Confronting the Safety Challenge

RINA has been working with major passenger fleet operators including Moby Lines to introduce a preventative, risk assessment and management approach to operations and maintenance.

By Wendy Laursen 09-11-2015 02:22:11

(Article originally published in May/June 2015 edition.)

Class societies expand their role in addressing the risks presented by bigger ships, complex software systems, structural failures and cyber piracy.

There was a lot for the maritime industry to be proud of in German insurance giant Allianz’s review of shipping accidents in 2014. Overall, there was a 32 percent decrease in the number of losses compared to 2013 according to the report, “Safety and Shipping Review 2015,” which reflected on the year gone by and examined future risks. Not all of the risks cited were the responsibility of classification societies, but by their own admission class societies are moving beyond their traditional role and taking the lead in research and governance.

A growing risk cited by the report is cyber security, something the Russian Maritime Register of Shipping (RS) was vocal about at the IMO’s Maritime Safety Committee (MSC) meeting last November. Along with others, RS called for the development of cyber security guidelines, saying the problem’s effects are already being felt.

In July 2013, researchers from the University of Texas demonstrated the potential for changing a ship’s direction by using GPS signal-jamming to give false interpretations of course parameters to its navigation systems. In Africa, an unknown hacker made an intrusion into the positioning system of a floating production platform, which brought about an impermissible heel and interrupted work. In another instance, unknown hackers made an intrusion into the computer network of a port to find containers to target for theft.

Somalian pirates hired hackers to break into the computer network of a shipping company to locate ships carrying precious cargo or fewer security guards. This resulted in at least one case of the capture of a ship.

The proposed guidelines will identify threats and outline measures that the industry can take to protect itself. A first draft will be presented to MSC in June.

Software Failures

Ships depend more and more on complex computer systems. When each system is isolated and serving only one function, a software failure has limited consequences. But when the systems become integrated, the risk of a software failure bringing down the entire ship rises.

Philippe Donche-Gay, Executive Vice President and Head of the Marine & Offshore Division of Bureau Veritas (BV), is currently Chairman of the International Association of Classification Societies (IACS). When he took over the chairmanship last year he made the issue of complex system integration a new focus for the body.

“We class a lot of very sophisticated vessels, especially the new generation offshore service vessels,” says Donche-Gay. “They have tremendously complex software systems for power management, maneuvering, navigation, communication, onboard management, energy-saving, cargo-handling, heavy-lifting, cargo work, and pumping and management of specialist tasks such as deepwater mining, dredging or underwater construction. We would benefit from having common standards and a defined baseline against which we can check the safety and reliability of the software and, most importantly, the way in which the different software on board can interact.”

IACS has set up a working group to tackle the issue, led by Alasdair Anderson of Lloyd’s Register. “Several maritime industry associations have urged classification societies to take a leadership role in this,” says Donche-Gay.

The IACS working group is focusing on developing a new unified requirement on system integration for safety-critical shipboard systems and is exploring the option of potential certification by IACS members of software providers for essential systems. A project team has also been set up to revise the existing IACS UR E 22, covering On Board Use and Application of Programmable Electronic Systems, led by Arnault Pedemay of BV.

Passenger Safety

Citing tragedies such as the loss of 12 passenger/ro-ro vessels including the Sewol last year, the Allianz report raised concerns about passenger safety. Active in this area, RINA has been working with major cruise ship operators including Carnival, MSC Cruises and Moby Lines to introduce a preventative, risk assessment and management approach to operations and maintenance. The idea is to bring the disciplines used in the offshore industry into passenger ship operations. It goes beyond prescriptive requirements and can be tailored to the individual circumstances, ships and routes of each operator.

RINA is also about to launch a full package of ferry safety initiatives, which will cover specific training for ro-pax crews including behavioral training to avoid and manage crises, fire risk mitigation, enhanced planned maintenance, condition-based monitoring, and food and bacteriological risk management.

The report noted 55 shipping casualties in the Arctic Circle in 2014 versus only three a decade ago. The Arctic has been a focus of research for ABS with developments in areas such as ice-phobic nanostructured coatings and surfaces to support Arctic operations and computational fluid dynamics to help shipyards and designers improve efficiency and environmental performance.

