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Towing Vessels and Sir Tim

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Graham Faiz

Graham Faiz

Head of Growth and Innovation - UK & Ireland

Published: 30 July, 2020

What does DNV’s towing vessel approvability scheme have in common with the brilliant British scientist Sir Tim Berners-Lee? Read on to find out!

In a previous blog post I wrote about how the innovation team at DNV had taken inspiration from a conversation over strong coffee to ignite an initiative to transform a traditional desktop-based service into a cloud-based application. This time around I talk about how we applied that same thinking and methodology to a long-standing and well-respected service line aimed at the suitability of towing vessels for various operations, tenuously inspired by Sir Tim.

Let’s start by turning the clock back a little. In fact, let’s turn it back quite a way – all the way back to 1990 to a time when wrecking cranes had just began tearing down the Berlin Wall at the Brandenburg Gate; West Germany had triumphed in the FIFA World Cup in Italy; the Hubble space telescope was placed into orbit by space shuttle Discovery; and in the CERN laboratory near Geneva in Switzerland, Sir Tim was busy writing the first web browser, exactly one year after he invented the world wide web.

As we pass through these misty annals of time, the May 1990 edition of Shipping World and Ship Builder journal articulately described the launch of a new towing vessel approvability scheme, which is an adaptation and update of a scheme that has been running for over twenty years.

The article states that the long-standing scheme from Noble Denton has been updated and adapted in response to interest from charterers who have expressed interest in utilising it as part of their own internal quality assurance”

The journal continues to explain how “for nearly 20 years the original scheme has operated satisfactorily with approximately 450 vessels being issued with approvability documentation. During this period however, many vessels have undergone change of ownership, registry, classification, manning levels and standards of towing equipment and, as a result, the standard of the original approvability can no longer be assured. In addition to the difficultly in monitoring continued approvability, the original scheme did not cover the suitability of those vessels operating continually in benign areas, or those operating in an assisting role.”

The article concludes by detailing the benefits of the enhanced service; how it intends to meet the demand of vessel charterers; the technical specifications associated with it; and how such specifications have been outlined in guideline documents.

Of particular interest is that the article highlights the launch of a new register, detailing that the first edition of the towing vessel register has been published for 1990. Further additions of the register will be published annually. During the last twenty years Noble Denton has compiled a comprehensive database of all towing vessels surveyed. This database totals in excess of 3000 vessels of which over 450 have been inspected for inclusion in the original scheme. This information forms the basis of the towing vessel register.

Before we leave the past, let’s check-in again with Sir Tim. With help from colleagues and fellow hypertext enthusiasts, he published a more formal proposal on 12 November 1990 to build a “Hypertext project” called “WorldWideWeb” as a “web” of “hypertext documents” to be viewed by his latest creation, “browsers”. Just a few years later all our lives would be forever transformed by his invention as it went public and adoption of internet services into our professional and personal lives exploded.

Let’s now return from our foray into the distant yet not forgotten past. All of us are now aware of the significant impact that the world wide web has had upon our lives. Yet for thousands of towing vessel owners and prospective vessel charterers, this now established towing vessel approvability scheme has afforded a solution that has grown to become an industry acknowledged, go-to assurance service of choice for towing vessel technical assurance.

But just how do you strike the right balance when taking a service with such an established and well-respected market offering into the “digital age”, retaining everything that made the service what it is today and yet enhancing it to leverage more value for our customers; connect key industry players; and build efficiency into its delivery.

Embracing the methodology defined in Jake Knapp’s milestone publication “Sprint” and adopting the now familiar mantra of “if it’s good enough for Google”, a keen group of potential innovators met up in the bracing cold of Aberdeen harbour one February morning armed with some sticky notes, sharpie pens and coloured sticky dots and bundles of enthusiasm eager to explore what could be done to transform and freshen up the service.

After several long days and evenings, a vast collection of furious scribblings from our enthusiastic cohort was collected and assembled as the basis for a way forward for a transformed Towing Vessel Approvability Scheme, to be known henceforth as MyTVAS. Over the course of the many months that followed, the team worked to design, build, test, re-test and ultimately launch a new digital platform which is now live on DNV’s Veracity platform.

MyTVAS contains two distinct applications aimed at vessel owners, operators, charterers, surveyors, underwriters and analysts. The first is a fleet management tool for the owners enrolled in the scheme to track the entire lifecycle of their fleet and monitor the previously outlined certification process. The feature also enables other users to use the information in their risk management process for operations involving such vessels.

Successful registration of a vessel into the MyTVAS scheme includes publication into a public MyTVAS dashboard. This service is available to everybody via the MyTVAS public dashboard app service and contains relevant data of all vessels and the designation of vessels entered into the MyTVAS scheme. In effect it acts as a shop window for the use of the vessel.

This live dashboard, the second app in the MyTVAS platform, benefits operators, oil companies and other charterers, surveyors, shipbrokers and underwriters in assessing vessel suitability for various towing operations. Future versions of the MyTVAS dashboard app will allow potential charterers the opportunity to make secure contact with MyTVAS-approved vessel owners over the platform.

For the past 30 years the Towing Vessel Approvability Scheme has built upon its launch in May 1990 to grow into an industry acknowledged service that allows charterers of towing vessels to build confidence in the vessels that they are taking on hire. With the new MyTVAS platform working alongside their quality management systems, they now have an improved opportunity to contract a well-founded and well-equipped vessel that has been surveyed and is being monitored to a consistent global technical standard in a fresh, re-invigorated way.

MyTVAS is a great example of a digital product providing value in an efficient way, leveraging our existing knowledge on customer needs and operational insights and building on that vision so articulately outlined all those years ago.

I’m delighted to see the service re-launched on Veracity, delivered to current and future customers, made possible since its inauguration all those years ago via Sir Tim’s invention. As they both celebrate their milestone birthdays, it’s time to celebrate the humble web browser ; and it’s time to celebrate the launch of the new MyTVAS service!

Contact us:

Graham Faiz

Graham Faiz

Head of Growth and Innovation - UK & Ireland