ABS – remote surveying moves ahead

Some survey tasks don’t actually require a surveyor to attend the vessel. Class society ABS has been building its remote survey offerings Class society ABS has been gradually building up its remote survey offering since 2018, and now says it has “the most comprehensive offering in the market”.

The most important vessel surveys will probably always need to be done in person, by a surveyor on site. Surveys are required by regulations to assure vessel compliance with applicable Rules and Regulations. A fraudulent shipowner may be inclined to submit false documentation, so surveyors need to see the ship with their own eyes.
But some of the “occasional surveys” are a review of documentation.

Consider the Continuous Machinery Survey, a review of machinery systems on the vessel made on a 5 year basis, such as an engine or seawater pump.

The surveyor does not need to see the equipment itself, but needs to verify that maintenance has been done.

The work involves a detailed review of data provided by the chief engineer, or in some cases, ABS can gain direct access to the planned maintenance system.

Getting a surveyor onboard a vessel is difficult in the best of times, and much more so today, says John McDonald, Senior Vice President of Global Business Development with ABS. Sometimes it can involve a special port call.

“The big intent is to reduce downtime for clients so they can keep moving.”

The remote survey offering makes use of video and photography where possible, and both can be taken by the crew themselves, and sent to ABS’ Decision Support Center.

And as vessels are fitted with more and more sensors, there are more possibilities for this sensor data to be used as part of a survey.

Policies and rules define what is acceptable, in terms of meeting the requirements for classification, set out by ABS’ Chief Surveyor Office and our rule Committees. These requirements are consistent across the ABS organisation. Whether it is a survey onboard or a remote survey, it is the surveyor who decides whether the asset in question meets the intent of the rules,” he says. Further is should be noted, the remote survey was designed and is intended to be no less effective than physical survey attendance.

ABS is expanding remote survey capability as rapidly as possible, and wants it to become a standard way of doing business as a complement to physical surveys, not just something for very unusual circumstances.

“We’re always looking at how we can use new technology in remote monitoring and verification,” Mr McDonald says.

In a survey of 200 industry leaders who participated in ABS webinars on remote surveys held in March 2020, more than 92 per cent said they “believe remote techniques can be as effective as physical surveys” and 100 per cent said they believe “remote surveys improve operational efficiency.” All respondents said they wanted increased remote survey options.

In April 2020, ABS announced that it is able to conduct “almost all” annual classification surveys remotely, but these additional remote surveys were not available to tankers, only general cargo vessels, tugs, offshore support vessels and liquefied gas carriers under 15 years.

Examples of remote surveys

A Safety Radio Survey is normally done by a specialist radio technician approved by the class society, to verify that the radio equipment has been calibrated and tested. It can be done remotely if the Surveyor can see technician reports and attestation from the Master to verify that radio equipment has been properly examined.

For statutory remote surveys, ABS seeks the authorization from the Flag Administration.

The Condition of Class is a finding, perhaps lasting for one voyage, saying that the ship has a certain defect, but is allowed to continue sailing provided the defect is repaired by a specified date, and in the interim certain temporary arrangements are put in place.
The Dry Dock Extension is to extend the required Dry Docking survey up to three months beyond its due date.

A Tail Shaft Extension Survey is a review of a request for a 3 month extension of the 5 year period between tail shaft surveys, as rules allow. This can be done just with a review of service records and test records, which does not require someone onsite.

Other surveys available remotely are Concurrent Load Line, Minor Damage Survey, Boiler Three Month Extension.

Underwater Survey

The Underwater Survey (UWILD) is now available for vessels as well as offshore assets and so will be of interest to tanker operator readers operating tankers less than 15 years of age.

The survey is done by a diver with an underwater camera or an ROV following live direction from a surveyor. But the surveyor does not need to be physically on the vessel to provide this direction.

It means surveyors can save a large amount of time from not having to fly to the offshore facility themselves.

The In Water Service company would typically have a land based facility for monitoring work, and the class surveyor could sit there to monitor the video images together with the dive management team.

The surveyor may ask a diver to take further imagery of something, so a closer look may be taken.

ABS specifies the minimum allowable video quality in terms of frame size and frames per second, and minimum voice and video communications lag (6 seconds).




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