December 30, 2015


A round up of news in December 2014

This month the focus has been on the human factor: from self-assessment of safety and the high level view of supply and demand, to learning to live with cultural differences and even finding a lawyer in the middle of the ocean. Of course there has been technology too – big money invested in the future of big data and more moves towards unmanned ships.

Self-assessed safety

Some 20 members of the UK P&I Club are being invited to join a trial self-assessment scheme for safety practices on their ships with performance ranked by their crews. The initiative is designed to help shipowners to identify and control accident risks in an attempt to decrease their premiums.

The approach will focus on measures needed to control the most common accidents onboard ship, as determined by the club’s database of 12,000 major claims. Crews are being asked to score the effectiveness of control measures on a scale from one to five.

Each member’s scores will be analysed by the club, with the effectiveness of each benchmarked after which a formal risk-assessment report will be provided to the member, showing the risk expressed as a percentage. Claims prevention advice will then be made available on the basis of particular findings.

UK Club loss prevention director Karl Lumbers hopes the self-assessment scheme will enable Club members to take advantage of the experience gained by the club in many years of claims handling and generate a direct benefit to their own businesses. “Additionally, we believe members will find that this practical and simple system will encourage crew members to take more pride in their professionalism and their ships.”

Big data – big money

The charity, Lloyd’s Register Foundation, has announced a major investment in ‘big data’, providing a £10 million grant to support research by the Alan Turing Institute on engineering applications of big data.

The grant was made in part based on the outcome of LR’s Foresight review which looks at how big data will impact the safety and performance of engineering assets and infrastructure on which modern society relies.

LR believes that within the next five to 10 years, industry will witness step changes in sensor technology, data-driven intelligent systems, computer science and algorithms for data analysis, impacting all aspects of the business life-cycle.

Richard Clegg, Managing Director of the Lloyd’s Register Foundation said “This review sets the high-level strategic direction and funding priorities for the Foundation in the field of ‘data-centric engineering’. Big data is going to bridge the gap from monitoring ‘what is’ to predicting ‘what if’. The Foundation intends to become a major supporter of international research in the field, partnering with organisations including the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council.”

The Foundation has set out four priority action areas, including technology road-mapping, design for data, codes and standards and data analytics. In support of these objectives, the Foundation has offered a conditional grant of £10 million over five years to the Alan Turing Institute, named in honour of the wartime code breaker, which will be headquartered at The British Library in London.

More unmanned moves

‘Industry challenger’ Rolls-Royce has unveiled a new bridge concept known as the Future Operator Experience Concept or ‘oX’, which it claims is a stepping stone to autonomous, unmanned vessels.

Rolls-Royce is driving a project which it calls ‘ship intelligence’ to manage and analyse the growing volumes of complex data that will increasingly be harvested from propulsion and navigation systems. The company believes the system could become a reality by 2025, with unmanned ships at sea within the next 20 years.

Oskar Levander, Vice President, Innovation, at Rolls-Royce Marine acknowledges there is still work to be done to develop marine solutions from the available technology and says Rolls-Royce is “investing in ship intelligence, which will be a major driver of the next transition era of shipping.”

The oX bridge concept was developed in partnership with the VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland. It includes smart workstations, which automatically recognise individual crew members when they arrive on the bridge, adjusting to their own preferences.

Cultural awareness training

KVH-owned video training provider Videotel has released a new programme designed to foster cultural awareness among multinational crews. The programme features seafarers from eight different nations acting out a range of onboard scenarios where potential misunderstandings could take place.

The international composition of today’s crews as well as the problems of hierarchy and relationships can lead not only to disharmony but potentially to safety risks where officers and crew interact according to particular patterns of behaviour.

The programme has been created to help bring understanding of different cultural values and includes language issues, common misunderstandings, body language, gestures, hand signals and postures. Role play exercises ‘examine the assumptions we make about others based on our own upbringing and values’.

Manpower under the spotlight

Trade associations BIMCO and the International Chamber of Shipping are inviting the shipping industry to participate in the next Manpower Report 2015, produced every five years to comprehensively survey the world’s supply and demand of seafarers.

Previous studies have highlighted the issues of generational change in shipping, with large numbers of officers expected to retire in the near future as well as how the anticipated growth in trade will generate demand for more officers and ratings.

The 2015 report will identify current problems and issues with maritime manpower, as well as future considerations needed to ensure an adequate pool of high calibre seafarers. It is expected to be published at the end of 2015 and provide a more selective and refined analysis of the results in comparison to previous reports.

Included in the new report will be detailed data on current seafarer supply and demand for the world fleet and the leading seafarer supply nations, forward projections for the likely supply and demand in the next decade, identification of recruitment trends and provision of essential manpower data.

The result should be an analysis which provides a strategic direction for the industry, governments and other agencies and maritime professionals responsible for ensuring that the shipping industry continues to function effectively and safely, according to BIMCO and ICS.

Find a lawyer with SRI

Seafarers Rights International has launched a smartphone app that provides ‘tangible support 24/7’ to help seafarers with legal problems and provide information concerning their rights.

Deirdre Fitzpatrick, executive director of SRI said that, where seafarers are not provided with assistance and support with regard to their human rights, the app will provide a lifeline for seafarers.

The app has been designed with offline functionality and is available for iOS, Android and Blackberry operating systems. It includes a ‘Find a Lawyer’ function, which provides access to a database of lawyers around the world that have signed up to the SRI’s Charter.

Brian Orrell, chairman of the Advisory Board of SRI said it is important that the work of SRI gets directly to seafarers. “This is why this practical advice is now being made available on an app, and we are also producing on-line education materials free of charge for seafarers to raise their awareness around subjects relevant to their working lives.”

A Gutta-Percha mystery

Over the past few years, 100-year-old rubber-like blocks have been washing up on beaches across the UK and northern Europe. Beach-combers and dog walkers alike have been sharing pictures of their finds without knowing the origin of these mysterious pieces of flotsam.

The blocks – about the size of a kitchen chopping board with the word ‘Tjipetir’ engraved into them – turned out to be Gutta-Percha, the product of a rubber plantation in West Java, Indonesia, which operated in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

When Cornwall resident Tracey Williams started investigating their origins, shipwrecks including The Titanic were suggested as possible points of origin, but after two anonymous tip-offs, she has identified the Japanese liner Miyazaki Maru, sunk during World War One as the source.

Miyazaki Maru sank 150 miles west of the Isles of Scilly and Oceanographer Curtis Ebbesmeyer, who specialises in tracking flotsam, says the blocks may be washing up on beaches for centuries. “Based on the findings so far, they are clearly being fed into the hemispheric ocean circulation. It only takes 25 years for flotsam to go around the world, and they’ve probably been around long enough to go around the world three times.”

“The blocks are still in good condition after all these years, which is unusual. They’re probably one of the great pieces of flotsam that people may be finding 100 years from now.”


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