Classification societies play a vital role in keeping the maritime shipping industry safe. Class helps ensure that the sector can function effectively, supporting regulation to establish the rules and provide the support that turn the dreams and plans of naval architects, shipbuilders and shipowners into reality through a lifetime of operational service under class survey.

Digitalisation is transforming the business of class and how organisations such as Bureau Veritas (BV) drive safety and innovation throughout the lifecycle of ships and other marine assets. When it comes to change, some say shipping moves too slowly. To some extent, this may be true. But, as digital technologies mature and the industry adapts to the new realities of a changing world, momentum is starting to build.

From decarbonisation and alternative fuels to growing demand for greater connectivity and cyber resilience, as shipping charts the way forward its increasingly clear that cutting-edge software and hardware will be critical to overcoming the many regulatory, economic and practical challenges that lay ahead.

While Covid-19 has been an accelerating catalyst that is hastening the journey from Digital 3.0 to 4.0, BV’s digital evolution began more than ten years ago. The architect of this initiative is Laurent Hentges, who serves as the vice president of operational excellence at the classification society’s marine and offshore division.

From the beginning, Hentges notes that BV’s ambition has been defined and structured to transform the classification operating model, with a long-term vision and roadmap to develop and leverage new technologies. The organisation has already seen concrete results with real-world projects and key advancements in the following areas:

  • 3D classification to transform design approval from a review of 2D drawings to the collaborative review of unique, more detailed 3D models
  • Remote surveys and inspections that utilise drones , robotics, smart glasses and software to collect and verify data
  • Artificial intelligence (AI) and simulation to improve safety, critical decision-making processes and data analysis
  • Digital twin technology that aids in the development and optimisation of predictive maintenance schemes based on an asset’s in-service performance and real-time data
  • Collaborative platforms that facilitate closer, more effective interactions among stakeholders in the design and management of individual vessels and entire fleets— with the opportunity to develop ‘asset integrity’
  • Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) technologies that enable continuous, remote data collection and verification—and the secure transfer of said data from ship to shore by way of the ‘cloud’

There’s a lot of hype around new technologies. If you want to learn more about the ones that are worth watching, check out BV's new white paper: ‘Digital Classification – Industry 4.0 and the Future of Classification’ or connect with Laurent Hentges on LinkedIn .

Digital Classification – A single source of truth

The continuous collection and analysis of digital data reduces the number of service providers with whom stakeholders must interact during testing, inspection and certification (TIC).

The digital transformation at Bureau Veritas is led by Laurent Hentges, Vice President Operational Excellence, Marine & Offshore. Photo: Bureau Veritas

When critical information is gathered and shared through a single collaborative platform, a digital classification society can serve as a source of truth for the entire ecosystem of individuals involved in the classification process.

Our ambition has been defined and structured to transform the classification operating model

This process is supported by AI and enabled by the cloud. It enables shipowners and operators to make smarter decisions while realising the full benefit of predictive analytics. Increased visibility and transparency provides greater situational awareness and promotes better, more informed responses. The ambition: safer, higher performance ships and an industry that’s well placed to survive—and thrive—in an ever-changing world.