The pandemic has demonstrated the value of remote working but the industry must recognise the importance of physical connection to the ship, says provider of ship inspection services, Idwal.
Idwal is calling on the industry to recognise the positive contribution that physical surveys make to vessel quality and crew morale. Idwal believes that over-reliance on remote inspection technology creates risks for operators and worsens conditions for already over-stretched crews.
Last year saw a sharp rise in enquiries to deliver ‘internal inspection’ campaigns for owners and managers, suggesting owners wish to keep a closer eye on their vessels’ condition while their own people can’t travel. But the impact on crews of more remote inspections is increasing and the results are not always positive.
“Though the capacity to meet face-to-face may be constrained for some time to come, we will continue to need to put ‘boots on deck’ when it comes to maintaining quality standards in ship survey,” said Idwal chief executive officer Nick Owens. “Our experience suggests it is the number one risk mitigator for and we believe strongly in a ‘blended’ approach which sees us collecting advanced remote data to help shape and support the role of the surveyor.”
The latest edition of the Mission to Seafarers’ Happiness Index suggests that the promise of technology means more work for crews, not less. The report found that the increase in remote technology is making more work for mariners, with inspections ‘worse than before’ according to one seafarer who said “I spent hours wandering around the vessel to film spaces with a mobile phone, this felt like a waste of time”.
“For all the excitement around remote technology, it is still in a nascent stage of development and in the face of what is a growing humanitarian crisis, we have to be mindful of keeping the emphasis on crew safety, welfare and onboard culture, as well as compliance,” added Mr Owens. “The anecdotal evidence from owners suggests that purely remote survey can become a burden for crew, because there is not yet any commonality of standards.”
Despite this, data from Idwal’s 2020 inspection campaign of some 2,000 ships shows that the industry has not witnessed a drastic reduction in asset condition in the last 12 months. Its proprietary Idwal Grade quality system shows a moderate improvement of overall condition across the core tanker, bulker and containership sectors, suggesting that through a combination of technology and the right level of physical intervention, asset quality standards can be maintained or even improved.