D-Class Takes Shape with Houston Workshop

Bringing one workshop to take place in Houston at early stage, to allow local customers to participate and give their contribution has been highly beneficial to the project’s objectives.


"Houston/New Orleans area is home to companies with deep DP experience and open mind to explore alternatives for modernizing processes aiming at higher efficiency and safety. All that was proven during an actively interactive one day workshop session at DNV GL Houston office where concepts were challenged and support to this initiative was stressed as the industry leading way forward”, says Sergio Garcia, Business Development Director at DNV GL - Maritime Americas.

Perspectives: DNV GL on the right paths

During the D-Class workshop in Houston, DNV GL sat down with project partners to discuss the new verification scheme. While views vary, all partners see the project moving in the right direction.

Digitization is radically changing the way the shipping and offshore industries operate, opening up new opportunities to improve even the most advanced technologies. Dynamic positioning (DP), computer-controlled position-keeping based on mathematical modelling of sensor data, was first applied in 1961. DP has since become an integral part of complex operations.

While advances in technology and reference systems have made DP more reliable over the years, classification societies and other verification bodies continue to rely on traditional class verification methods and tools that require a witness on site. These methods have yet to take advantage of the efficiency provided by modern technology and vessel operating practices, and often disrupt routine operation or even cause downtime and delays.

“With data-driven innovations gaining momentum, and in anticipation of expected market demand, DNVGL is now developing an improved, less invasive classification scheme for verification of DP systems by leveraging modern technology,” says Jan van Tiggelen, Principal Consultant Shipping Advisory at DNV GL - Maritime.

The industry shares the vision

Advanced data analysis, control and monitoring concepts are enabling new and better ways to verify the integrity of DP systems. DNV GL has launched a “D-Class” (Data Smart Classification) joint development project to develop an innovative DP verification approach. In a series of workshops DNV GL is seeking input from the industry regarding the goals, methods, means and deliverables of the project.

These workshops provide industry stakeholders with an opportunity to engage in the project and contribute to the collection of data, influence how it will be used and shared, propose alternative methods to satisfy the core of intended requirements, and help frame what the verification scheme will look like.

To date, more than 30 offshore drilling operators, oil majors, shipowners, shipyards, equipment manufacturers, associations and academics have taken an interest in this development. For offshore stakeholders, D-Class is a vision for the future that will unlock the potential of the data the industry collects. Several customers have approached DNV GL to explore pilot projects incorporating D-Class. Innovative methods and schemes will eventually change the way classification surveys work. Self-verifying systems, automation, remote testing and other technologies will reduce scheduling issues and the need for physical presence.

Strong advantages

Some of the benefits expected from the new D-Class verification scheme include:

Increased safety

  • Improved level of third-party verification by employing a tailor-made verification scope
  • Improved management of change processes

Increased efficiency

  • Flexible schemes that move away from five-year calendar-based surveys
  • Less intrusive verification that reduces the need for physical surveyor presence 

While the industry readily embraces the benefits of the project, the success of the new verification scheme relies heavily on collaboration and optimized management of shared data. Not unexpectedly, this raises questions regarding data security, data ownership and other specific characteristics of the new verification scheme. 

The reliability and integrity of sensor data will be critical to D-Class but there is much more to be considered. Numerous methods are being evaluated for phased implementation, including:

  • Automated tasks and verification during operations
  • Remote witnessing
  • Use of monitoring and data analytics
  • Built-in test equipment and self-verifying cyber-physical systems

Self-verifying systems, automated testing, extended simulation and remote surveys will facilitate a more flexible and efficient verification process that delivers improved verification accuracy.

Schemes and methods of the new D-Class for verification of DP systems are intended to be transferable to other systems. This approach aligns with the application of digital twins and will facilitate the industry’s vision for de-manning and autonomous vessels. “While D-Class may significantly reduce or even eliminate the need for a DNV GL surveyor’s presence on board, the purpose and role of the classification society as an independent verifier remains unchanged,” says Aleks Karlsen, Senior Principal Specialist – DP Systems. “Under D-Class, DP systems must meet the same set of requirements as under the current verification scheme.”

Perspectives: DNV GL on the right path

During the D-Class workshop in Houston DNV GL sat down with project partners to discuss the new verification scheme. While views vary, all partners see the project moving in the right direction.

What role do you see classification societies taking when it comes to industry innovation, and will class involvement open any doors to future developments?

Jan Mikalsen, President, Marine Technologies: 

“Class is an enabler for innovation in our industry. The technology and data needed for innovations such as D-Class already exist. What DNV GL is providing is the framework for analysing the operational data. We operate in a world of constrained resources, and we need to extract the maximum amount of value from the resources available to us. Where class offers schemes that are less invasive, it allows vessels to be more efficient.

D-class is a facilitator for what is coming: remotely operated or even autonomous vessels. It will also support safer, smarter and greener operations. I don’t think with D-Class alone we can harvest the full extent of those benefits, but without D-Class it will be a struggle to achieve the demanning vision pursued by the industry. Today’s class schemes don’t truly allow us to achieve what we want in the future, but D-Class is the type of development that moves us closer to that vision.”

D-class is another example of using today’s rapidly evolving technology to reshape operations. With digitalization and connectivity increasing, what is most important to you?

Edward Bourgeau, Engineering Discipline Manager, Electrical Transocean Offshore Deepwater Drilling: 

“Trust is a big component for us. The whole idea is that we are gathering data on the rig and we’re saying this data is meaningful. We have the responsibility to answer questions, including from ourselves, about whether that statement is true or whether we are fooling ourselves.

One of the primary reasons we work with DNV GL is because the company is a trusted third-party advisor. We want to tell our customers that what we are doing meets the approval of a respected body. The level of quality and assurance we receive is unmatched, not just from class but from all of DNV GL’s services. 

With D-Class, if our data meets DNV GL’s integrity standards, our customers and their contractors will have confidence in it too. Of course they will scrutinize it, but DNV GL’s approval lends a level of credibility to our data. DNV GL’s stamp of approval gives legitimacy to what we are doing, and our customers see that.”