IACS Council’s 89th Session in Rome: Key Discussions on Human Element, Digital Transformation, and Decarbonization

Last week in Rome, the International Association of Classification Societies (IACS) convened for its 89th session (C89) under the leadership of the new Council Chair, Roberto Cazzulo. The council advanced numerous critical issues, with a primary focus on incorporating human element considerations into all IACS work streams from the earliest stages. This initiative aims to ensure that ship crews can safely operate increasingly sophisticated vessels by developing structured and consistent internal guidelines.

During the session, it was reported that over 150 IACS technical experts received training on the fundamentals of Human Element Impact Assessment in the maritime sector. This training was designed by IACS Members’ human element experts, who included assumptions about modern ship and operating company contexts, system complexity trends, remote surveys, and automation. C89 resolved to develop this training into a High-Level Position Paper to promote industry and regulatory understanding of these issues and ensure safety concerns are fully considered in new technology development. Initial discussions with the Human Element Industry Group (HEIG) regarding a collaborative platform with the industry were also welcomed.

In response to the rapid deployment of new technologies in the maritime sector, IACS established its Safe Digital Transformation Panel last December. The Council reviewed the panel’s work over the past six months, including complex systems, data quality, safety management for Maritime Autonomous Surface Ships (MASS), and conceptualizing IACS’ engagement with digitalized data. The establishment of project teams to develop recommendations on ship data quality and cyber security controls for ships-in-service was also well-received.

C89 recognized significant progress in safe decarbonization, with five Unified Requirements under development: approval of lithium batteries, materials for hydrogen, ammonia treatment systems, carbon capture, and fire-fighting systems for methanol. Additionally, a new workstream on nuclear power and the establishment of a Joint Industry Working Group on Safe Decarbonization were noted, along with updates on collaborations with the Singapore Maritime and Port Authority on gas dispersion simulation.

Discussions on the evolution of IACS’ Common Structural Rules highlighted extensive industry consultation planned throughout 2024, with further meetings set for early October and at Tripartite. These consultations aim to address industry concerns and deliver proposals that align with IACS’ technical goals and the broader objectives of safer and cleaner shipping.

C89 also reviewed the 18-month implementation of IACS’ Unified Requirement on Remote Survey (UR Z29). The Council reaffirmed its commitment to maintaining the quality of remote surveys, initiating a review of UR Z29 to incorporate stakeholder feedback and align with developments at the International Maritime Organization (IMO). The Council recommended extending the two quality management focus areas on UR Z29 implementation and surveyor training until the end of 2025.

The session marked the end of Mr. LI Zhiyuan’s tenure as Chair of IACS’ General Policy Group, welcoming Dr. Ajay Asok Kumar as the new Chair.

Reflecting on the discussions, IACS Council Chair Roberto Cazzulo stated, “C89 held intensive discussions across a wide range of issues that will determine the shape of the industry for years to come. Ensuring the centrality of the role of the human element in those discussions substantially reinforces our commitment to delivering a safe digital and decarbonization transformation.”

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