Classification society surveyors attend new vessels under construction, vessels damaged or under repair or annually for routine inspection while the vessels are in service. The surveyor's job is to ensure that vessels surveyed comply with the own rules of the class society and the statutory requirements of the Flag states they are authorised to represent.
Given the multitude of new ship types and MOU's afloat today and the trend towards the concentration of dry dock surveys in a fewer and fewer locations worldwide the challenge of training surveyors who are able to support the industry with practical solutions which comply with all the required regulations is increasing.
Many surveyors join classification societies with degrees in naval architecture as I did. In the development of my training plan I asked for the opportunity to go to sea and within a few months of joining DNV I was signed onto a 23 year old open hatch bulk carrier with twin gantry cranes. Half of my time was spent in the engine room and the other half on the deck side. Participating in auxiliary engine overhauls, changing a cylinder liner at sea and joining bridge watch keeping and cargo operations were highlights.
Seek the opportunity to sail on a merchant vessel to gain a better understanding of how ships are operated as this will improve your knowledge and communication with the crew and officers on board. This in turn will make you a much more effective surveyor, designer or auditor as often the best way of finding out the strengths and weaknesses of the team on board and the true condition of the ship is to ask the right questions.
Opportunities to participate in dry dockings and voyage surveys have reduced in some parts of the world. Although no direct substitute for practical experience, surveyor competence development can be supplemented and enhanced through virtual reality training which is increasingly used by the military today.
In 2009 DNV developed a ship survey simulator called SuSi. Initially this was available only at our training school in Gdynia, Poland, where it was developed but it has been used in classrooms around the world and finally has been installed on each surveyor's laptop. Thousands of survey findings and damage cases have been entered based on DNV's knowledge base to test the surveyor's knowledge of statutory requirements, terminology and reporting. For instance load line convention specific items can be highlighted on the ship to aid clarity.
Just as in real life, the surveyors have a camera, torch and spray to use in the simulation. Part names, certificates and surveyor checklists are displayable on a virtual PDA as they move around the ship. In tank inspections torch light is simulated to demonstrate the difference good lighting makes to observations. Close-up surveys using cherry-pickers is also simulated. As trainees develop the skills they need to report findings correctly, they must also deal with the safety hazards that would be experienced on board a real ship.
Conditions such as corrosion and coating failure can be accelerated or retarded and resulting damages included that vary depending on the structure involved and the ships "history". All of this is presented in a realistic 3D environment which allows views from any angle including the bottom in dry dock which accelerates experience in reporting structural defects accurately. Even very experienced surveyors have been surprised by what they learned in the simulator.
Human factors and experience can't be replaced by technology however we should embrace it as part of the solution to enhance the competence of surveyors going forward.
For more information on SuSi please visit www.dnv.com and search "survey simulator"
Screen shots from SuSi
Classification Manager, UK & Ireland
Article was initially published at Alert! - The International Maritime Human Element Bulletin, and reproduced with permission.