DNV GL’s CEO expects a renaissance of the maritime industry

Sep 17 2020

Knut Ørbeck-Nilssen, CEO of DNV GL, says he expects to see the maritime industry go through a renaissance - a period of change but also marked by a revival of classical ideas.

The Renaissance period of European history at the end of the Middle Ages was a time of “challenging everything we did, and coming up with a lot of new ideas and innovations, in science, art, culture and all aspects and walks of life” – but also “rediscovering some old and ancient knowledges,” says Knut Ørbeck-Nilssen, CEO of DNV GL.


The maritime industry may be going through a similar period. 


There are three “tectonic shifts” transforming today’s maritime world – unpredictable markets, complex regulatory landscape and “turbocharged digitalisation and innovation,” he said.


While people have been talking about them for at least three years, some of these themes have become “more tectonic” during the Covid period, he said.


“The global pandemic has challenged the status quo of how we operate, how we do things, the way we all thought was the only truth for how to operate.”


Covid-19 “has probably accelerated the digital developments of the maritime industry by half a decade,” he said. 


“There are many examples where the mentality of people working in the maritime industry has really changed. We are much more open to digital ways of working – and digital ways of interacting.”


For example, there has been a 33 per cent increase in remote surveys “since the pandemic took grasp on the world.”


“We see a number of shipowners and managers are investing in increased bandwidth, which makes it easier to conduct this.”


Machinery maintenance inspections would previously be done with a surveyor looking at logs and spreadsheets, which could take “a number of days if not weeks” to review a 50 vessel fleet. But now, he says, it can be done in 4 hours.


80 per cent of customers are booking surveys using a digital tool.


DNV GL does not envisage that all surveys will ever be remote – it comes to finding the right balance between remote and physical surveys.


There is a value to having surveyors onboard, if they can “detect and understand a lot of the context on the vessel” – which is not achieved if they are sitting somewhere far away telling somebody onboard what to point a camera at. “So yes – I do think attending surveys will be necessary,” he said.  


Remote inspection also enables access to a wider pool of experts, and so leads to an improved customer experience.  


DNV GL calculates that 50 per cent of everything it does in total is remote these days, said Luca Crisciotti, CEO DNV GL , business assurance.


Another change during the Covid period was that DNV GL’s webinars were attracting up to 3,000 participants, which previously may have attracted 300, Mr Ørbeck-Nilssen said. 


In February 2020 DNV GL launched an online product “FuelBoss” as an “online hub for LNG bunkering”, taking customers from order to delivery, handling nominating suppliers, scheduling, spot enquiries and business intelligence. 


One area of digital technology where Mr Ørbeck-Nilssen expects perhaps less progress than many industry observers is in fully autonomous, unmanned vessels. While there may be some unmanned vessels, we are more likely to see manned vessels with higher degrees of automation, he believes.


We will need to find the right “equilibrium position”, with the right number of crew onboard, and the right level of automation onboard.


Mr Ørbeck-Nilssen believes there is a “great” opportunity for maritime industries in AI.


One example is automated analysis of video footage, including footage taken  by drone. This might lead to finding ways to improve safety, maintenance decisions and scheduling. 


DNV is looking for ways to “really drive the digital development of the maritime world forward,” he said. 


Lower carbon fuels

A big change which is unrelated to the pandemic is the move to lower CO2 fuels.


Gas power is an important stepping stone, Mr Ørbeck-Nilssen says. “It all really starts with gas. Gas is the best fuel choice for the next 1-2 vessel generations. Not because gas is the ideal or the perfect solution – but it is readily available, it is there, tested, it demonstrates very significant reduction on greenhouse gas of 15 to 20 per cent depending on what sort of solution you choose.”


“It is also a very efficient bridging technology towards other fuels and better fuels, which are not ready, but where further research and development, testing, piloting, will lead us on a path where we can introduce these fuels.”


“We shouldn’t wait for the ideal solution. We should take steps now to improve the climate, reduce emissions, and not least in order to improve our position with the wider stakeholder groups, not least the younger generation. Gas is there, it’s ready, there‘s no reason to wait for alternatives.”


“The costs of installing these dual fuel systems will come down with scaling [economies of scale as the industry gets bigger. The more momentum we can achieve, the better for everybody.”


But meanwhile, “all of us, not only here at DNV GL but in the entire industry, need to be open to new ideas, work an exploratory mindset, in order to release the potential of this decade and the next decade.”


It is already possible to see potential “pathways” of new fuels to be phased in, both for LNG and LPG fuel.


For vessels on so called “tramp shipping”, where the sizes and routes are less predetermined, LPG pathways may be more appropriate, because it is easier to store and more available around the world. 


In answer to a question from a journalist, Mr Ørbeck-Nilssen acknowledged that some people are pushing only for zero carbon fuels, saying that LNG vessels could become ‘stranded assets’ in this zero carbon world, but said he “strongly disagreed”.


It is like saying the shipping industry should do nothing for the next 30 years while it waits for these zero carbon fuels and continue making emissions the whole time. 


