Digitization and new fuels entail new risks

The focus on increased  transformations digitalization and decarbonization creates new safety risks in shipping. A new report from DNV GL presents possible solutions.


It is in a so-called white paper that DNV GL warns that there will be a gap between today's methods of security management and the new security risks that are emerging.

"The paper is a wake-up call to understand the safety issues that could arise as a result of digitalization and decarbonization to make our industry safer and cleaner,"
says Fenna van de Merwe, the report's lead author in a press release.
"Shipowners can use our arguments to help create a sound basis for a transparent, reasoned and informed analysis of digitalization and decarbonization methods, but with safe maritime systems uppermost in their minds. The paper applies to operational vessels and newbuilds and is relevant across a vessel’s life cycle."

The ongoing digitalisation has enormous potential to improve both the efficiency and safety of shipping. But paradoxically, the new technical possibilities also entail new security risks. Complex systems with software, sensors and machines that depend on algorithms are interconnected and become increasingly dependent on each other. This requires constant monitoring.

The report identifies some major security barriers. First, the performance of the system and the reliability of the components are a and o. Therefore, it is proposed that digital twins be used so that all information and updates of operation are always available.

Secondly, digitalisation affects the work of the crew. Many get more supervisory roles. So what happens when the system that has always done the right thing suddenly goes wrong? Who is accountable for what? What happens when normally ‘passive’ operators are rapidly called into action?

Companies will therefore need to support people’s roles and needs. This requires two things. One is human-centred design of systems with technologies that support human performance. The other is balanced ‘function allocation’.

When it comes to alternative fuels, new safety risks arise during handling and operation and both suppliers and users need to develop new fuel-specific skills. Another major problem is that regulatory frameworks cannot not keep up with technological development.

“This is why we recommend collective commitment to contribute with knowledge and experience to supplement missing regulations,” van de Merwe explains.
“Through breaking down silos we can generate a holistic picture of safety risk and collaborate towards identifying and implementing mitigating measures.”