Structural Issues

Allianz cited concerns about the growing size of container ships, and this is an area where ClassNK has been active. As container ships increase in size, so too does the thickness of the steel that is used to build them. Preventive measures for brittle fracture become even more important with thicker steel, especially in areas of high stress.

IACS released its Unified Requirements for Use of Extremely Thick Steel Plates in January 2013. The requirements outline the necessary measures to be taken for the prevention of brittle crack propagation in the block-to-block butt joints of the hatch side coaming and upper deck to prevent large-scale fracture of the hull girder.

One of the preventive measures is the use of brittle crack arrest steel, defined as steel with measured crack-arrest properties. However, the IACS requirements apply only to brittle crack arrest steel plates with a thickness of up to 80mm. With the introduction of 20,000-TEU, ultra-large container ships, the increased use of brittle crack arrest steel exceeding 80mm in thickness is expected.

ClassNK has embarked on a joint research project to develop appropriate technical standards. The project will be carried out in collaboration with the Japanese Welding Engineering Society, steel manufacturers, shipbuilders and impartial research institutes and is scheduled to be completed in mid-2016.

ClassNK has also developed the PrimeShip-HULL (HCSR) rule calculation and direct strength calculation software to help designers comply with the incoming IACS harmonized Common Structural Rules. New structural rules that apply to all tankers over 150 meters and all bulk carriers over 90 meters contracted after July 1 mean that shipyards and designers will need to carry out more comprehensive structural analyses when designing these vessels.

Among the new requirements are FEM (finite element model) analyses covering the entire range of cargo hold structures as well as new formulae for buckling, fatigue, and residual strength criteria.

“Our strategy is to have our services available to clients before they are required rather than playing catch up with the industry,” says ClassNK Chairman and President Noboru Ueda, highlighting that class has extended its expert role beyond providing the testing ground for new technologies to coordinating vital industry R&D itself.

At the start of 2015 the Bulk Jupiter sank off the coast of Vietnam, just a day before the 1984-built 2,327-dwt Cemfjord foundered off the coast of Scotland. Bulk Jupiter was carrying bauxite while Cemfjord had a cargo of cement. As liquids, both cargoes are hazardous to ships. The accident investigations findings are not expected until later this year, but Allianz has already raised concerns that rapid liquefaction may have caused both incidents.

DNV GL is tackling accidents with cargo liquefaction by developing improved analysis tools and rules. The society is advising ship designers on how to design specially constructed bulk and ore carriers that can take a fully liquefied cargo without suffering an accident or structural failure. It is also developing a guideline that has been sent for review to selected clients.

Developing a Culture of Safety

Despite genuine progress, the maritime industry still lags well behind many others when it comes to safety. DNV GL’s Director of Classification, Geir Dugstad, says that technical issues such as structural safety are one aspect of the future of ship safety, but he sees more impact coming from the human element: “It is extremely important to focus on safety culture. Safety compliance is not sufficient if the industry really wants to improve. We need to work a lot more on the safety culture.”

DNV GL speculated about the future of ship safety in its 2014 report, The Future of Shipping. In it is the prediction that by 2050 the application of innovative risk management models will result in a new, industrywide safety mindset that will combine both strategic and operational issues to improve performance.

Regulators will put in place rules requiring the industry to be more transparent so that owners and managers will share critical data on accidents and near-misses, allowing the industry to develop best practices. Sea traffic control systems will become more sophisticated to include vectoring, speed allocation and data collection and will have the authority to intervene if a vessel does not comply with recommended routes.

But until that happens, Allianz says the industry should prepare for $1 billion+ losses featuring container vessels or specialized floating offshore facilities. Is a $2 billion container ship loss scenario possible? “It is not entirely unrealistic,” states the Allianz report. “We have already seen a passenger ship case (Costa Concordia) where the final loss figure is around $2 billion.” – MarEx 

The opinions expressed herein are the author's and not necessarily those of The Maritime Executive.