Not rocket science: Anthony Veder's remote repair solution

The starting point for the live remote repair scheme operating onboard Anthony Veder’s gas tanker fleet was a simple question: “How can we get necessary knowhow on board a ship if a technical incident occurs?”

This question led to another: “can we use audio and video devices on the spot to remotely support repairs being carried onboard?”. CIO Benne Engelen of Anthony Veder and his partners proposed the following answer: “use existing augmented reality technology, provide solid connectivity to the vessel and run tests to see whether applying the technique is viable and efficient.”

It took about a year from the start of the idea to the finish of the pilot to validate the conclusion. The remote repair scheme has been trialled and can be rolled out on newbuild vessels and older ones efficiently and in a cost-effective way. Anthony Veder has already implemented the remote repair scheme on its fleet. CIO Benne Engelen told The Motorship the initiative had already proved its value: “the number of flight movements will be reduced considerably.”

Anthony Veder designed its system by involving its trusted partners with whom the integrated shipping line already collaborates. Class society Bureau Veritas and Bakker Sliedrecht.

The shipping company and the classification society has cooperated in a successful pilot for live remote surveys, which paved the way for fully remote class surveys to be rolled out. The collaboration on that project had an unexpected consequence, as it prompted further research and the development of the pilot for live remote repair onboard ships.

CIO Engelen and his colleagues started by drawing up a long list of viable partners for the project before choosing Bureau Veritas and Bakker Sliedrecht for further development of the project. “As a rule, we work from drawing up several project-stages: phase one is the discovery phase, secondly, the defining one, after which the interpretation of the findings and work out the solution.”

Those involved in the system’s design had to establish whether it would work and be workable before the concept was validated for implementation. The transmission of the considerable data per satellite was simulated beforehand with their technical partner Lumiad. In the end, the partners selected a combination of satellite plus 4G connectivity onboard for use when the vessel navigates closely to the coast. “We only needed to extend the WiFi network onto the engine room”, Engelen said.

One challenge was ensuring the stability of the WiFi network onboard the ship, which poses difficulties in a steel nautical environment. Apart from that, the engineer in the engine room had to be equipped with Hololens 2 AR smart glasses. The headset is equipped with Microsoft Remote Assist software and enables service technicians ashore to assist their colleagues’ repair actions in the engine room or elsewhere onboard ship, and instruct them if need be.

The Hololens can download the needed manuals of the equipment on board ship, and also a dashboard with technical details if need be. The device comes in handy for daily monitoring components and equipment onboard, Engelen noted.

Talking about the willingness to adopt the live remote survey and repair systems in the maritime industry, Engelen observes that the industry is understandably risk averse: “Small human or technical errors can have disastrous economic and safety effects. That is why everybody in the sector aims at remaining safe at all costs. Risks can be avoided by identifying and mitigating them early on in these kind of projects.”

Miscommunication onboard ship and ashore can be a serious risk in itself. According to Anthony Veder CIO, it all starts with the proper appreciation for the cultural background of the various nationalities onboard and effective communications. “We have a heavy focus on processes, procedures and proper communication around all maintenance. Mutual control is necessary to avoid unsafe situations. Also a rating should feel safe to call the ship’s master for his conduct. All these aspects make a high quality shipowner.”

Looking ahead, Engelen added that Anthony Veder’s focus was on its internal processes. There are no plans to exploit the system commercially: “Shipping lines can easily develop the scheme themselves. It only needs logical thinking to develop and implement the live remote repair system. In principle, it can be implemented on any vessel.”

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