The Benefits of Technology: Nick Brown of Lloyd's Register
MarEx recently spoke with Nick Brown, the director of marine and offshore for Lloyd's Register (LR), to learn more about the state of the market for autonomous navigation and cruise ship construction. LR is working with CSSC, Carnival and Fincantieri as they build the first cruise ship ever made in China.
MarEx: The industry is abuzz about autonomous ships and shipboard monitoring technologies. What is LR’s view on modern ships?
Brown: LR has been working with OEMs, researchers and academia about the trends in autonomous shipping. The maritime industry has naturally been resistant to change and it is fragmented in comparison to the auto and airline industries. Go to any shipyard, and you will see that there are many different suppliers of bridge equipment onboard. It is our job at LR to ensure that the technology works together the way that it is supposed to.
MarEx: In recent years, manning levels on board have been greatly reduced. Will autonomous vessel technologies finally remove people from the bridge?
Brown: Look at offshore vessel working at an oil offshore platform. We trust the dynamic positioning system to manage the vessel in a high-risk environment. This allows the bridge personnel to deal with the cargo operations instead of dealing with the thrusters keeping the vessel stable and in position. That’s the benefit of technology: it allows people onboard to apply their skills with less fatigue and contribute more value to operations.
MarEx: The biggest cruise ships now sail with up to 5,000 passengers. How is LR involved with keeping those ships safer?
Brown: The cruise industry has huge exposure for a significant event because of the amount of people onboard, but it is also the segment of the marine industry that can best demonstrate the value of newer technologies. Class is simply a license to operate a ship. Today, LR is helping cruise operators better understand technology and enhance ship operations, which go far beyond basic class. We are assisting in the development of building better ships and the challenges of maintenance regimes and crew workloads.
MarEx: Cruise ships are now being built in China, and that is a concern to some. How is LR handling this from the class perspective?
Brown: China has achieved a massive growth in shipbuilding over the past ten years, more so than any other nation, but there comes a reputation with that as well. The Chinese government is committed to growing the cruise ship building sector and LR is helping them close the gap with other builders.
For China it is not about the process of building a ship, it is more about the supply chain. The vast majority of building a cruse ship is the subcontractors, who are intricately involved with the final production of a cruise vessel. These firms are responsible for outfitting the cabins, the restaurants, the galley spaces and all of the other components that a passenger vessel needs. So the biggest challenge for the Chinese will be the supply chain. -MarEx
Nick Brown, Director of Marine and Offshore for Lloyd's Register (LR), began his career in 1996 as a trainee after graduating Nottingham University. He worked as a ship surveyor in Bahrain, Dubai, Finland and Germany and returned to the United Kingdom in 2004 to lead the global tanker business while IACS finalized its Common Structural Rules for Tankers. In 2006, he moved to China to become LR’s General Manager and Marine Manager for China. He became Marine Director in 2016.
The opinions expressed herein are the author's and not necessarily those of The Maritime Executive.