During the COVID-19 pandemic, the shipping industry has faced challenges when it comes to conducting surveys and inspections physically on board ships. As a result of social distancing requirements during the pandemic, remote surveys and inspections for the certification of materials and components have been successfully used and have proven to be a helpful alternative to on-site surveys. Now, global guidelines are needed.
The development of guidelines for remote surveys has been proposed to the International Maritime Organization’s (IMO) Maritime Safety Committee (MSC) meeting, held online 4 – 8 October 2021, with the aim of establishing global and uniform implementation of such guidelines. BIMCO will be attending the MSC meetings.
The forthcoming IMO MSC meeting (session 104) will consider the new proposal to develop guidelines on remote surveys, with a view to global and uniform implementation. The pandemic has underlined the importance of developing common requirements for the implementation of remote survey approaches to overcome the challenges of carrying out the surveys on board and in person.
The question is whether a ship can be successfully surveyed remotely. Experience gathered since the start of the pandemic has shown that this can in fact be done. Whether the online surveys provide the right amount of detail and depth of information needed by the surveyor who is watching on a laptop or tablet is still a pending question.
The Classification Societies have recently reported a massive uplift in the demand for remote surveys. At present, remote surveys can be used for smaller tasks such as verifying a repair has been undertaken or ensuring minor damage has been rectified.
The lack of uniform guidance for remote surveys and the subsequent lack of understanding by involved parties, including surveyors, shipowners and shipboard crew, may cause negative impacts on the quality of ship surveys and/or inspections, undermining the safety.
BIMCO is positive to remote surveys as a supplement and an alternative to the ordinary on-site surveys, whenever suitable. A pre-requisite, however, is that the survey and inspection follow strict uniform guidelines related to each particular survey, its scope and what must be recorded and reported. BIMCO therefore encourages the IMO to develop common guidance for remote surveys.