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.