Breaking the silos and the role of class in shipping’s digital transformation

by 19, Mar, 2021Innovation, Maritime 4.00 comments

The shipping industry requires greater standardisation, data aggregation and transparency to facilitate a successful digital transformation that will ultimately support the industry in reaching critical decarbonisation milestones.

Speaking on a webinar hosted by DNV this week, Bjorn Johan Vartdal, head of maritime incubator at DNV spoke about the importance of aggregating data in the industry to break down the silos and leverage digital tools.

He noted that digitalisation efforts are often implemented in silos, which reduces the ability to use and process that data across various solutions.

“There are certain systems onboard ships where you’re collecting data and you’re processing data within the silo of that system.

“There needs to be a transformation in the way that shipowners and maritime players demand a solution where you’re able to aggregate this data across different silos services on the ship and on the shore,” he said.

However, in order to do this, the data points need to be standardised. This will enable them to be recognised by the different solutions.

Bjorn Johan Vartdal spoke about breaking the silos and how to leverage digital tools to achieve safe and efficient operations. Image courtesy of DNV

“Within a certain solution, there can be proprietary standards, which will work well within that silo. But if you want to take that outside the silo, the proprietary standards will no longer work, because distribution and multi leverage cross silos will not recognise the data points. So there needs to be an implementation of a standardised way of doing this.”

Furthermore, he sees the need for IT systems to have the capability to share this data. “With some of the older legacy solutions, it’s not possible to integrate with those solutions because they don’t have the technology for integration.”

He believes that once this is put into place, the data can be used to innovate and optimise different operational processes as well as to optimise the entire business.

This will require collaboration across the industry, particularly between shipowners and classification societies. He noted that once shipowners start to digitalise their processes, class societies can step in and provide support, which will then provide a more efficient classification process based on digital information.

Using data to create value in ship performance

Øystein Goksøyr, head of department safety advisory at DNV spoke about how to implement a digital transformation roadmap to anchor the strategy of the organisation.

As mentioned earlier in Mr Vartdal’s presentation, data and standardisation will be crucial to the digital transformation. “What we see is that there is a need to transform vessels in a way that can actually deliver more standardised and relevant data ashore, in a secure manner. The standards from classification and ISO comes in here. This is so we can go in and specify the required data and data connection infrastructure and cybersecurity that is necessary and hence transform data for the shore where it is crucial to implement smart data management and to take out the benefits of data and realise strategic goals.”

He emphasised the importance of having a data analysis plan, specifying what you want to achieve, how you want to secure the data and how you want to transfer it to the shore to make better decisions around fleet transformation. Stakeholders will also be interested in the company’s transformation, which will require greater data sharing.

He also noted the importance of creating a vision and building on this vision over time, constantly assessing the situation to enrich the digital transformation. “Don’t try to transform the big elephant in one go, go in and design use cases strong and build a strong digital plan,” he said.

DNV – the role of class in smarter operations

One way classification society DNV is supporting shipowners with the digital transformation is though its smart notations. The aim is to have various notations that help shipping companies to digitalise in and safe and effective manner and to roll these standards out across the industry to improve efficiency.


One of DNV’s notation’s is its cybersecurity notation, which provides a cybersecurity baseline for the vessel. “It looks at the overall critical systems onboard and allows a vendor to pre-approve the system,” noted Jarle Blomhoff, group leader cyber safety & security at DNV. Rather than approving an engine control system for every vessel, the notation is designed to look at the security development of the engine manufacturer and have that pre-approved for all systems. DNV bases its requirements on international standards. “The good thing about this is that it improves industry uptake. It doesn’t have to be invented for each class or every rule or whatever comes up, it is a recognised international standard that the industry can follow,” Mr Blomhoff explained.

He also confirmed that uptake last year and for the first few months of 2021 has been rapid, with more systems obtaining a Cybersecurity Type Approval, despite it being a voluntary notation. This indicates that there is an increased understanding of cybersecurity as being an important aspect to address. “The first part is having a secure ship, once you have that you can go to the next part, which is a smart ship,” Mr Blomhoff noted.

DNV says class societies will play a critical role in helping the maritime industry to digitalise. Image courtesy of DNV

Smart shipping

A vessel with a DNV smart notation indicates that the vessel uses smart features. Smart notation requires a vessel to be cybersecure, have a solid data infrastructure, and some fancy digital features to improve operation. The notation focuses on digitalisation and efficiency, aiming to make new solutions easily implemented on board.

“The main qualifiers we look at to have a smart vessel is machinery operations, hull operations and energy efficiency. These are the main categories, but it is also open to using any normal good technology that’s going to bring digitalisation and operational improvement of your vessel.”

Mr Blomhoff noted that this includes meeting ambitious decarbonisation goals through the use of digital technology.

Data collection infrastructure

DNV’s data collection infrastructure notation looks at how to take data from operational or healthcare systems on board a vessel and transfer this via various connections to the onshore teams. The goal is to make use of the data in the most effective way.

One issue Mr Blomhoff pointed to is that there are many systems onboard a vessel that do not communicate with one another. The first step is therefore to aggregate all of the data from individual systems into one vessel server.  A cyber secure gateway should also be implemented to ensure that no one has access to the vessel, and ensures that data is transported in a secure way. The information can be then communicated to the shore infrastructure where analytics can be done to provide insight to improve operations.

“The notation looks at both the technical aspects and the operation. I think it’s important to note this operational aspect is key, because even though you have the data available, it doesn’t make you use it automatically. You need somebody to understand what the data is, how to use it, how to treat it, how to clean it,” Mr Blomhoff noted, adding “and of course, wrong data without the proper quality will make you make the wrong decision.”

DNV’s webinar, ‘Digital transformation in the maritime industry’ can be watch online by clicking here.