IACS doubles down on decarbonisation and digitalisation, establishing Safe Digital Transformation Panel (SDTP)


IACS Council, meeting last week in London for its 88th session (C88), welcomed the significant progress being made by the Association to deliver measures to ensure the safe decarbonisation of the industry.

Work towards Unified Requirements (UR) in support of battery power, hydrogen and carbon capture is well advanced while a UR on Ammonia as a fuel will be published imminently. Alongside IACS submissions to IMO, IACS is meeting its commitment to working closely with flags and industry in the shared drive to decarbonise, most recently through the signing of a Letter of Intent with Singapore and the establishment of a joint industry working group on safe decarbonisation.

As the scale and pace of digitalisation within shipping continues to accelerate, IACS Council emphasised that implementing the many and varied benefits of digital solutions can also introduce new safety risks to the ship. To support industry in managing these changes safely, and recognising the multi-decadal nature of the challenge, C88 agreed to establish a new ‘Safe Digital Transformation Panel’ (SDTP).

Bringing all IACS’ current digitalisation activities within a single forum allows for issues such as MASS, cyber safety, data management & exchange and digital assurance, as well as their associated regulatory structures, to be taken forward in a holistic manner. As with the Safe Decarbonisation Panel, IACS’ new SDTP will focus its attention on the safety implications that accompany increasingly digitised ships and on working closely with industry and equipment manufacturers to ensure that its work programme is carefully tailored to meet the needs and priorities of the shipbuilding and shipowning communities.

Elsewhere at C88, Council was advised that all IACS QSCS audits returned to pre-COVID levels in 2023 and also welcomed the substantial progress that the International Quality Review Body (IQARB) is making in achieving wider recognition at IMO while also expanding to non-IACS ROs and in allowing greater flag State participation. C88 also noted IACS ongoing engagement with the IMO, both in its contribution to the committees (over 150 papers submitted in the last 24 months) as well as in support of the IMO Secretariat.

Finally, C88 endorsed the election of the new General Policy Group Chair, Dr. Ajay Asok (ClassNK) who will take over from Mr. Li Zhiyuan (CCS) on 1 July 2024.

The IACS Council also met with a number of industry association representatives where useful exchanges were held on the implications of decarbonisation for seafarers and port operations, IACS’ plan for industry consultation on the evolution of common structural rules and the consequential impacts, the outcomes from Tripartite and IQARB.

C88 was also the last meeting under the tenure of Mr. Nick Brown (CEO LR), whose term as Chair of the Association finishes at the end of the year and who will handle over to Mr. Roberto Cazzulo (RINA) on 1 January 2024.

Speaking after C88, the IACS Chair said: “I am delighted that IACS new governance arrangements, which saw me become the first elected Chair, have demonstrably improved the agility and responsiveness of IACS. This has allowed us to launch the Safe Decarbonisation Panel (SDP) and the Safe Digital Transformation Panel which positions IACS well for the two major challenges of our time. In combination with our efforts to embed Human Element considerations across the IACS work programme, we are now well positioned to quickly develop and publish common technical requirements necessary for the various alternative fuels and technologies and digital solutions that are being considered by the industry.”

Incoming Chair, Roberto Cazzulo (pictured) stated: “I am keen to become the IACS Council Chair for 2024-2025. In my experience, I have never seen a moment like this, with great challenges as well as great opportunities for class. A lot of work planned in the next couple of years within IACS will be about safe decarbonization and safe digitalization, contributing to the IMO strategy, not forgetting the human element and the role of surveyors and technical staff dealing with novel technologies.”