In an exclusive interview with SAFETY4SEA, James Collett, Managing Director Sperry Marine & President of CIRM, the organisation dedicated to developing and sharing global standards for shipborne electronic equipment and systems, refers to key barriers and opportunities towards a widespread adoption of digitalization within maritime industry.
espite the challenges, Mr. Collett notes that industry has made a good start in embracing digitalization. However, a smarter future is not optional for shipping but it has become essential for meeting decarbonization and energy efficiency targets.
SAFETY4SEA: What are the industry’s key ‘smart challenges’ up to 2030 from your perspective?
James Collett: The biggest challenge from a technology perspective is clearly how we integrate the new systems and processes that enable digitalisation and maintain what remains an enviable safety record. Last year we signed a strategic agreement with DNV to help class and OEMs like Sperry Marine work collaboratively and support safety as we embrace concepts like remote control and unmanned vessels which will fundamentally affect how we operate assets.
There are improvements we can make as an industry, not least reducing the annual number of marine casualties and incidents and reducing the role of human error in those incidents. Safety of Navigation-related Port State Control deficiencies are in the top five of all deficiencies reported by the Paris MOU.
Improving conditions for humans onboard through automation and remote control of complex and admin-heavy tasks can also create a better work/life environment, making it more attractive as a job and helping to retain high motivated and trained seafarers.
S4S: What are your top priorities on CIRM agenda taking the helm as President?
J.C.: For CIRM members, it is clear that safe adoption of digitalisation and automation is going to require us to collaborate on standards and ways to increase interoperability. That will unleash the potential for innovation in a way that we can use to ensure meets or even exceeds current and future regulations on safety of navigation and operational efficiency.
S4S: How could standardization of smart technologies benefit the industry? What is CIRM’s work towards that end?
J.C.: We know that major changes to vessel operations such as greater remote control or unmanned ships are going to need an IMO regulatory structure standing behind them. New standards for performance and for interoperability will need to be agreed and then met.
CIRM’s members are specialists across multiple marine technology domains with decades of experience in technology standards and interoperability. This knowledge is used in submissions to the IMO that help to inform the development of regulation and enable the safe adoption of technology; there is no one better positioned to support innovative companies in smart technology to access this market than CIRM.
S4S: From your perspective, what are the key barriers towards a more digital shipping and how could the industry overcome them?
J.C.: There are a couple of issues that are currently barriers to greater digitalization in maritime. The first is obviously cyber security. Without being overly dramatic, I think it’s fair to say we have so far been lucky that more and more serious attacks have been avoided but we cannot rely on luck, we need end-to-end cyber security from ship to shore to port and across the supply chain.
Next, we need a general upgrading of the hardware and software found onboard ship. Old PCs running obsolete operating systems won’t cut it and unpatched software from bespoke suppliers is not just a risk to security, it’s a barrier to smarter functions, automated data capture and an integrated approach to vessel operations.
The final piece is a step away from proprietary, often fragmented systems created by ship suppliers who are too focussed on sub systems. By integrating on-board sub systems and functional systems, it is possible to have systems that are more reliable and manageable with better operational information.
S4S: How would you describe the digitalization uptake amid COVID-19? How has the overall pandemic affected smart shipping?
J.C.: If we take the data from the satellite connectivity providers as a guide we can see that the pandemic had a significant effect on data consumption. This was unavoidable in some cases – especially for vessel crew – but it also served as proof that remote access for data capture, class survey, maintenance and troubleshooting are technologies whose time has come. It’s a tragic situation that isn’t over yet, but ironically it has helped to prove the business case for a lot of the digital tools we will need in future.
S4S: In your view, has the industry been successful in embracing digitalization? What should be the next steps?
J.C.: Given the challenges we have in terms of an unconsolidated fleet and a culture of competition that tends to stifle collaboration, the industry has made a good start. Initiatives like the Smart Maritime Network and in particular industry projects on just-in-time port arrivals demonstrate there is an appetite for more and better co-operation to use digitalisation to effect powerful change.
S4S: What is your advice to operators to enhance their vessel performance by utilizing new technologies?
J.C.: It may be relatively easy to collect a large volume of data on your operations but the ability to act on what it tells you is not always straightforward. It’s also possible now to connect the many devices on a modern digital bridge, but to do so safely and remain compliant requires a specialist approach.
For many operators, digitalisation is something they may not be able to do by themselves. The scale of a digitalisation programme requires collaboration with a partner that knows your business and can help you achieve tangible improvements at a speed that suits your operations.
S4S: If you could change one thing across the industry from your perspective, what would this be and why?
J.C.: Apart from making them all Sperry Marine customers, I would say it would be a co-ordinated approach to vessel design that makes it easier and safer for seafarers to use technology. Not only would that make familiarity with different systems less of an issue, if there were common standards for data capture then we could safely remove more and more of the administrative work from bridge staff and free them up to focus on the important tasks.
S4S: What are your targets for the coming months? Do you have any projects/ plans you would like to share with industry stakeholders?
J.C.: Sperry Marine continues to help customers with, and in some cases get started on, their digital journeys. We have rolled out the first truly networked bridge solution, VisionMaster Net which opens the door to connecting more bridge systems and capturing the data they contain.
Our SperrySphere digital platform is key to this process as it provides a cyber-secure means of connecting the back of bridge IT network with the regulated navigation OT network at the front of the bridge. Secure transfer of chart data to the ECDIS as well as navigation data from the bridge to elsewhere on the ship and to shore, offers a completely new degree of transparency and functionality.
S4S: What is your key message to industry stakeholders with respect to a smarter future?
J.C.: I think my message is twofold. Firstly, CIRM is there to assist in understanding how new technology can be safely adopted and integrated into shipping operations and there is a lot to be gained from membership and getting involved in its work. Secondly, a smarter future for shipping is not an optional extra; it’s going to be essential to meet the performance efficiency challenges we have ahead of us as we move into the era of low carbon shipping. This will create huge pressure for change and present opportunities for differentiation; it’s a challenge to grasp.