BIMCO, CIRM Propose Software Maintenance Standard for Shipping

Shipping association BIMCO and association for the marine electronics industry CIRM have sent the industry’s first proposal for a standard for software maintenance to the International Maritime Organization (IMO) for consideration.

As explained by BIMCO and Comité International Radio-Maritime (CIRM), the goal of the Standard on Software Maintenance of Shipboard Equipment is to make sure software updates happen in a secure and systematic way.

This should increase the visibility of the software installed on board, ensure the effective planning of maintenance and ensure effective communication between the different parties involved in maintaining the software. Keeping software up to date is also necessary to minimize hacking and malware problems, according to BIMCO.

Without an industry-standard, BIMCO said it sees an increasing risk of severe incidents on ships, delays and costs to shipowners and cyber security problems.

“We hope the entire industry will adopt these standards, to make ships safer, to prevent cyber security problems and to save money,” Angus Frew, Secretary General and CEO at BIMCO, said.

“The industry has been living in a world of hardware. But software has been integrated into most physical equipment on the vessels, and the systems and procedures to manage the software has not kept up with technical developments, and it creates problems,” he added.

BIMCO has seen incidents, where ships for example, suffer complete blackouts and malfunctions in radar and other related systems, as a result of unforeseen difficulties with a software update.

Richard Doherty from CIRM (left) and Aron Frank Sørensen from BIMCO (right) congratulate each other after finalizing the text of the standard; Image Courtesy: BIMCO

The standard requires the user to have a complete list of what software versions are currently running on the ship’s equipment and ensures that all equipment can display the current software version. It also means that ships can do a complete roll-back to a previous software version, if an update goes wrong, which will enhance safety.

The proposed standard contains an identification of the various roles involved in maintaining software, a procedural flow for maintenance and an outline of the requirements and responsibilities of the five roles.

The industry standard was made over a four-year period in collaboration with several parties including BP Shipping, Maersk Line, Emarat Maritime, Kongsberg, Furuno, MAN Diesel & Turbo, Radio Holland, and Sperry Marine.

BIMCO and CIRM would like to see the standard become an ISO-standard as ISO has provisionally accepted the proposal. BIMCO expects a work group to complete the standard in 2021.

IMO is scheduled to consider the standard at the Sub-Committee on Navigation, Communications and Search and Rescue (NCSR) meeting in February 2018.

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