Smartship, Smart Ship, Digital Ship, Autonomous ship

Client Corner: How well developed are smart ships?

Jul. 29 2020 - 6 min

Bureau Veritas answers key client questions about the advancement of smart shipping, including technical, regulatory and safety challenges, and areas of expertise to be developed.

Why develop smart ships?

Smart ships offer many benefits to ship owners and operators. Advanced sensor technology, data analytics and connectivity support onboard and remote monitoring and decision support systems for machinery and navigation equipment.

The integration of smart equipment enables operators to improve operational performance and efficiency, while reducing emissions, optimizing maintenance and controlling operating costs. Navigational aids improve safety by limiting collision and grounding risk, and support the development of autonomous navigation systems, which will further reduce reliance on crew.

What are the main challenges for developing smart ships?

For equipment and systems manufacturers, the key question is how to achieve certification in an unregulated area of technological development. System functionality and reliability, cyber security and data protection, product liability, onboard and onshore equipment integration and more must be considered.

Ship owners and operators are confronted by questions of high CAPEX and uncertainty as they choose among competing technologies. Meanwhile, classification societies and regulatory bodies need to develop standards, regulations and guidelines for all aspects of smart shipping, from equipment certification, to design assessment, to cyber security.

Do regulations currently exist for smart ships?

In 2006, IACS published UR E22, the first in a series of unified requirements addressing cyber resilience and the interplay among ship systems. The 2016 revision of these requirements includes specific testing standards for software certification and the integration of onboard equipment. In April 2020, the IACS Cyber Panel – chaired by Bureau Veritas’ Vincent Lagny – further published a standalone recommendation for Cyber Resilience, REC N° 166.

IMO has also released interim guidelines for autonomous ship trials, as well as guidelines to standardize user interfaces and data exchanged by e-navigation systems. An ISO working group for smart shipping is also developing general, standardized terminology for Maritime Autonomous Surface Ships (MASS).

At Bureau Veritas, we have issued Guidelines for Autonomous Shipping (NI 641), a Rules Note on Cyber Security (NR 659) and an additional service feature for smart ships in our updated NR 467 Rules for Steel Ships.

What asset types are suited to smart shipping?

Although all ships can theoretically be automated, there is a strong business case for automating already-connected and tech-enabled vessels. These include passenger ships, ships carrying sensitive cargo (e.g. LNG carriers), research vessels and offshore construction support vessels (which often have Dynamic Positioning systems). Inland navigation vessels are also interesting candidates for smart shipping, thanks to easy connectivity and well-defined routing.

As smart technology advances, different asset types will see varying levels of onboard integration based on individual needs. There is no one-size-fits-all model for smart shipping, and ship technologies may range from smart machinery to fully autonomous navigation systems.

What expertise will marine actors need to develop to achieve smart shipping?

Smart shipping will require flag states, classification societies, ship owners, equipment manufacturers and shipyards to develop standards for assessing the safety, reliability and functionality of automated and integrated systems.

This means improving systems engineering and cybernetics skills, as computer scientists develop new human-machine interfaces and machine learning technologies. These developments will help ships and systems recognize patterns, provide suggestions and ultimately make and execute decisions.

From a classification perspective, plan approval engineers and ship surveyors will need to learn new inspection techniques and standards. This will allow them to evaluate ship design and certify connected onboard systems and equipment using advanced testing and simulation techniques.