surveys under sometimes-adverse conditions.

Looking forward, Bureau Veritas intends to build on the feedback from our clients, experts and remote survey centers. Our goal is to further develop our remote survey offer in line with technological and regulatory developments, which will keep us at the forefront of digital innovation.

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