Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Classification Society Issues New Class Guidelines for Autonomous Vessels  

Cyber Security and First Class Software Must be Priorities

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Shipping News Feature NORWAY – WORLDWIDE – After his outgoing speech as Chairman of the International Association of Classification Societies (IACS) in June it is hardly a surprise that Knut Ørbeck-Nilssen, CEO of DNV GL - Maritime, has overseen his company's publication of a new class guideline covering autonomous and remotely operated ships. The classification society boss said at the time that the transformation in ship technology was 'astonishing' in such a short time, a point he reiterated when releasing details of the new guidelines. He said:

“A new set of sensor, connectivity, analysis, and control functions in maritime technologies is laying the foundation for remote and autonomous operations in shipping. 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.”

The guidelines cover 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 guidelines help 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 guidelines to obtain an approval in principle.

The guidelines cover navigation, vessel engineering, remote control centres, and communications. Particular emphasis is given in two key areas that emerge from the reliance of autonomous and remote concepts on software and communications systems: cyber-security and software testing. 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 defence where possible. In terms of software, quality assurance of software-based systems is essential, and well established development processes and a multifaceted end-product testing strategy should be used to ensure safe operation. Knut Ørbeck-Nilssen, concluded:

“This is a first step in the process to fully realise these technologies, 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.”

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