DNV GL has issued a new class guideline covering autonomous and remotely-operated ships. With a handful of shipping companies planning to integrate autonomous technologies into their operations in the coming years, the class society has emphasized the need to implement stringent safety frameworks.
“Increased automation, whether in the form of decision support, remote operation, or autonomy, has the potential to improve the safety, efficiency and environmental performance of shipping,” says Knut Ørbeck-Nilssen, CEO of DNV GL – Maritime. “To reach this potential, the industry needs a robust set of standards that enables new systems to reach the market and ensure that these technologies are safely implemented.”
The guideline covers navigation, vessel engineering, remote control centres and communications. Particular emphasis is placed on cyber security and software testing, because autonomous and remotely-operated technologies will rely heavily on software and communications systems.
Both the concept qualification process and the technology qualification process include cyber security aspects in the risk analysis. While computer systems themselves should be protected by multiple layers of defence, the guideline also stipulates that associated infrastructure and network components, servers, operator stations and other end points must be protected.
To ensure the safe operation of software-based systems, the guideline recommends implementing an established development process and an end-product testing strategy. The document also covers new operational concepts that don’t fit within existing regulations, and technologies that control functions that would normally be performed by humans.
In terms of new operational concepts, the guideline helps those who would like to implement new concepts with a process towards obtaining approval under the alternative design requirements by the flag state. For novel technologies, suppliers can use the guideline to obtain an approval in principle.
“This is a first step in the process to fully realize these technologies,” says Ørbeck-Nilssen. “But we continue to develop experience from several projects currently underway. In some areas, such as navigation systems and engineering functions we can already offer technical guidance based on our current class rules and as we progress new guides and rules will follow.”