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What does the future hold for Safetytech in maritime?


A Q&A with Andy McKeran, LR Maritime Performance Services Director.

Safetytech is the collective term for the technologies, products and services that are disrupting safety approaches in traditional, safety critical industries and infrastructure, by applying active and dynamic risk mitigation and removal through extensive capture and use of operational data.

It is a highly differentiated strategic tool where LR is growing and testing solutions in safety and risk innovation. LR has highlighted a number of priority areas to focus the support of the Lloyd’s Register Safety Accelerator and incubate solutions with likeminded clients.

How has safetytech evolved in marine on your 20+ years in the industry? What are your views on acceptance and industry uptake?

The pace at which technology has taken hold in maritime has surpassed the expectations of many players in the industry. 2020 has been a year where this uptake has particularly accelerated, given the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic. Technology is deployed routinely across maritime for a variety of use cases from ship design and ship building, oil and gas production, transport logistics and economics, to technology for the protection of the marine environment. Perhaps what we do not see as widely used as we would like to in marine, is safetytech. Industry uptake and acceptance has only just begun for this new sector. For those unfamiliar, safetytech is the collective term for technology, products and services that are starting to significantly enhance safety management in safety-critical industries and infrastructure.

Recent research carried out by LR Foundation has found that the combined global safetytech market is expected to be worth $863 billion in the next three years and for safety critical industries alone, it is expected to be at least $257 billion. When we look at this through the lens of the marine industry, it is expected that the maritime safetytech market will grow to approximately $6.6 billion by 2023, with a compound annual growth rate of 7.7%.

There really is no question that the appetite and acceptance of new technologies has taken hold and continues to take hold and in fact is expected to accelerate rapidly, for safetytech in particular.

What are the biggest safety challenges in maritime? Have these changed? What efforts are underway to address them? What else needs to happen?

The peril of the sea is well-known and has of course been much debated and analysed over the years. Seafarer lives are lost annually, despite industry best-efforts to improve safety. Marine casualties are oftentimes frustratingly out of our control, despite the many processes and safety measures in place. Extreme weather, freak accidents, human error – these things are difficult to predict and mitigate. However, innovative technology can enhance our processes and reduce danger in day-to-day operations. Things like drones and sensors can ensure that the human is removed altogether from carrying out hazardous tasks or inspections, such as those at height, extreme locations, or confined spaces, or spaces those with life threatening substances.

Human performance is dynamic, and decisions are often made based on real-time conditions, on the spot. When physical demands or challenging conditions impact people’s ability to carry out their job effectively and safely, technology can complement the work of the engineer onboard, making the work more effective, less challenging, and altogether safer. Mechanical and software technologies, including advanced automation, can reduce workload and stress, removing overtly difficult or dangerous work.

Technology can also be used to assess when to put people to work – are the crew fit and well-rested and ready to perform? Many of us already use wearables in our everyday lives, to monitor our activity, heartrate, and sleep patterns. This technology can also be used to sound the alarm in safety-critical industries when people are tired, and their performance could create risk to themselves or others. Using data on fatigue, eye-hand co-ordination etc. can pull people out of dangerous situations and help employers identify patterns of performance and isolate risk hotspots.

A great example of ensuring the safety of seafarers is the technology being developed by LR’s Safety Accelerator startup graduate Senseye, who worked in partnership with Pacific International Lines through the programme. Their smart technology scans the retina of the eye, using off-the-shelf cameras, to detect if crew on board are ‘fit for duty’. This essentially means whether they are fatigued, or are impaired in some way from safely carrying out their job, which could be as a result of stress, depression or having consumed alcohol or drugs. This type of solution, if deployed widely in maritime, could drastically reduce safety incidents caused by human error.

Aside from the importance of technology enhancing human safety, it can be used to make us like our work more and help us feel more positive about it. Minimising administrative tasks leaves more room for us to the less menial, exciting, hands-on work that we prefer.

Looking at digitalisation in maritime – any views on Accelerators, incubators and startups? What role do they play? How do you see this changing? What challenges do they face?

Accelerators give corporations unfiltered access to highly skilled, yet to be tapped into, talent pools outside of their everyday supply chain. There are no off-the-shelf solutions, only cutting-edge innovation ripe for the picking. For corporations, working with an Accelerator or startup spurs innovation and ensures competitivity in a rapidly modernising world.

Tunnel-vision can easily happen, particularly in an industry like maritime, with the focus remaining on everyday operations rather than innovation and outside-the-box thinking. When startups team up with global corporate partners, they have a wealth of new opportunities that will help them grow.

The knowledge that we can gain from those working in a slightly different space or environment is staggering. Many startups within accelerators have been working on their technology solutions, fine-tuning for quite some time, often across various industries and verticals, learning, adapting, sharing, and growing. Knowledge is power and we can interpret and transform these insights into real world action across sectors and industries.

For large corporations, the exposure to ground-breaking tech and modern methodologies gives them access and insight into emerging market trends, as well as the opportunity to forge relationships with promising early stage startups.
I think the perceived risk for trying out something new and ‘taking a chance’ on a new solution that is fresh to market is the biggest challenge faced by Accelerators. What we have seen at LR with our award-winning Safety Accelerator is that by funding and guiding the innovation trial between the startup and the corporation, we essentially remove the barrier of the perceived risk. Both parties are fully open and immersed in the technology collaboration because they have the safety net and guidance of LR experts at the helm of the project.

People are the lifeblood of maritime, how do they engage with safetytech? Are there any cultural or operational issues that need to be overcome? How can the industry better embrace safetytech?

The positives from these technologies are easy to see, but there are still some negatives that require navigation. There are data protection and privacy issues and there is need to assure confidentiality both for reporting of things that concern people and for them seeking assistance is important. One must also factor in cyber security.

However, the fact that we know about these risks, we can share the data with industry and a variety of stakeholders can tackle these challenges and make the industry safer for everyone. It’s clear that we must embrace safetytech in maritime to save lives.


This article was first published on the Lloyd’s Register website.