- In principle, the approach of remote maintenance is not new, but not yet widely established in shipping due to the special technical requirements.
- The most important precondition for remote maintenance in shipping is Wi-Fi anywhere on board.
- A remote upper deck inspection was carried out on a bulk carrier. These test results are also promising.
As part of its smart maintenance strategy, BSM is moving forward with remote support capabilities for its managed fleet – an important digital development to make shipping safer and more efficient.
Assistance on board
Imagine that a vessel is experiencing engine failure on the high seas and the ship’s technical superintendent as well as service engineers from the maker’s side could be live on board to assist the crew with reactivation.
This is just one scenario that BSM aims to address with its remote maintenance initiative by enabling the specialists onshore to be remotely connected to the on-board systems in real time.
What is Remote maintenance?
Remote maintenance is a crucial factor in BSM’s maintenance strategy, not just for the mentioned emergency response, but also to be able to carry out overhauls on major equipment and conduct remote surveys without having to send shore-based staff from the maker’s side or a surveyor on board the vessel.
In principle, the approach of remote maintenance is not new, but not yet widely established in shipping due to the special technical requirements.
However, due to travel restrictions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, the realization and implementation of remote maintenance has gained momentum.
Wi-Fi coverage anywhere on board
The most important precondition for remote maintenance in shipping is Wi-Fi anywhere on board, another project that is being pursued by BSM.
“Unlike land-based machinery, this is not a trivial matter for ships that are often hundreds or thousands of nautical miles from shore,” says Theodore Ioannou, Group Technical Superintendent – Maintenance Strategy, who is leading BSM’s Smart Maintenance project.
To achieve ship-wide coverage, you need several Internet access points, some of them explosion-proof, fitted everywhere on board, for example in the engine room, on the monkey island or the upper deck.
Additional cabling and transmitter technology is required. If the technical requirements are met, the Internet connection can be established via satellite communication (for long distances) or via SIM card (close to shore).
Using touchpads with cameras or even 3D glasses, the crew can literally bring the shore staff live on board.
“So far we have equipped the first managed ships with Wi-Fi anywhere on board and carried out the first remote maintenance tests,” Ioannou continues.
On one of these ships, a chemical tanker, a remote class survey has been successfully conducted.
The vessel’s Technical Superintendent, Charalambos Georgiou, supervised the remote survey and explained the advantages for the client: “We saved the owner around USD 30,000.
Such a particular survey through conventional processes usually results in three days off hire for port stay and surveyor’s travel costs for accommodation and flights.”
Ioannou adds: “Not to mention the emissions saved, in this case a total of 475 kg carbon dioxide. With hundreds or even thousands of vessel surveys every year, it adds up.”
A remote upper deck inspection was carried out on a bulk carrier. These test results are also promising. Technical Superintendent Mriganka Bhar summarises: “The system is very useful and simple to use.
It is like an app allowing live streaming from anywhere on the ship.” Wi-Fi coverage may need to be adjusted depending on the conditions on board.
The more complicated the structure, such as on container ships, the more transmission can be restricted, which conversely requires additional access points to include dead zones on the ship if necessary.
Making shipping safer
“Wi-Fi anywhere and remote maintenance offer the advantage of expanding the operational area for surveys, inspections and overhauls.
Until now, it has almost only been possible during port stays, but now it can also be carried out on the sea passage.
That is less stressful for the crew members, who are actually busy with cargo operations in the port,” says Ioannou.
“And in an emergency, this option is even more helpful. We will be able to better assist the crew by having our eyes on board.”
Ioannou is convinced that remote maintenance is an important development to make shipping safer and more efficient. “That is why we at BSM are working on getting more vessels ready for remote support.”
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