Shipping losses have declined over the last decade. Yet, challenging markets, demanding environmental regulations, and new technologies, particularly in the field of digitalisation, threaten to pull the industry’s focus away from marine safety. An undesirable development, according to DNV GL-Maritime CEO Knut Ørbeck-Nilssen.

'In a time when shipping is rapidly transforming, I believe it is crucial to put our primary focus on safety, making sure it is at the core of all changes – whether it is ways of working, technology, or regulations,' said Ørbeck-Nilssen at the classification society's Nor-Shipping press conference in Oslo on 3 June 2019. He noted there were tectonic shifts within the maritime industry on three fronts: 

  • shifts in the market, which are increasingly unpredictable; 
  • shifts in regulations, headed by the upcoming 2020 global sulphur limits; and 
  • shifts in technology, driven by the constant evolution in digitalisation.

Tectonic shifts create their own safety challenges: from growing ship sizes, fire risks due to new cargo types such as cars with Li-ion batteries, to environmental regulations with unintended consequences, as well as the increased risk of cyber-attack due to vessel automation and ship-to-shore connectedness.

Safety Net Needed to Unlock Opportunities

The industry needs to be both aware of these challenges, but also embrace the opportunities they create, said Ørbeck-Nilssen. However, he feels a safety net is needed to unlock these opportunities.

'I have five proposals that I believe could benefit our industry and improve safety at sea. Firstly, to develop holistic regulations with safety at the core – this is a challenge to the IMO and the classification societies when they are developing rules. Secondly, to improve the safety culture within shipping companies. Thirdly, to apply barrier management lessons from other industries. The fourth proposal is to increase transparency on incident findings. And finally, to unlock data silos for deeper insights into incidents and near-misses.'

Concrete Examples

DNV GL has been working on several concrete examples built on these proposals. 'We have been working with Carnival on a holistic safety management system, which integrates the human, organisational and technical dimensions of safety to help develop a more efficient incident investigation process. Also, in the cruise industry, we have developed barrier models for critical areas, such as fire in machinery or escape and evacuate.'

Involved in Technological Developments

The classification society is also involved in areas important for the future of the industry. Ørbeck-Nilssen: 'Our role as a neutral third party has never been more relevant than in this time of rapid technological transformation. For example, autonomous and remotely operated ships are beginning to emerge, which prompted the launch of our class guideline last year.'

Picture: Knut Ørbeck-Nilssen, CEO DNV GL-Maritime, presenting at DNV GL’s Nor-Shipping press conference in Oslo (source: DNV GL).