“If you can save 15 to 20 per cent [of CO2 emission] by doing something now, or wait another 30 years for something that can save you 50 per cent, I think there’s no reason to wait.


DNV GL made its first rules for dual fuel engines (which can run on both gas and diesel) 20 years ago. “It took a long time to develop LNG as fuel – and later on, more general gas as fuel,” he said. 


Zero carbon fuels like ammonia “are very immature at this stage”, he said.  “I am not saying we shouldn’t do R+D, I’m not saying we shouldn’t pilot and test. We can use the short sea shipping segment as a very capable testing ground for some of these new fuels.


The methane slip, where a tiny amount of unburned methane leaks through the engine to the exhaust, is often used as an argument against moving to gas fuel. But there is a lot of work going on to improve this, he said.  “I think we can really address that in a good way.”


The COVID pandemic has probably caused some delay to some of the decarbonisation efforts, it would be “pretty naïve” to say otherwise, he said. For example, IMO is not able to continue its normal meeting plan. 


Mr Ørbeck-Nilssen thinks that the International Chamber of Shipping proposal to IMO that money is put aside for research on decarbonising shipping is “a very good idea”. 


The funding could look into how different fuels can be used – the safety applications , materials choices, required infrastructure, bunkering systems, any operational risks. The research funding can also be used for pilot tests. 


For example, we can learn more about use of batteries onboard, including safety and recharging issues. 

Maritime’s personal relationships

A major strength of the maritime industry, compared to other industries, is the focus on personal relationships, Mr Ørbeck-Nilssen said. 


There are other industries which are very bureaucratic in comparison. “you can hardly meet for a cup of coffee.” 


“Relations with individuals is really bringing forward a lot of excellent ideas,  and a great way of working together,” he said. 


“You find the maritime exchange is extremely fruitful and that is definitely a learning point.”


This extends to the value the maritime industry gets from physical events. One of the benefits of physical events is that people can learn things or meet people they didn’t know they needed to know about or meet. 


“That is the beauty of human interaction in general – and that will be important going forward,” he said. 


Infection prevention program

In a separate development, DNV GL has launched a certification scheme for vessels’ inspection prevention programs, “Certification for infectious prevention in maritime industries”  (CIP-M). The program was first developed in 2019, before the Covid pandemic.


Genting Cruise Lines has already committed to using the program on its 1856 passenger vessel Explorer Dream.  There is also interest in the program from passenger and “ropax” (roll on, roll off /  passenger) vessels.  It could be an important measure in building customer confidence back in the cruise sector, Mr Ørbeck-Nilssen says.


It draws expertise from a (non-maritime) healthcare division of DNV GL, which accredits hospitals worldwide. The company employs many medical experts – former doctors and nurses. 


A big challenge when designing the program was combining the different worlds – of hospitals and maritime.  The aim was to have a program which would be “hospital grade” but also maritime specific.


The emphasis is on preventing infection.  There are estimated to be 1.7m infections every year in US hospitals, and 100,000 premature deaths as a result. “You can realise how important it is to deal with such things,” says Luca Crisciotti, CEO DNV GL , business assurance.


The certification scheme covers how well companies monitor the risk of infection, and are ready to mitigate an outbreak if it happens. Mitigation methods include PPE (for crewmembers and passengers in some cases), physical distancing, food preparation, emergency response plans, pre-boarding checks and itinerary optimisation.


The certification document has sections on medical staff, case management, general staff management, rights of infirmary patients, medical records, physical environment, infection prevention and control system, quality management and project management. 


It is possible that having a certification scheme for infection management programs on ships could become mandatory, such as with minimum requirements by a flag state through IMO. 


Cruise ships can have as many people onboard as in a small town, and numerous passenger and crew changes, so mitigating the spread of infection can be highly complex. There are many elements in common between cruise ships and hospitals, in that they involve giving people beds and food. 


But the return on investment for such a program could be enormous if it brings back confidence from passengers in going on cruise ships. 


The system can be scaled down in complexity for tankers. The cost of complying with the program is proportionate to the complexity of the operation.


Related News

South Korean-flagged tanker seized by Iran, Seoul demands release

(Jan 07 2021)

Iran angered by freezing of $7 billion in South Korean banks.

Iran launches 2nd home-built Aframax tanker

(Jan 07 2021)

Iran has launched its second domestically-produced Aframax oil tanker at the Sadra Island shipyard in the southern province of Bushehr.

China is the key

(Dec 03 2020)

Gibson Shipbrokers Weekly Tanker Market Report.

UK Hydrographic Office to host virtual ADMIRALTY Blue Data Conference on 26 January 2021

(Dec 03 2020)

Event will bring together leading experts to address some of the defining questions for our ocean industries and the marine environment.

Poten Tanker Opinion: Refining in the doldrums

(Nov 26 2020)

Covid-19 accelerates changes in global refining landscape.

Nov-Dec 2020

Shipping post COVID - practicality of decarbonisation - Hafnia and vessel performance