The pandemic is still ongoing and in the shipping sector we daily witness many changes to marine operations, from ship delays to port closures, as well as an increase in safety regulations while crew changeover issues are in the spotlight. However, despite the challenges, maritime stakeholders are trying to adapt to the new reality,  searching for digital solutions to continue operations as much as possible. 

Remote Audits 

Due to physical distancing, digital tools and solutions are more important than ever. Therefore, classification societies, PSC and more shipping organizations are opting for remote surveys and audits, with less physical presence, showing how fruitful digitalization can be. 

In order for a vessel to sail, it has to undergo a number of inspections. Traditionally, the inspector conducts a close-up audit and examines the ship. But the physical distancing and the numerous health measures imposed, ask for less physical contact.  

As a result, many classification societies, including DNV GL and Bureau Veritas, are using technology to conduct remote inspections and surveys.  

Remote surveys and audits need an internet connection, while the typical need for documentation can be now sent to the relevant parties as pictures of the vessel’s affected area, along with the master’s statement. Obviously, no sophisticated equipment is important to conduct a remote audit. 

More specifically, DNV GL has been exploring how video could be a safe and more efficient alternative to some physical inspections. The process involves a member of the crew using a phone or tablet to film the asset in question and share the video with one of our maritime hubs. 

It is important to follow the guidance and understand the difficulties arising by remote inspections, given that the inspector hasn’t examined the vessel itself.  

Similarly, ABS launched, in an industry first, ten remote survey options, with an overall of 28 surveys and audits able to be conducted remotely, to assist the industry in this challenging environment. 

It should be reminded that USCG has launched port state control (PSC) guidance, ensuring that supply chains remain open, vessel surveys are conducted and related certificates are issued. 

Digital Certificates 

Another solution that came to the surface and has been widely applauded by the shipping industry is the digital certificates.  

The digital certificates provide significant efficiency gains for the maritime sector given the current situation and the barriers in physical interaction, by reducing the administrative burdens for stakeholders and also reducing the document handling costs.  

In addition, they provide a further digitalized interaction, and ease all relevant parties to having access to the digital certificates when they are published. 

Recently, to assist the seafarers in need, SafeBridge announced free access to its digital certificate management platform, in line with its #BeSafe campaign, in efforts to mitigate the impact of the pandemic on the shipping industry and ensure seafarers’ wellness onboard. 

Seafarers’ certificates have been an issue the past months, making seafarers unable to update or acquire their certificates. Thus, many key shipping organizations, such as the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS), have issued guidelines on how to manage seafarers’ certificate during this time. The guidelines include “Specification of the alternative or short-term certificates or documents that can be issued to the ship (e.g. electronic short-term certificates)”. 

Overall, we should all understand that digitalization is a means, rather than the end; The industry has still a long way to go to overcome the barriers and obstacles of the pandemic. The patience and courage shown by every sector of the shipping industry should be applauded, while the efforts taken by key shipping stakeholders to find quick and direct solutions have already proven fruitful. 

Keep in mind what Pablo Picasso has said “Action is the foundational key to all success.