Class Societies criticism?


CBM criticism Wagenborg

This criticism of classification societies by Wagenborg is well made and yet I believe understated, as it is a quite common place perspective in marine maintenance circles.

The perception for clients is that Classification Societies see CBM as a threat to their core business and cannot see that it is in fact a significant opportunity for differentiation, client support, alignment and growth.

This could not be further from the truth, though the message seems not to be getting out there!

The Lloyd’s Register CM forum has taught us that many clients see class as a barrier to CM and CBM, whilst all other major industries are embracing it as a best practice approach, why is this?

Using targeted CM relevant to the predominant failure modes, societies gain access to condition data at every point of data retrieval. This can be 24/7 online or data gathered via milk-rounds/routes/watch-keeping on a daily, weekly, monthly or quarterly basis. We can review condition status when we need to, as per our own risk aversion. We can work together to identify opportunities for improvement further enhancing the role and value of class to its clients.

Our current access to machinery condition data and opportunity to add value, is limited to the 5 year survey for each surveyable machinery item. Maintaining class via CM has to be the better option, doesn’t it?

We know we need to manage Machinery Condition Monitoring descriptive notes more robustly. We need to make it very clear to the attending surveyor what is specifically required and expected by the client in terms of demonstrating not only class compliance but also compliance with the intended functionality of their CM regime. After all CM and CBM is not done for fun, it is done because it makes the company more profitable. Compliance with the survey needs is a relatively minor aspect, but one it seems that troubles a number of shipping companies – perhaps explaining why CM take up for class is so minor compared to CM take up generally.

Maintaining the good CONDITION of the vessel is central to our mission, it always has been, yet we DO NOT seek to fully understand it it. Why is this? (One forward thinking client made a clear criticism of LR when they stated that “LR make it very hard to get the notation then do not add value at the annual survey by helping us to check that the vessel is in compliance with our internally approved strategy and processes”.) This is a fair  comment and one we take very seriously indeed which is why we intend to do something about it.


CM and CBM is a living process not bound by fixed arbitrary limits. Each machinery item is unique in its position, operational profile and maintenance history. Our current position in this regard will be improved (What an opportunity to differentiate!!!) – as is our willingness to demonstrate leadership in this area ahead of our general position of embedded conservatism.

CM techniques and the data they generate give us a massive opportunity for insight across our fleet that we cannot access with experienced surveyors alone . Insight –  (the ​ability to have) a ​clear, ​deep understanding of a ​complicated ​problem or ​situation:]Source – Cambridge dictionary online.

ALL machinery failures are avoidable/preventable, yet P&I evidence (e.g. Swedish Club), shows that failure rates are not reducing nor have done for over 10 years. Why is this?

“London underwriters support CM and CBM and will defer to class position over OEM post warranty”. Peter Townsend   – Peter is a particularly well known as a leading Hull and Liability underwriter and has served on a number of committees, including as chairman of the Joint Hull Committee.

Cash savings to the client are in elimination of conditions that lead to failure – inversely, maintaining good operational condition, not just in failure prediction and avoidance/mitigation of secondary effects – cash benefit to the client is also in reducing the normal costs of maintenance over the life of the ship, spares, docking fees, repairs etc. Maintenance costs for marine ships after capital and fuel are the most significant  – a combination of maintenance strategy optimisation and introduction of CM and CBM can yield 30% plus reduction in maintenance work load and associated costs, failure reductions via raising the reliability of the population for a given fleet adds further to this. We have just proved this again in a consultancy piece we have been working on in the UAE.

Also whilst there are set up costs which can be significant the ROI can be relatively short over the life of a vessel and when considering that a CBM based strategic position will become embedded in the culture of the organisation well after the commercial costs nave been recovered in benefit.

Benefit to class is in greater knowledge and assurance value – offering greater benefit to our clients as we support our them in reducing unnecessary costs whilst increasing revenue. Win Win!

The OEM’s have seen the through life opportunity and are taking on a protectionist role eliminating stakeholder access to systems and targeting the reduction of ship board maintenance responsibilities – this is seen as a positive feature during the tender process for the ship operator as it seems to reduce their necessary commitment, though it does place additional reliance upon the OEM which will ultimately become and unattractive position for the client. Class can help to offset this by supporting the client in taking control of his assets. OEM’s want to take ownership of condition intelligence via sensors and on-board diagnostics to control spares, develop a through life commercial model based upon increased use of OEM engineering crews to tie-in the vessel. As the OEM becomes dominant he will increase his dictate to classification societies and potentially erode the role of the surveyor.

Companies like Wagenborg make a good point but I would challenge them to make sure they have had a full and meaningful conversation with  class as I suspect that they views they are expressing have moved on – certainly from my perspective we are very very keen to discuss intelligence lead approaches to machinery management and therefore classififcation.


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