Class Societies Play a Key Role in Shipping’s Smart Future

During the SMM trade fair held in Hamburg, Germany this week the President / COO of ABS Europe, Kirsi Tikka took to the floor to explain the importance of classification societies in the era of smart shipping and the autonomous ship.

The role of classification societies largely lies in ensuring that there is reliable data that provides a level of safety that is the same or better than what we have today, Tikka stated. It is critical that with the move towards smart shipping, frameworks are revisited to ensure safety is maintained or made better alongside technological developments and increasing digitalisation, she said. For instance, calendar based regulations do not make sense once unmanned ships are operating and therefore a lot of work needs to be carried out on the regulatory side as these technologies develop.

Although the autonomous ship is an exciting prospect and ABS support smarter shipping, there must be careful consideration given to the human-machine interactions. Cyber security threats and regulatory hurdles exist, but the largest challenge lies within the present gap between humans and artificial intelligence. According to Tikka, some tasks that are simple for humans are not as so for machines.  Humans are able to go on deck and make judgement about what is needed and what is possible and make decisions based on it, but it will take time before we can rely on data and algorithms to provide the same feedback.

Intermediate steps are therefore required to make progress.  Drones, for instance, are developing and facilitating the advancement of autonomous ships. Through progress the industry can develop the confidence that technological advances can be made without compromising safety and this is where the role of classification societies such as ABS lies.

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