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Facilitating smart vessel operations 

Vessels, their systems, and their components are increasingly linked to the internet, making them accessible from anywhere and part of a network of online maritime assets. This is giving the industry access to real-time data, enabling increased automation, decision support, remote monitoring, and overall boosts to safety and operational performance.

In our role as a class society, we want to foster the uptake of digital features and smart vessels. This is why we developed new class notations to enable owners, operators, and yards to qualify and demonstrate their latest technologies.

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Performance Management

How it works:

Proper use of data contributes substantial value towards more efficient operations, but prerequisites are effective tools and analytics. Integrated reporting and fleet performance management systems allow for data input from different sources and automate the analysis and displaying of results in dynamic dashboards and reports.

What to consider:

As to manually or automatically captured data, there are good arguments for both. Often, though, data is captured in different formats, hindering effective use. A data visualization system must be flexible in how it presents data to meet the needs of all the different users. Data sharing must stretch across company silos, to avoid missing large benefits. There must be data quality checks included. Integration of external data sources must be automated, such as AIS and weather.

Mobile Devices (incl. Tablets)

Mobile applications will reshape companies’ interaction with their crews around the globe. More and more providers of solutions are going “mobile first”, with information provision to the crew becoming mobile, providing access to certificates, training, on and off hires, travelling, maintenance plans and documents. At the same time, the collection of data on board is becoming integrated with standard mobile devices, replacing entries into paper logbooks and similar. Big advancements will be made when these systems automatically transfer data to the ship data systems and from there to shore.


How it works:

Cloud services provide shared computer resources and data to computers and other devices on demand. The services offer the ability to perform high-speed processing and computation on the cloud, along with vast storage potential. To this end, manufacturers are starting to offer cloud-based services that owners can use to optimize the performance of shipboard systems and implement maintenance strategies.

What to consider:

Cloud technologies should offer IT cost savings, superior cyber security protection and easy access to advanced analytic tools. The scaleability of hardware storage systems and elimination of out-of-date issues from improved flexibility are other benefits. And if not offered seamlessly today, at least in future, the virtue of cloud storage and the application is to allow simpler interfacing between different systems. The decision is not to go all in for one or the other – many set-ups will be hybrid versions between cloud and on-premise solutions.

Cyber Security

How it works:

Recent years have shown rapid growth in cyber-attacks in the shipping industry. With increasing use of embedded software, cyber security has become critical for the reliability of operations as well as data protection. Protective activities must reach beyond the traditional focus on IT to include the biggest risks in shipping: attacks on operational technology (OT).

What to consider:

Cyber security is not just a matter of firewalls and antivirus software. A total of 90% of all cyber security incidents are attributed to human behaviour. Phishing and social engineering, unintentional downloads of malware, etc. are common issues. Most crews and onshore staff are not prepared for handling cyber-attacks, thus failing to contain the damage. The issues cover systems, software, procedures and the human factor.

Addressing cyber security starts with assessing the risks, with continuous improvement activities that close gaps, and with verification through certification and/or penetration testing.

Sensors and Internet of Things

How it works:

The Internet of Things (IoT) is the connection of sensors and data with actuators and computers through the Internet. The IoT is thus a key component on the road to autonomy. Increasingly smaller and less energy intensive sensors are one of the driving forces behind the IOT. The miniaturization and increased reliability and lifetime of sensors will make them more attractive to the maritime industry, also due to declining costs.

What to consider:

While increased use of sensors clearly is the future, retrofitting auto-logging systems on existing vessels is hampered by unavailability, poor data quality and sensors often being incompatible with maritime conditions. But drastic improvements are expected as the industry learns and adopts proper methods for the design and maintenance of sensor systems. For new projects, the reliability risks with sensor systems and the data quality issues must be carefully evaluated.

