Home' Ships and Shipping : August 2009 Contents reliability-centred maintenance programs for machinery that could
result in quite a different survey regime than the current
prescriptive format. Why, for example, should the rules require
that a piece of machinery be inspected at specified calendar
intervals when it is known that it has a failure profile that is
directly related to its hours of operation?
Many of these techniques are now well established in other
industries -- from the airline to the nuclear and process industries.
We have an understanding of how they could be applied within
the marine industry and some of the more advanced operators are
voluntarily adopting versions of these programs on more
sophisticated vessels such as FPSOs. Yet there is a lethargy, an
inertia to their widespread adoption.
Meanwhile we have
to pick around the edges. We
use risk analysis as a central
element in the assessment of
novel designs, usually found
in the offshore sector. We
use HAZID studies to assist
our clients in assessing new
machinery or propulsion
layouts. But I think it is only
a matter of time before
the way is cleared for a
much broader application
of these techniques within
Question: But surely the successful application of risk assessments
requires a great deal of empirical data in the first place?
Somerville: Yes, but ABS, many of the other societies, machinery
manufacturers and others within the safety ambit have been
collecting this information. We just need to expand our use of the
data. Ultimately that brings the shipowner directly into the fold
and raises the question of transparency. There are management
system software programs available to help the owner to collect
and use data to more effectively and efficiently operate an
individual ship and a fleet of ships. Some of these are provided by
suppliers like ABS Nautical Systems. Others are proprietary systems
that the owner or manager has developed in-house. But one of the
things we have found is that there is a reluctance on the part of
some shipowners to share the information that they have stored in
their management system with their class society. It is a traditional
view, based on the feeling that class is the policeman out to catch
them rather than a partner with a mutual interest in helping them
to maintain the structural and mechanical integrity of their vessel.
Question: But aren't these same owners looking to their classification
society to provide them with more information?
Somerville: Very much so. But this is largely a one-way street.
For example, we recently released the new ABS Eagle web portal
that gives our clients improved access to the information we have
available that can help them operate more efficiently. Each client's
personal portal gives them access to their drawings during the plan
review process for new construction, allowing them to track the
status and comments in real time. Although they have long been
able to track the survey status of their vessels, they can now order
surveys online through the portal, directly with the relevant ABS
port office. If they have a question with respect to the applicable
ABS rules, they can go online through ABS Eagle and quickly find
the specific rule reference or regulatory requirement for the size
and type of their ship. Future enhancements will give them direct
access to their statement of accounts and tailor the information
they receive from us to relate specifically to their operations. This
inter-relationship can be vastly expanded if an owner agrees to
open that two-way street and share information with respect to the
vessel with us.
Question: Can you give an example of how this could work?
Somerville: That's easy. We have developed a very
straightforward hull inspection and maintenance program. We
take the ship, model it, identify the critical areas within the
structure and put that information into an easy-to-use module
within the Nautical Systems fleet management program. Each
compartment in the vessel is identified and a maintenance scheme
and rating system for that compartment is provided. The software
is placed on board the ship and the data that is entered by the crew
is replicated back to the shore office and, if necessary, to other
sister ships in the fleet for comparative purposes. The crew is able
to track the condition of each compartment, based on six
inspection criteria and an easily-identified colour coding. The
superintendent ashore is able to track the condition of each ship
and identify trends across sister ships or the entire fleet. Drydock
planning is greatly simplified.
Question: But do they share this information with class?
Somerville: Unless the owner also adopts the related ABS
notation, there is no requirement that the information be shared --
that one-way street again. Yet, under the current prescriptive
survey regime it would certainly help the
attending surveyor to focus his survey in
those areas that had already been identified
as having some damage, enhanced corrosion
or fractures, making the survey more
efficient, less time consuming and ultimately
less costly. But if that prescriptive survey
regime was relaxed to one which was
risk-based, and the owner shared the
information with us, this system would
become a very important element in making
the class survey a much more specific, rather
than generic process. An owner who runs
well-maintained ships could probably
expect to have a much less intrusive and less
costly survey schedule.
Take this a step further. At what stage should that responsible
owner be allowed to further transition the survey process to one
based on an auditing function? If the onboard hull inspection, and
a companion machinery inspection and maintenance program is
properly adhered to and the results shared with the classification
society, surely it should be possible to move at least some of the
current periodic survey routine to an auditing program backed by
an appropriate sampling to verify the accuracy of the entered data.
Question: To quote Aldous Huxley, you are describing a brave
Somerville: It may seem that way in the shipping industry but this
is not really a "new" world. The understanding, the processes and
systems, the software and the analytical tools needed to make such a
system not only work but improve on the cumbersome, if effective,
existing periodic survey requirements are readily available. They have
been tried and tested by other industries. It is just a question of time
before this industry catches up with the rest of the world.
Question: What are the impediments to that happening?
Somerville: This is one area in which our government colleagues
are dragging their feet. We need to do a better job of educating
them so that the restrictive regulatory requirements are changed to
encourage innovation that provides an equivalent level of safety.
And we need to encourage the shipowners to better understand
that there are significant opportunities available to them to
enhance their operational efficiencies and that transparency can
work to their benefit, not their detriment.
Every major class society has adopted a quality management
system. The essence of such a system is the philosophy of continual
improvement. We are asked to constantly look at how we do things
and to adopt new processes that allow us to operate more efficiently
and more effectively and to offer superior products and services to
our clients. It is frustrating when you do so but find that the
improvements that are possible are imperfectly realised because of
elements that are not entirely under your control, such as the
applicable regulations or the mistrust of the potential beneficiaries.
Question: So this is the crossroads?
Somerville: Yes. Class has served the industry well. It continues
to do a fine job, despite the many restrictions and challenges that
are placed on us. But we can't continue to use typewriters in the
age of the computer. The world has changed. It continues to
change. The technology that is available to us has opened new
doors. It is time to stride through them and continue the process of
reinvigoration that has sustained class and steadily improved
maritime safety standards.
CLASSIFICATION SOCIETY developments
Inter view with Robert D Somer ville, ABS Chairman
SHIPS AND SHIPPING August 2009 31
we need to encourage the
shipowners to better understand
that there are significant opportunities
available to them to enhance their
operational efficiencies and that
transparency can work to their
benefit, not their detriment
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