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ClassNK widens certification to accelerate ESG and SDG uptake

The class society is expanding its Innovation Endorsement certification service to support shipping’s commitment to sustainability and social responsibility

DEMAND for ClassNK’s ‘Innovation Endorsement’ has proved so strong that it is expanding a certification service, first conceived to encourage digital innovation in shipping, to include Environment, Safety and Labour.

To date, 73 ships have been certified as being equipped with advanced digital solutions recognised under the technology-focused version of the scheme, launched in July 2020, for which ClassNK says applications are being continuously received.

Now, the same rigorous process can be applied to encourage shipping to meet its ESG (environmental, social, and governance) and SDG (sustainable development goals) obligations.

“Innovation Endorsement was conceived to fill an industry need for third-party certification that could enable change, where it’s clear that evaluation standards to support the spread of innovative technologies are not likely,” says Dr Toshiro Arima, Corporate Officer, General Manager of Digital Transformation Center. “Positive feedback has persuaded us to take the same approach in another challenging area for innovation.”

ClassNK has added ‘environment’, ‘safety’, and ‘labour’ categories to the scope of the previous ‘digital’ focus of Innovation Endorsement, based on the same ‘Ship’, ‘Product & Solutions’, and ‘Provider’ criteria developed for the overarching evaluation process.

Going beyond the traditional class society role, Innovation Endorsement is a non-mandatory and ‘speed-focused’ certification service, the primary purpose of which is to help ‘front runner’ solutions overcome the challenges that face business pioneers in any field. ClassNK has worked alongside shipping companies and manufacturers to establish a framework that accelerates the deployment of new technologies across the industry.

ClassNK’s Guidelines for Digital Smart Ship (DSS), published in August 2020, details the procedures for class notations for ships with advanced digital technology such as hull/machinery monitoring, energy efficiency, ship to shore connection, sloshing detection/prediction, and voyage optimisation, etc. Products themselves are also eligible for certification; the provider can secure certification as an innovator, based on an evaluation of the development method. 

Less than two months after publication, the first DSS notation was granted to NYK’s LNG-fuelled PCTC (pure car, truck carrier). Significant progress has also been made in providing Innovation Endorsement for Products & Solutions, with five already approved and some 13 under review by ClassNK’s dedicated taskforce. Alpha Ori Technologies, for example, secured Innovation Endorsement for its AssetAI real-time predictive maintenance system in April 2021.

Recent stand-out projects include the first Innovation Endorsement ‘Provider Certification’ for Tsuneishi Facilities & Craft Co Ltd (TFC). Part of this project relates to a ClassNK evaluation of the management system behind JPN H2YDRO Co Ltd — a joint venture between Tsuneishi Group and Belgian shipping company CMB — which intends introducing hydrogen-powered ferries to the market. Tsuneishi Group will use JPN H2YDRO to incubate its hydrogen business, including the solutions for utilisation of hydrogen engines and a hydrogen supply chain.

The maturation and expansion of the innovation endorsement service is symbolised by the revision of ClassNK's related publication, Environmental Guidelines (Version 4.0), which grants an a-EA (advanced environmental awareness) notation for ships with advanced environmental measures, says Dr Arima.

“We are now working on developing class notations for innovations in ‘safety’ and ‘labour’ as well as on strengthening verification methodology for ‘products & solutions’, and ‘providers’,” he adds. “For ships, these will include a framework to certify, for example, Advanced Safety (a-SAFE), and Excellent Accommodation (EAcc).

In the same way, products and solutions, and providers themselves, can be evaluated from the safety, environmental or crew comfort perspective, so that front runners are given the recognition they deserve.

“ClassNK continues striving for supporting innovations with its expertise and collaboration with front runners. Innovation Endorsement is proving to be a key tool in developing ClassNK’s strong position as service provider to the digital maritime economy.”

Dr Toshiro Arima is available on LinkedIn.

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