Condition Monitoring & Diagnostics

How it works:

More than 70% of equipment failures in ships occur randomly. The adoption of condition monitoring in shipping has been slow, though, mainly due to cost and complexity. With connectivity improvements, such systems can be supported from the shore, which will likely increase their uptake. In other industries, condition of health and use of models describing physics or empirical relations in diagnostics and prognostics has demonstrated impressive savings and improved safety. For example, Reliability Centred Maintenance is at the heart of why airlines can fly people for a small amount of money at speeds over 800 km/h for hours.

What to consider:

Class notations exist for simple monitoring and survey systems, such as tail shaft monitoring or for thrusters. Advanced condition monitoring systems are complex – implementing these involve procedures, technologies, communication set-ups and organizational issues. Functional analysis of the systems should be done, including risk assessments of data quality, data management and data analytics issues. The upside is fewer failures, cost-effective maintenance and increased availability.

Terrestrial Radio

The terrestrial radio systems VHF, MF and HF are well established in the maritime community. VDES (VHF Data Exchange System) is a promising initiative to provide a digital data service based on the existing terrestrial VHF radio infrastructure. With its limited data rates, VDES will not be a suitable alternative for commercial and bandwidth-hungry applications that are better served by satellite and 4G. However, VDES may become a viable solution for e-navigation applications such as VTS (Vessel Traffic Service) and distribution of MSI (Maritime Safety Information) as well as for different types of narrow-band ship-to-shore reporting applications, e.g. cargo indications and piracy reports.

Terrestrial Mobile Systems

Terrestrial-based mobile communications have enjoyed enormous growth for land users over the last two decades, and base stations along the coast also handle maritime traffic. Although coverage ranges are shorter than VHF for plain voice communications, cellular systems such as 4G and ICE provide useful data connectivity for vessels along the shore. Unlicensed frequency bands are increasingly used to provide broadband to ships, for example Kongsberg Maritime Broadband Radio. As unlicensed bands can be freely used, such solutions are highly cost-efficient, but vulnerable to interference from other systems. According to Greenwich Maritime Institute, cybersecurity concerns are the main reason for the slow uptake of Wi-Fi and WiMAX networks in ports. However, still some ports such as Singapore and Rotterdam have introduced such IP zones.

Mobile Satellite Systems (MSS) on L-band

How it works:

Since its founding in 1976, Inmarsat has been a reliable provider of satellite communications services to the maritime community. Inmarsat is the dominant player, with a market share of about 90% within mobile satellite systems (L-band). Other providers include Iridium, operating satellites in low earth orbits which provides global coverage, and the regional system Thuraya.

What to consider:

The strengths of the current Inmarsat products are reliability and a streamlined way of delivering services. Barriers for further development are limited user data rates (up to a few hundred kbps), relatively high prices and lack of available spectrum on L-band. Iridium has global coverage including the polar region where geostationary satellite system like Inmarsat and Thuraya don’t have coverage.


How it works:

VSAT (Very Small Aperture Terminal) is a larger type of terminal operating towards geosynchronous satellites on C-, Ku- and Ka-bands. Although VSAT is much better than mobile satellite systems on L-band in terms of cost per bit and available bandwidth, Ku-band allocations have been filling up, and there are many ongoing regulatory fights for spectrum. As VSAT can provide true broadband services (several Mbps), it is used by ship owners to support a range of professional applications as well as entertainment and welfare to crew and passengers.

What to consider:

Cost and bandwidth are still bottlenecks, making it expensive to accommodate bandwidth-hungry applications in a maritime setting. Of these, C-bands are the most expensive, whereas Ku-band coverage now offers a very cost-effective alternative to C-band. On Ka-band, although there are still just a few satellites available, availability of bandwidth is good, and the prices have the potential to drop below Ku-bands in the longer term.

