Remote surveys are the new reality – but we will meet again

DNV GL Maritime CEO Knut Ørbeck-Nilssen embraces remote surveys, but reminds us that nature has equipped humans with the best sensors of all – our eyes, and ears.

Once again, shipping has turned adversity into advantage. Faced with the devastating effects of a pandemic, the maritime community has responded with what I have called a renaissance for shipping, driven by broad adoption of digital solutions to enhance safety, sustainability and efficiency. Remote surveying, already booming pre-Covid, has shown perhaps the sharpest spike in demand among digital services.

This is in response to global travel restrictions, but also due to the increasing accessibility of the technology, and a growing willingness among stakeholders to embrace remote surveys as part of the new shipping reality.

Striking the right balance

The majority of our surveys still utilize in-person inspections, but remote solutions are steadily gaining ground. Where the percentages eventually settle, though, is less important than achieving the optimal application of both methods, ensuring both thoroughness and efficiency.

We work with many progressive shipowners who are eager to perform more verification work remotely. They naturally want as little disruption and as much flexibility as possible in their operations, and we support this, in spirit and in service.

As a classification society with responsibility for verifying the good working order of a vessel, we will always put safety, and quality, first. Remote surveying not only allows us to meet these demands in many situations, but offers the additional element of enhanced efficiency that is critical to our customers’ success.

Preparation pays off

We have been delivering fleet-wide remote surveys since October 2018, with more than 22,000 performed to date. Experience has taught us that thorough preparation is indispensible in the execution of successful remote surveys. This applies to all the participating parties, but every bit as much to vessel preparation, with connectivity standing out as the main issue.

In response to this challenge, the new Digital Features chapter in DNV GL’s class rules covers remote witnessing preparedness on network and connectivity. Known as REW, it lays out the requirements for systems and solutions used in remote witnessing, including onboard arrangements for live streaming throughout the vessel in order to enable remote interaction with technical experts.

Keep in touch

Our first remote Annual Survey was performed in the spring of 2020, in response to a combination of Covid-19 travel restrictions and a pressing need from the shipowner to avoid a major disruption in vessel operations. While this represents an attractive option for shipowners, we believe it is important to visit all ships at least once a year if possible, and the Annual Survey provides a natural opportunity to obtain in-person verification of the vessel’s operational condition.

Inspections that are better performed in person can also be bundled into that time onboard. In addition, annual visits allow us to maintain personal contact with owners and crew. This means not just looking, but listening, sharing experience and building our overall knowledge of the running of the ship, beyond the steel.

I want to emphasize that we are still exploring the options for remote surveying, testing out new applications and seeking the optimal combination of in-person and remote. We believe the industry is best served by fully leveraging the advantages of remote surveying, while maintaining the peace of mind for owners, insurers and flag states that in-person inspections ensure.

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