The COVID-19 crisis has been unprecedented in its impact on the maritime industry. Customers needed to continue survey operations as well as newbuilding projects. Solutions were required to help the industry get moving again, but in a way that gave all stakeholders confidence that not only traditional class and safety standards were being upheld, but also that exacting measures were in place to attempt to minimise infection risk, explains Tijmen Klamer, Head of Section, Class Systematics Data and Operation Centre at DNV GL – Maritime

At DNV GL, we worked to ensure business continuity and keep delivering, despite the challenges of the COVID-19 crisis. As far as possible, our offices have remained fully operational around the world and our employees remained on the job, either in the office, on location, or at home, to help keep vessels and business running.

As the COVID crisis began to impact the industry, we notified our customers that we would generally accept the coronavirus situation as an exceptional circumstance in terms of granting postponement of surveys, applying a force majeure clause where attendance on board was not possible. We also developed a process for granting those three-month postponements of renewal/intermediate/annual surveys and they are applied on a case by case basis.

In the cases where we as DNV GL are authorised to handle statutory certificates, we also reached out to the responsible flag administrations to seek their approval. From June through to August, onboard inspections returned to more normal levels again, but as we moved into September the number of postponement requests increased again and we have been working with customers to help fulfil these.

Keeping the fleet running

For DNV GL, one of the key areas was keeping the fleet in service running, by making sure that wherever possible surveys could continue to be delivered – even when a surveyor could not attend the vessel. During the pandemic DNV GL has used the remote survey option through the globally available 24/7 DATE (Direct Access to Technical Experts) services. This unique DNV GL service has proven to be of significant value to our customers in these challenging times and allowed to ensure safety and regulatory compliance through the use of modern technology.

So, rather than scrambling to invent something new, we were able to ramp up an already successful existing service. With the first trials in 2018, and full fleet wide access from February 2019, DNV GL has pioneered this service in ship classification. By March of this year, the service had already been rapidly adopted by customers, with over 15,000 remote surveys conducted and almost 25% of all surveys being delivered remotely. During the crisis, remote survey requests have ramped up significantly, with half of all vessels now having used the service and the number of remote surveys increasing 33%, to over 300 a week.

The service has also expanded to trial the first remote periodic surveys, even though most remain for minor conditions of class. Not all surveys can be completed remotely, but DNV GL’s survey request system on Veracity can automatically indicate whether a survey can be executed remotely or not. Delivered from specialists in one of DNV GL’s operational centres in Hamburg, Oslo, Houston, Piraeus and Singapore, coverage is ensured around the clock. Remote surveys result in considerable savings in operational downtime as well as travel time and expenses.

DNV GL also worked to provide component and material certification (CMC) services remotely where needed during the pandemic. However, especially at the beginning of the outbreak, travel and access restrictions are being applied dynamically to deal with the outbreak, and this may affect your ability to make use of our services.

Where possible, DNV GL has applies our CMC remote survey scheme. This service is provided by dedicated hubs ensuring remote and continuous availability of competent and qualified personnel. Already under normal circumstance this unique DNV GL service has proven to be of significant value. It supports our customers even better in fulfilling their business objectives and requirements. In these challenging times we see a rapid increase of users of this advanced technology.

New services

Alongside remote surveys generally, DNV GL launched Machinery Maintenance Connect (MMC) a new, remote approach to the machinery planned maintenance system (MPMS). Instead of requiring surveyors to travel to each individual vessel and go onboard, machinery data can be processed via algorithms and presented to customers in a digital dashboard – enabling the survey of a complete fleet in one process and unlocking new insights into vessel and fleet performance.

By using the data from the vessels, alongside a powerful learning algorithm, DNV GL can remotely perform the maintenance survey of a customer’s whole fleet in one process, saving time and reducing the disruption of daily operations. In one case DNV GL completed surveys on 49 vessels in roughly four hours, something that would normally take 50 separate onboard surveyor visits. And the data is all right there – easily and directly accessible by management in real time.

When owners start sharing vessel machinery data with DNV GL, after accessing the MMC app in Veracity, the data for all vessels can be seen immediately. A minimum of one year’s data must be provided before digital MPMS surveys can be performed.

The MMC system provides a complete breakdown of any maintenance already completed and overdue, with the dates of the work. By collating and presenting the data owners and operators can access data in real time to create a maintenance plan that can predict the requirements of individual vessels and, with AIS, utilise repair yards local to the position of the vessel.

Currently, DNV GL has more than 300 vessels using the scheme, with over 100 surveys conducted to date. As the service develops DNV GL is examining the potential use of the MMC approach for other survey types. MMC is available to all ship owners and operators, whether the vessels are DNV GL classed or not.

DNV GL also launched a new certification in infection prevention for the maritime industry (CIP-M) to support customers in their response to COVID-19. This helped owners and operators to work towards resuming safer operations and enabled them to demonstrate they have procedures and systems in place for the proper prevention, control, and mitigation of infection, to protect their customers, passengers and crews.

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