New Systems

What’s ongoing:

There are several ongoing High Throughput Satellite (HTS) initiatives, with some HTS having return transponders to provide interactive services over specific maritime regions. Examples include O3B delivering broadband to cruise vessels in the Caribbean, ViaSat2 covering large parts of the North Atlantic and Telesat’s Vantage 12 that was launched in late 2015 to provide coverage to high-traffic maritime zones in the Mediterranean, North Sea, Caribbean and South Atlantic.

Recently, novel approaches have led to a collapse of the cost of building satellites and the advances on reusing rockets to launch satellites will lead to further substantial cost reductions. As a result, the number of available systems, bandwidth and cost can be expected to improve dramatically. Several new Low Orbit Satellite (LEO) systems are planed like: Starlink (by SpaceX), OneWeb, Project Kupier (Amazone), Telesat, Samsung, Hongyan (CASC – China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation).

What to consider:

For many ships, it is still the comfort needs of crew and passengers that dictate the communications demand. Many of the newest ships today have rather old mobile satellite systems, with limited bandwidth capabilities, and would benefit from upgrading to a higher throughput VSAT system. This will get more out of today’s data while preparing them for a more data-rich future, as several VSAT operators have recently been investing in new HTS systems. Several niche solutions are surfacing, e.g. the O3B delivering active tracking broadband to cruise vessels in the Caribbean. The major mobile satellite service providers such as Inmarsat, Intelsat and Iridium are all launching upgraded products with better coverage, more throughput and increased speed.

Onshore Control Centre

Shipping will see a trend similar to the offshore and aviation industries, with more centralized operations. More of the vessel will be monitored remotely, with health status and risk continuously followed up from a supporting onshore control centre. Leading operators are already setting up such centres, where the competence of key employees can support a number of vessels. As the onshore support functions develop, more and more onshore disciplines will be involved, from technical management and operations to commercial departments. The future will see the onboard manning challenged, with some crew roles moving to shore, and even the engine control room may eventually move onshore on the way towards more automated and autonomous shipping.


How it works:

The ability of computers to ingest and sort through ever larger and more complex data sets, to identify patterns and correlations can produce outstanding insights. An example are business intelligence systems that can relatively accurately predict future vessel movements, several port steps ahead, based on AIS statistics and vessel data. Domain and equipment-specific analytics, including intelligent use of models describing physics or empirical relations, are the core of advanced condition monitoring and diagnostic systems. Though still in its infancy, machine-learning algorithms are combined with the development of domain-specific analytics for creating value from and insights into the data collected.

What to consider:

In times of transformation, DNV notes that shipping companies are increasing investments in IT solutions, software and analytics capabilities. Analytics are often in demand of raw data input, however ship owners and managers do not always receive the data captured from the vessels’ equipment itself. They often receive a derivative product from the OEM, and this will hinder reuse of data for other purposes. Whether the analytics are done in-house in the shipping company or outsourced to specialist consultants, it is crucial to ensure good blending of analytics with in-house experience. Also, the capability to generate new insights from data challenges a company’s ability to collaborate in cross-silo data exploration.

Data Management

How it works:

Organizations have different levels of organizational maturity when it comes to data management and data quality. Maturity is both a convenient measure for how well an organization can respond to unwanted events as well as a means of setting goals and describing the roadmap to close any gaps between the actual and required situation. The recognition to be made is that while technology is important in becoming more data smart and will require investment and changes to both physical assets and the onshore base, it’s the people behind it that make it work.

What to consider:

The maturity of an organization’s data management may be rated from ad hoc and reactive to controlled and proactive. Without increasing the data management maturity level, the value creation from data use will stagnate. The data management maturity framework described in DNV GL RP 0497 provides a grading of the organization’s digital capabilities along axes such as data technology, data quality, data management, data architecture, data processes, data governance and performance.

Big Data

How it works:

There are four primary technology enablers for the collection and use of big data in shipping: (1) the availability of affordable, reliable and accurate sensors; (2) the radical improvements in data transfer speeds between ship and shore; (3) the continuously increasing computational power matched with the development of IT platform solutions which makes it possible to match ship data with other data, such as detailed weather data, map data or logistics and business-critical data related to the operation of the ship; and (4) the development of analytical methods and algorithms for creating value from and insights into the data collected. Machine learning, the methodology and technology that gives computers the ability to learn without being explicitly programmed, will be a central technology in combination with big data.

