Victoria: The need for the entire US towing industry to adopt new safety regulations plus support from the world’s largest class society represent a tipping point for app-based compliance software, suggests Helm Operations chief executive Ron deBruyne
One year after acquisition by ClassNK, Helm Operations has made full use of its new backing to extend the reach of the operations, safety and maintenance software that first caught the eye of the world’s largest classification society.
With shipowner references that include worldwide brands such as Crowley Marine Services, Svitzer, SMIT, Seabulk and Seaspan, Helm Operations and its software solutions are by no means unrecognised in the industry.
However, deBruyne says: “ClassNK has certainly expanded our opportunities globally, with new introductions made to potential clients in Europe, Southeast Asia and South America. What they have also brought is the backing to ensure that our app-based maintenance managing and reporting package Helm CONNECT delivers on its potential.”
DeBruyne is clear that the defining feature of software development should be end-user experience. However complex the procedure, the user’s decisions should be simple, straightforward and easy to make.
“People are what make the shipping and offshore industries work,” says deBruyne. “Operational software should act in support of people, so what we do at Helm is make management tools that are as easy to use as possible, to enhance crew efficiency within the framework of compliance. Our software is designed for crews and engineers, but also designed with them and tested by them. We take our cues from the stakeholders who are typically ignored in the software development process.”
Helm CONNECT, the app-based maintenance and inspection software package, represents the culmination of this approach, deBruyne says.
Helm CONNECT is expected to be a key tool supporting the US inland shipping industry’s compliance with ‘SubChapter M’, the US Coast Guard regulation covering US towing vessel operations.
Subchapter M will be published before the end of 2015. It will demand the homogenization of safety procedures across a previously self-regulating industry, including adherence to comprehensive inspections requiring towing companies to define their safety protocols and audit their performance against those standards.
DeBruyne says that 80% of the Subchapter M regulations relate to preventive maintenance. “The primary focus for compliance must be the development of operating practices that are easy to follow; the law does not demand that operators have an electronic system in place for compliance, but clearly software can report and prove that vessel operators have followed procedures.”