Smart ships


Smart ships at a glance

Marine actors often equate smart ships with the exciting technologies they use onboard – the Internet of Things (IoT), artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, etc. However, smart shipping is not about any one technology or set of solutions. Rather, it focuses on how different technologies can be used to achieve pre-defined objectives. 

Bureau Veritas defines the concept of smart ship as addressing the digitalization of:

  • Ship’s systems
  • Ship’s onboard processes and operations
  • Ship’s management and operation processes from shore

Smart shipping is a strategic approach using the data it captures purposefully, monitoring systems and decision processes to improve safety, efficiency and environmental performance.

Making the industry-wide transition to smart shipping will therefore require the collaboration of charterers, ship owners and managers, shipyards, technology providers and classification societies. 

Why should I make my ship smarter?

Smart shipping provides numerous benefits to ship owners and managers, that could be summarized as:

  • Being more sustainable by improving ship energy efficiency
  • Being more efficient in internal processes through collaboration, increased ship connectivity, automated onboard reporting, improved monitoring and decision support from shore
  • Saving operational costs by optimizing ship maintenance and fleet utilization
  • Being safer and secured through resilient software, robust data infrastructure and cybersecurity

In the context of the energy transition there may be numerous options available to shipowners for mid- and long-term GHG reduction. However, in the immediate term the most rational and profitable solution lies in leveraging digitalization. This enables operations to be optimized, leading to better onboard practices and ship operations planning. 

Vicent Joly

Smartship Manager

Bureau Veritas Marine & Offshore

When shipowners come looking for a profitable, short-term solution to reducing their GHG emissions, I always point to digitalization. By leveraging automation and smart systems, ship managers can transform their data into actions. By improving the connectivity, contextualization and availability of data in real-time, managers can improve onboard practices through remote decision support and drive down emissions.

Bureau Veritas services for smart ships

To support marine stakeholders pursue their smart strategies, Bureau Veritas offers a range of SMART notations composed of four groups based on the lifecycle of the data used by the digital solutions:

  • SMART (_ 1) “Computer-based ships” covers the functional safety of computer-based systems and digital solutions generating data onboard
  • SMART (_ 2) “Connected ships” covers the ship-to-shore data transfers, the means of collection and remote access to ship’s data, also called “data infrastructure.” This group also includes cyber security requirements.
  • SMART (_ 3) “Augmented ships” covers data-driven operating models from shore, including ship monitoring, remote support and the optimization of ship’s efficiency for operational and environmental performance.
  • SMART (_ 4) “Autonomous ships” covers the autonomous functions onboard, from the capability to operate the ship remotely up to fully autonomous ships.
Smartship tiers

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The SMART(_ _) notation combines a letter and a number. The number indicates the smart groups described above. The letter indicates the smart function’s associated scope:

  • H for hull
  • M for machinery systems
  • N for navigation systems
  • MH for machinery health monitoring
  • EnE for energy efficiency

X for any other smart function.

Smart ships FAQs

  • Can any vessel be a smart ship?

    Yes. “Smart ship” does not refer to a particular vessel type but rather to the vessel’s capacities based on the digital solutions and processes adopted onboard and/or onshore for pre-defined objectives.

  • Are all smart ships autonomous?

    No. Autonomous vessels are considered smart ships, but not all smart ships are necessarily autonomous or remotely operated.

  • How do I keep my smart ship data secure?

    Shipowners must comply with IMO Resolution MSC.428 (98), a global regulation requiring all ships to include cyber risk management within their safety management systems. Bureau Veritas also provides Rules and notations for cyber security (NR659), supporting equipment and system providers, shipyards, and ship-owners in addressing cyber security threats through design and operational measures.

  • Are smart ships good for CII compliance?

    CII requirements applies to ships regardless of their smart capabilities. Bureau Veritas’ CII REALTIME notation covers the digital solutions onboard and onshore that enable continuous CII monitoring. This new notation will support shipowners in monitoring and making the right decisions to ensure that their ships will have the necessary rating to remain operational.

  • Is smart technology expensive?

    Digitalization is the most cost-effective way to improve the energy efficiency of ships in operation. However, digital solutions’ potential to reduce the GHG emissions from ships should not be compared in strategic terms with design optimizations (e.g., alternative fuels and means of propulsion). In fact, the two are complementary solutions.

  • What is ship automation?

    Ship automation is the process of integrating systems onboard vessels to support decision-making and manage routine tasks. Ship automation systems analyze vessel- and environment-specific factors, and use this information to remotely control and monitor onboard systems (e.g., sweater cooling, HVAC).

  • Do autonomous ships need crews?

    Yes. Crew members will remain the smartest element in designing, operating, supervising and maintaining smart systems.

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