What to consider:

Value propositions of embracing big data in shipping include, amongst others, improved performance management and optimization of operations, condition monitoring and condition-based maintenance of equipment and assets and safety improvements. These benefits will be reaped by the industry itself as well by those servicing it like class societies and equipment manufacturers. The possible applications of machine learning in shipping are endless. Examples are reading and analysing unstructured data prevailing in inspection, maintenance and accident reports as well as for image recognition, sensor data analysis for the prediction of future condition and optimization of performances, integration with AIS data, weather data and many other complex tasks.

Digital Platform Services

How it works:

Digital platforms allow many providers to share assets such as data, models, algorithms or services with many consumers of these. The many-to-many nature and the reuse of the assets through the platform create a superior efficiency versus the traditional one-to-one transaction model. The platform replaces the middlemen which used to arbitrate between the provider of values and the consumer. As seen in many industries, shipping, too, will experience an increasing role of platforms. The goal of the DNV Veracity platform is to create an open, secure and scalable industry platform that enables companies and industries to identify and optimize their data sets, so that outcomes can be trusted and used towards their customers and other interested parties.

What to consider:

The increased capacity to extract, combine and exchange insights across silos, whether within a company or between stakeholders, radically challenges traditional business models, including that of shipping. Platforms are emerging everywhere, some OEM bound, some driven by entrepreneurs with a specific business proposition, others with more open and comprehensive ambitions like DNV’s Veracity. Owners and managers have to consider how to extract the most value from the data they generate and from the collaboration opportunities that become available via platforms.

Fleet Management

Decarbonization and digital transformation are closely linked as digital technologies are essential for taking out the full potential from energy efficiency and operations. The implementation cost of smart vessel functionality and data smart ship management is small compared to the cost reduction that can be achieved through improved energy efficiency, operations and technical management. Smarter use of data is also needed for ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance) reporting and transparency towards charterers, finance and other stakeholders.

Some aspects to consider:

Implementation of data smart fleet management should start with defining how strategic goals can be enhanced through digitalization. By mapping out digital technologies and solutions that will drive efficiency, sustainability and safety, digital transformation roadmaps can be developed to support implementation. Human and organizational aspects should not be underestimated when implementing digital solutions and different ways of working. Change management and careful anchoring in the organization is important. DNV recommend a stepwise implementation with focus on defining tangible use cases that are piloted on a strong digital platform.

Smart vessel class notation

Demonstrate that a vessel has been equipped with technical or digital features that improve operations and efficiency, and reduce environmental impacts.

DNV’s Smart vessel class notation provides a framework for assessing and visualizing digital vessel features. There are three qualifiers;

  1. Operations and maintenance – Machinery, equipment, and systems (OPM)
  2. Operations and maintenance – Hull (OPH)
  3. Energy efficiency, and environment (EEN)

Smart notation_770

The Smart notations may be granted with several combinations of qualifiers and enhancements.

When new operational concepts enabled by novel technology are introduced, the solutions may not meet existing regulations and technical requirements. Class rules and statutory regulations provide guidance on processes to follow for obtaining approval of alternative design in general. In this way, they support development and introduction of new operational concepts and novel technology in ship designs.

Related documents

Rules and Standards Explorer: Smart vessel

View DNVGL-RU-SHIP Pt.6 Ch.5 Sec.24

Rules and Starndards Explorer: Class Guideline Smart Vessel

View DNVGL-CG-0508

Rules and Starndards Explorer: Class Guideline for Autonomous ships

View DNVGL-CG-0264

New DNV GL rules drive smart ship operation and management

Read the topic related news (Nov 2020)

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