BIMCO and the international association for the marine electronics industry, CIRM (Comité International Radio-Maritime), have sent the first proposal for an industry-wide standard for software maintenance to the IMO for consideration.
BIMCO has seen incidents, where ships suffer complete blackouts, and malfunctions in radar and other related systems, as a result of unforeseen difficulties with a software update. This means that absence of an industry-standard brings an increasing risk of incidents on ships, delays and costs to shipowners and cyber security problems.
“The industry has been living in a world of hardware. But software has been integrated into most physical equipment on the vessels, and the systems and procedures to manage the software has not kept up with technical developments, and it creates problems,” says Angus Frew, Secretary General and CEO at BIMCO.
The goal of the Standard on Software Maintenance of Shipboard Equipment is to make sure software updates happen in a secure and systematic way, by increasing the visibility of the software installed on board, ensuring the effective planning of maintenance and ensuring effective communication between the different parties involved in maintaining the software. Keeping software up to date is also necessary to minimise hacking and malware problems.
As explained, the standard requires the user to have a complete list of what software versions are currently running on the ship’s equipment, and ensures that all equipment can display the current software version. It also means that ships can do a complete roll-back to a previous software version, if an update goes wrong, which will enhance safety.
Further, the proposed standard contains an identification of the various roles involved in maintaining software (producer, system integrator, data provider, service and shipowner), a procedural flow for maintenance and an outline of the requirements and responsibilities of the five roles.
The industry standard was made over a four-year period in collaboration with several industry leaders, such as BP Shipping, Maersk Line and Emarat Maritime. BIMCO and CIRM would like to see the standard become an ISO-standard. ISO has provisionally accepted the proposal. BIMCO expects a working group to complete the standard in 2021.
“We hope the entire industry will adopt these standards, to make ships safer, to prevent cyber security problems and to save money,” says Mr. Frew.
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