ABS improves the global classification industry with the implementation of new technologies


by Effat Mostafa


What are your core values and how do you implement them‭? ‬

We call our core values that guide our organization‭ ‬“the Spirit of ABS”‭ ‬and they are safety‭, ‬people‭, ‬integrity‭, ‬reliability‭, ‬quality‭, ‬innovation and teamwork‭. ‬The Spirit of ABS is a part of our cultural DNA and it’s how we keep ourselves tightly focused on safety and aligned to our mission‭. ‬It defines us and it differentiates us‭. ‬It also provides the framework for how we work together as one global team to consistently deliver high levels of technical innovation and‭ ‬quality‭. ‬


To what extent do you pursue technological development in your operations‭? ‬

ABS is a leader in technological innovation‭, ‬providing groundbreaking research in areas such as‭: ‬the development of‭ ‬“smarter”‭ ‬assets and systems‭, ‬emissions reduction‭, ‬operating in harsh environments and alternative fuels‭. ‬As our industry emerges from a‭ ‬prolonged downturn‭, ‬we are overseeing more than 150‭ ‬maritime and offshore technology projects that will help to identify‭, ‬test and deliver innovative products and services that promote safe practice‭, ‬more efficient operations and environmental stewardship‭.‬‭ ‬

A few recent examples include research projects with universities such as Massachusetts Institute of Techno¬logy‭, ‬where we are jointly developing a probabilistic method of synthesizing decompo-sition to quantify the extremes for structural systems and research at UC Berkeley that examines computational methods for advanced manufacturing‭.‬


How do you meet the ongoing requirements of the ship owners‭? ‬

The marine industry is becoming digital and data-intensive environments‭, ‬creating a technological shift that we believe will have the single biggest impact on shipowners and operators for the next few years‭. ‬At ABS‭, ‬we have more than 1,000‭ ‬members who are‭ ‬global leaders of industry‭, ‬government and academia‭. ‬We have more than 30‭ ‬technical committees that regularly engage those members to keep our activities aligned with industry needs‭, ‬identify emerging challenges and ensure the practicality of solutions‭. ‬

Independent of those activities‭, ‬we are engaged in more than 40‭ ‬joint development and industry research projects with regulatory‭ ‬agencies‭, ‬operators‭, ‬class organizations‭, ‬fabricators‭, ‬owners and designers‭. ‬


How do you assure the implementation of high safety standards and securing your human resources‭?‬

At ABS‭, ‬safety is in our DNA‭. ‬Therefore‭, ‬we take great pride in being at the top of all the most recent Port State Control tables compiled by the independent maritime authori¬ties in Tokyo‭, ‬Paris and the U.S‭. ‬

A world-class safety culture entails focus‭, ‬attention and consistent action to drive improvement‭. ‬While we are the leaders in safe practice‭, ‬we are also well aware that the types of talent we will need to maintain is changing‭. ‬We hire people with non-traditional skills from non-traditional sources and integrate them with our traditional knowledge of structures‭, ‬machinery‭, ‬mechanics‭ ‬and electrical systems to support the next generation of safety systems‭.‬


Can you tell us about your global expansion plans‭? ‬

ABS continues to focus on the provision of leading class services in more than 70‭ ‬countries‭. ‬Our biggest expansion is the movement into the digital world through ABS FutureClass™‭ ‬plan‭. ‬The ABS FutureClass plan will apply advanced technology‭, ‬digital tools/capabilities and improved core processes to drive‭ ‬greater performance and efficiency‭. ‬This will generate value for our members and clients‭, ‬as well as redefine the delivery of class services‭. ‬By developing unique approaches to inspection technologies‭, ‬data collection and analysis‭, ‬advanced analytics and diagnostics‭, ‬ABS will deliver stronger marine and offshore class services‭.‬


How has ABS succeeded in contributing to enhance the international maritime standards‭? ‬

Our mission is to promote the safety of life and property at sea‭. ‬We deliver on our mission in part by developing the technical‭ ‬standards that guide international maritime safety‭. ‬We have more than 200‭ ‬maritime rules and guides to help owners and operators‭ ‬build‭, ‬operate and maintain assets and equipment in accordance with sound safety principles‭. ‬Our rules and guides are under continuous review as we strive to improve the global safety record each year‭. ‬Working with industry and regulators‭, ‬we have seen a‭ ‬sharp downward trend in total losses for more than a decade‭. ‬

The global maritime industry has been witnessing a downturn‭; ‬can you tell us how did you manage to tackle the current challenges‭?‬

It is during market downturns when the industries that ABS supports need the tools and solutions supporting cost-effective decisions‭, ‬optimize asset perform¬an¬ces‭, ‬meet regulatory requirements and improve safety through better reliability‭. ‬

