BIMCO bulletin reports on CIRM/BIMCO Pilot Project on SW Maintenance

“A changing world”

By Aron Sørensen
Head of Maritime Technology & Regulation at BIMCO

Extracted from BIMCO bulletin, February 2017

The equipment and systems installed on today’s ships are increasingly dependent on software, which itself continues to increase in sophistication and complexity. Updating software updating gives manufacturers the opportunity to innovate, to differentiate their systems and to ensure continued compliance with regulatory developments ashore. But the change in focus from hardware to software brings associated challenges in management and security. Therefore, CIRM (Comité International Radio-Maritime) and BIMCO have joined forces to ensure that software maintenance of shipboard equipment is conducted in a controlled and high quality manner.

Shipboard software maintenance is a complex subject. Because ships travel all over the globe service personnel may have to be flown in over significant distances, or provided at a local port. Software maintenance is further complicated by the fact that different sub-suppliers have their own nonstandard software updating practices. Software maintenance can go wrong for a number of reasons, including a lack of communication between the parties involved, a lack of competence on the part of the service personnel, and a misunderstanding of the extent to which systems on board are integrated.

A typical example of a real-life case where software maintenance was not completed successfully is given below:

A ship experienced a problem with its radar antenna, and a service provider from a company other than the original manufacturer was summoned on board to fix the problem. The technician encountered problems when he attempted to update the existing system software, and so decided to install a different version. But the original manufacturer did not support this particular version, leading to a software failure and a total break-down of the antenna system. As a consequence, the ship had to downgrade its software during a subsequent port call to restore system functionality. The technician had not been instructed to replace the software version, and whilst they no doubt believed they were helping, their actions caused more serious problems to the shipboard equipment.

The Draft Standard on Software Maintenance of Shipboard Equipment

The complexity of software maintenance emphasises that there is a need for an internationally recognised industry standard to regulate the maintenance of shipboard software. Therefore, in 2014, BIMCO and CIRM came together to jointly develop the Draft Standard on Software Maintenance of Shipboard Equipment. The standard covers software used in all departments on board the shipwhether it is carried out remotely, ashore or onboard.

Effective maintenance of software depends on the identification, planning and execution of measures necessary to support maintenance activities throughout the full software lifecycle. The Draft Standard therefore harmonises requirements for the stakeholders involved in the software maintenance process, and was developed with the input of manufacturers, service providers and shipping companies.

The standard divides shipboard software maintenance into four distinct sub-processes:

1. Event initiation

The first process in the flow is the initiation of the shipboard software maintenance, which can be categorised as preventative and/or corrective software maintenance, and may or may not involve a software update. Here the stakeholders realise that there is a need for software maintenance and prepare the software for doing so.

2. Planning

The software maintenance should be properly planned before it is executed in order to optimise software maintenance arrangements and to ensure the best possible outcome. The planning process involves close communication between all relevant stakeholders.

3. Execution

The execution process is when the software maintenance is actually carried out on shipboardequipment, and it is critical that this process is conducted in accordance with what was planned.

4. After-service

Following completion of the execution process the communication between the relevant stakeholders continue to monitor the success of the process, and to provide information which can be used to increase the effectiveness of future planning processes and ultimately the success of future software maintenance.

Pilot project

BIMCO, CIRM, together with several shipowners and equipment manufacturers have now initiated a software maintenance pilot project to undertake a small-scale trial implementation of the Draft Standard in order to evaluate the practicality and effectiveness of its requirements.

Beginning in 2017, the pilot project will be “live” and the different stakeholders will be able to gather experience by performing software maintenance under real circumstances, in accordance with the requirements of the Draft Standard. This will be used to assess whether the Draft Standard is “fit-forpurpose”.

| Aron Sørensen February 2017

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