DNV GL: We have to change the ways we manage risks to fully transform

The transformation of the shipping industry towards a smarter and decarbonized future will require a new and more complex risk management to preserve safety.

Illustration; Image by Offshore Energy

The benefits of digitalization have never been more prominent than during the pandemic period where a lot of business activities went online and got automated.

It definitely offered the push the shipping industry, which has been a rather conventional sector, needed to get the most out of it.

Digitalization has the potential to boost the utilization of assets, improve energy efficiency, enhance condition and performance monitoring of vessels, equipment, and cargo. But most improtantly, it can reduce the presence of people in dangerous and hostile environments.

However, greater dependency on technology doesn’t mean there should be room for complacency especially when it comes to safety risks and human oversight.

“Digitalization increases system complexity and introduces new ways of operation and collaboration. We foresee that traditional risk management methods will be insufficient for the new complexity, and that centralized and dispersed teams will change how people work as organizations become a patchwork of multiple stakeholders,” DNV GL said in a white paper.

What is more, the paper further adds that the industry’s experience with implementing new technologies shows that focusing on technology alone is too one-sided to get a complete view of all the safety-related risks and opportunities.

As explained, for digital transformation in maritime to continue to succeed over time, its stakeholders must consider the interactions between technology, human cognition and behaviour, and organizational influences.

The classification society recommends system integration to manage systems’ complexity, addressing the needs of the human element in a digital environment, and, digital transformation strategies for how organizations should manage emerging new risks.

On the decarbonization front, the development of alternative fuels will definitely result in new safety-related risks., especially having in mind that different fuels have reached different levels of technical and regulatory maturity.

Flammable and toxic gas releases are among common safety-related risks associated with several alternative fuels.

For example, toxicity is the main issue for ammonia, as well as flammability and lowered temperatures.

For hydrogen, challenges relate to extremely low temperatures (-253°C) if stored as a liquefied gas, and high pressure (250–700 bar) if stored as compressed gas. Also, the hydrogen molecule is the smallest of all molecules, making it more challenging to contain; it also has a wide flammability range and ignites easily.

The properties of ammonia and hydrogen may therefore lead to an increased overall risk level associated with their use as fuel on ships unless satisfactory safety systems and operations are implemented.

Furthermore, little experience and few existing rules are available to cover the use of hydrogen as fuel. At the same time, hybrid solutions
or those that can run on two or more fuels are under development.

“These parallel developments increase the complexity of design and operations and make it even more difficult for stakeholders to understand the risks and to perform operations at equivalent (or better) levels of safety,” DNV GL said.

As explained, there is also the issue of a mismatch between the regulatory framework and the pace of technological development, and suppliers and end-users that lack maritime and fuel-specific competence.

DNV GL believes maritime operations in an increasingly carbon-neutral
industry can be better safeguarded through collaboration of the industry stakeholders from the beginning to the end of a ship’s life cycle.

Their aim should be to create a shared focus on design and operations that support people’s performance.

“Every maritime organization can play a part in facilitating safe and efficient performance by balancing out function allocation between technology and people, considering human-centred design of systems, and ensuring the physical, mental, and social wellbeing of the people,” the paper concludes.