Therefore‭, ‬we have managed to develop latest upgrades on our services‭. ‬For example‭, ‬the latest additions and upgrades the NS Enterprise software suite included improvements to NS Voyage Manager‭, ‬NS HSQE Manager and ABS’s new business intelligence solution‭, ‬NS Insight‭. ‬

NS Voyage Manager supports voyage planning and compliance with a variety of environmental regulations including MRV‭, ‬IMO DCS‭, ‬Ballast Water‭, ‬Fuel Switching‭, ‬MARPOL‭, ‬MARPOL V and VGP‭. ‬NS HSQE Manager links safety management systems‭, ‬risk mitigation‭, ‬inspection and manage¬ment of change activities in a comprehensive compliance-management process that helps to ensure safe operations‭.‬

At the service level‭, ‬ABS introduced Ballast Water Management Technol¬ogy Evaluation Services offering a roadmap through the related myriad of market options for compliance to select the system that‭ ‬better meets the unique technical and operational needs of their fleets‭.‬

Ultimately‭, ‬as the maritime industry moves to autonomy‭, ‬our survey process will become more predictive and less intrusive‭. ‬Fueled by data‭, ‬surveys will be driven by predictive analytics‭, ‬only focusing on those areas that we know require attention‭.‬

Within the next few years‭, ‬as more and more data is collected‭, ‬we will move towards a data-driven survey‭. ‬Mobile applications will be expanded to the entire ABS service ecosystem‭, ‬giving all stakeholders secure access to data to manage design reviews and surveys before and after construction‭.‬


So do you think that remotely piloted drones used for vessels inspections will completely replace the current classification methods‭? ‬And to what extent would that be accurate and effective‭? ‬

The future of classification will require surveyors to work in a more collaborative‭, ‬less intrusive and more efficient manner‭. ‬To achieve this vision‭, ‬ABS is integra¬ting traditional class services with innovative concepts‭, ‬tools and practices to minimize operational risk and reduce the non-productive time associated with classification surveys‭.‬

New inspection technology such as unmanned aerial vehicles‭ (‬UAVs‭) ‬and remotely operated vehicles‭, ‬or drones‭, ‬are key in this integration‭. ‬These are enabling technologies that make inspections safer and less time intensive‭. ‬They can collect visual data‭ ‬–‭ ‬such as still images‭, ‬live-stream and recorded video‭ -- ‬from difficult-to-reach structures and areas‭, ‬eliminating the risk that‭ ‬employees face when working at height‭. ‬The next step in the UAVs operational evolution is for industry to determine the full scope of a drone’s ability to support close-up inspections‭.‬

Drones are already improving the efficiency of inspections and surveyor safety by remotely examining confined spaces such as tanks‭, ‬underwater surfaces such as hulls‭, ‬and elevated areas‭, ‬where they are replacing riskier conventional means of access such as‭ ‬staging‭, ‬scaffolding‭, ‬and rafting‭. ‬


Investing in training and development is a strategic priority in the maritime sector‭, ‬can you tell us about ABS Training Academy‭ ‬and its main added value to the industry‭? ‬

It will take a highly educated‭, ‬well-trained and qualified workforce to lead ABS and the industries it serves in the future‭. ‬ABS‭ ‬is committed to building a sustainable pipeline of the up-and-coming generation of professionals in the marine‭, ‬offshore/energy‭ ‬and gas industries through planned philanthropic giving to academic institutions around the world as well as robust internal talent development programs‭. ‬

In 2016‭, ‬ABS partnered with Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken‭, ‬New Jersey‭, ‬to dedicate the ABS Engineering Center‭. ‬ABS‭ ‬donated the funds for the center to provide an environment both for learning the various engineering disciplines and for looking‭ ‬ahead toward new technologies that could transform the marine industry‭. ‬ABS continued to fund the Cass Business School at City‭ ‬University of London for the development of two master’s degree programs from the university’s Costas Grammenos Centre for Shipping‭, ‬Trade and Finance‭. ‬ABS also provided scholarship commitments to 373‭ ‬scholars at colleges‭ ‬and universities in the Americas‭, ‬China‭, ‬Europe and the Pacific regions‭. ‬

Not only is ABS committed to making a difference at universities and technical institutes globally‭, ‬it is dedicated to growing the talent of its own people‭. ‬In 2016‭, ‬30‭ ‬recent graduates were in various stages of the ABS ASPIRE program‭. ‬ASPIRE participants‭ ‬bring diverse backgrounds and skill sets to ABS‭, ‬including naval architecture‭, ‬ocean engineering‭, ‬mechanical engineering‭, ‬and now data analytics to support the growing marine and offshore industries and the future of ABS‭. ‬Through the ASPIRE program‭, ‬newly‭ ‬hired graduates take an active role on the ABS team working alongside professionals from more than 70‭ ‬countries to develop broad‭-‬based knowledge of maritime and offshore industries through rotations in our Engineering‭, ‬Survey and Technology departments‭. ‬