With the first commercial autonomous and remotely operated vessels due to launch in the next several years, DNV GL has released a new class guideline to help build a safety culture around these new technologies.
“A new set of sensor, connectivity, analysis and control functions in maritime technologies is laying the foundation for remote and autonomous operations in shipping,” said Knut Ørbeck-Nilssen, CEO of DNV GL – Maritime. “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. 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.”
DNV GL said its guideline covers new operational concepts that do not 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 toward 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.
The guideline covers navigation, vessel engineering, remote control centers and communications, with particular emphasis given to cyber-security and software testing – two key areas that emerge from the reliance of autonomous and remote concepts on software and communications systems. Both the concept qualification process and the technology qualification process include cyber security aspects in the risk analysis. Not only the systems themselves, but the associated infrastructure and network components, servers, operator stations and other endpoints should all take cyber security into account, incorporating multiple layers of defense where possible. In terms of software, quality assurance of software-based systems is essential, and well established development process and a multifaceted end-product testing strategy should be used to ensure safe operation.
“This is a first step in the process to fully realize these technologies,” Ørbeck-Nilssen said. “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.”