Many of us thought by now life would be back to normal. It is now June 2020 and we (TMA) are all still abiding by the sheltered in place order and are working remotely. Covid-19 has not only impacted our livelihood, it has fast-tracked us into a virtual reality world. For the past few months, we have been living in a contactless environment from homeschooling our children to teleconferencing a board meeting.
Over the past few months, we have seen different areas within the maritime industry adopting video technology to carry out functions that would have otherwise required a physical presence. If the medical industry can replace physical visits with telemedicine, why can’t the shipping industry handle claims using Microsoft Teams, Google Hangouts, Skype, Facetime or Zoom? This forced adaptation to the new “normal” has become a necessity in order to minimize business disruptions and find solutions.
Recently, due to COVID-19 restrictions, the Club has been presented with challenges and needed to find solutions to carry on with minimal impact. For instance, we had a situation where an incident occurred at sea and local authorities were waiting to board the vessel upon arrival. The Club appointed lawyer would not have been able to access the dock where the vessel was proceeding to due to the COVID-19 restrictions. Therefore, using Skype from his home, he interviewed the Captain and the crew. Since the interviews were carried out prior to the vessel’s arrival, the lawyer advised the crew before the authorities boarded the vessel. While there may be some benefits to in-person interviews, in this case, his use of technology protected the Member’s interest and saved on travel expenses. In another example, due to canceled flights, we were not able to fly an expert to a certain location to sample a particular cargo. A local surveyor, who was already on board for another reason, volunteered to assist the vessel. However, he was unfamiliar with this cargo sampling procedure and required instruction. Therefore, while on board the vessel, he received virtual training via his tablet, enabling him to carry out the sampling, preventing major delays and disruptions to the vessel.
In addition to the lawyers and experts, the authorities and class societies have moved towards replacing physical visits with video technology and document exchange. ABS Remote Survey program was recently introduced for certain eligible surveys. ABS surveyors will perform class surveys remotely, as technology will replace the surveyor’s eye-witness verification on board a vessel. Digital documented evidence such as logs, reports, photos, and videos will replace a physical survey. With implementation of this new program, costs and time will be saved as there is a reduction in surveyor logistical costs and in shipboard operational disruptions.
“The ABS Remote Survey program augments traditional survey through the transfer of digital documentation such as reports, photos and videos for non-attendance verification of select surveys. Adoption of this program improves scheduling efficiencies and reduces operational disruptions. With ABS Remote Survey you can complete select surveys on time without physical surveyor attendance. All requests are subject to ABS review and acceptance on a case-by-case basis.”
For further information on the ABS Remote Survey program please click here.
In March, The United States Coast Guard (USCG) announced in a MSIB 09-20, that they will use remote inspection techniques to verify vessel compliance for Certificate of Inspection (COI) and Certificate of Compliance (COC) exams if certain criteria has been met. The USCG will review supports and evidence including but not limited to recent classification surveys, pictures, video, vessel logs, and machinery alarm reports.
“U.S. flagged vessels and OCS units due for Certificate of Inspection (COI) Renewals, Annual Inspections, Periodic Inspections, Dry Dock Exams, and Internal Structural Examinations (ISE) that are based on statutory or regulatory requirements should be addressed on a case-by-case basis by the local OCMI. Based on the OCMI’s evaluation of the history of the vessel and in consultation with the vessel owner or operator, the OCMI may:
- Require Coast Guard attendance onboard the vessel to conduct a full or abbreviated inspection;
- Accept objective evidence such as recent classification surveys, pictures, video, vessel logs, machinery alarm reports, etc., in lieu of Coast Guard attendance onboard the vessel to credit a required inspection or exam. (A dry dock, pressure vessel, or other non-annual exam may only be credited for a maximum of one year.);
- Defer a required inspection or exam for up to 90 days; or
- Issue a CG Form CG-835V to restrict the vessel movement as a worklist item.“
“Certain Certificate of Compliance (COC) exams are a statutory and regulatory requirement. Based on the OCMI’s evaluation of the history of the vessel, the OCMI may:
- Require Coast Guard attendance onboard the vessel to conduct a full or abbreviated exam;
- Accept objective evidence such as vessel status within Qualship 21, previous port state or flag state exams, recent classification surveys, pictures, video, vessel logs, machinery alarm reports, etc. in lieu of Coast Guard attendance onboard the vessel to credit a required inspection or exam; or
- Defer a required inspection or exam for up to 90 days”
For further information on the USCG vessel inspection and document exchange please refer to the MSIB here.
What lies next after this outbreak is contained? Will remote working be the new norm? COVID-19 has forced employers to embrace and experiment with a work-from-home routine at a rapid rate. Specifically, within the shipping industry, we may start to see this temporary remote work arrangement transition to a more permanent reality. It seems this new norm has proven to be both efficient and productive and is likely here to stay.