The more you know: digital tools to unlock UTM data analysis

Class surveyors have long used Ultrasonic Thickness Measurement (UTM) assessments to establish the acceptance level of corrosion in the hull structure. Such assessments enable them to make decisions affecting classification or statutory certification and services, thus helping ship owners safeguard their vessel’s seaworthiness and the crew’s safety.

However, each UTM assessment generates tens of thousands of data points that surveyors must comb through to extract the most important information. As the global fleet grows, the need for UTM assessments is increasing, so improved reporting tools and processes are needed now to handle all this data.

A critical aspect of ship surveys, a UTM is in fact a mandatory assessment for all steel Bureau Veritas (BV) classed vessels during their five-year renewal survey. It can also be requested by ship owners as part of their Condition Assessment Program (CAP) survey. Performed by third-party Thickness Measurement (TM) service providers, the assessment results in a report that is then validated by BV surveyors.

A simple assessment with a vast data output

Throughout a vessel’s service life, its steel hull structure is subject to corrosion, weakening and other wear and tear. Diagnostic measurements like UTM help class surveyors make recommendations to ship owners as to the necessary maintenance schedule to keep the vessel compliant and safe. 

Historically, UTM assessments and reporting have demanding and time consuming. A single assessment can generate upwards of 20,000 individual data points from different areas of the vessel. TM companies traditionally log these points on a spreadsheet, from which the report is generated and sent for a surveyor’s approval.

This decentralized system heightens the risk of data loss and requires each party to account for different technical criteria. Furthermore, each report tends to be viewed in a vacuum, with little consideration of bigger-picture trends that can be highlighted through comparative analysis of the data.

picture of Vincent Joly

SmartShip manager

Bureau Veritas Marine & Offshore

The case of UTM assessments and reporting shows us that there is an ocean of data out there, waiting to be put to use. The more we can facilitate the analysis of this data, the better we can serve our clients with better information and predictive, tailored advice. The key advantages of this move into increased data analysis are undeniable, for ship owners, charterers, service providers and class. The data is there, all that remains is a question of consolidation and leverage.

Putting the numbers to work

TM companies can take hours to compile a report, which shipowners, charterers and surveyors must then trawl through to find and analyze the relevant information. The resulting 100-page document is not user-friendly, from creation to usage.

While the reports can contain a wealth of data, the process of creating them need to be simplified. As such, UTM reports are excellent candidates for digitalization and should be housed in a centralized database.

Comparative analysis between reports would then enable the highlighting of trends over time, and a clearer picture of the effects of cargos and operating conditions on hull strength. This can support the timely maintenance of a single ship, or help predict outcomes across an entire fleet – and all in a time-efficient and user-friendly way.

A specific platform for ship owners and charterers with dashboards for UTM reports analysis is also under development. With the owner’s agreement and oversight, these dashboards can be seen by key chartering players to facilitate vessels’ structural assessment and accelerate the discussions.

An end-to-end tool for UTM reporting

BV Marine & Offshore’s new digital tool for UTM reporting, UTM Digital Platform , is an end-to-end solution for the reporting process.

  • TM companies can submit data and generate reports
  • The process is simplified with auto-filled regulatory and class criteria
  • Several users can collaborate simultaneously on a single report
  • The report is shared and validated with BV surveyors on the platform
  • The platform provides a user-friendly connection between the three parties: BV surveyors, UTM companies and ship owners

Setting course for data-driven digital classification

Building a database from UTM assessment results unlocks a wealth of possibilities in offering analytics as a service to charterers and owners. With improved insights into data trends, BV surveyors would have increased monitoring capabilities at their fingertips. This could mean a host of improved services to benefit ship owners:

  • Accelerating R&D formulas for ship design
  • Reperforming strength analysis of the ship to extend its lifespan beyond the average 25-year duration
  • Moving increasingly towards data-driven digital class programs

This will be supported with the Digital Twin technologies  which BV has started to deploy  including 3D visualization. For example, the results of a UTM assessment will be stored in the model in precisely the point where they are taken. The data will then be readily accessible to all stakeholders in that vessel for its whole lifespan.

BV Marine & Offshore understands the importance of harnessing digital tools to take the shipping industry to the next level in terms of operational performance and safety. As a long-standing partner of ship owners and their service providers, we work side by side with industry stakeholders to understand the challenges they face and develop reliable and relevant solutions. Our range of software solutions enables owners and operators to comply with rules and regulations, track analyses and optimize design.