Shipping association Baltic and International Maritime Council (BIMCO) and international marine electronics organisation Comité International Radio-Maritime (CIRM) have proposed a new industry-wide standard for shipping software maintenance to the IMO.

The association suggested that establishing an industry standard will prevent increasing the risk of severe incidents on ships, as well as avoid delays and costs to shipowners and cyber security problems.

The proposed Standard on Software Maintenance of Shipboard Equipment is expected to enable the installation of software updates on-board ships in a secure and systematic way, thereby avoiding complete blackouts or malfunctions during upgrade process.

"We hope the entire industry will adopt these standards to make ships safer, to prevent cyber security problems and to save money."

It will also increase the visibility of the software installed on-board, as well as ensure proper co-ordination and maintenance planning between the different parties involved in the software upgrades.

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

The standard requires the user to maintain a list of the installed software versions that will enable a complete roll-back to a previous software version in the event that an update goes wrong.

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The proposed standard was drafted over a four-year period and contains an identification of the various roles involved in maintaining software (producer, system integrator, data provider, service and shipowner), a procedural flow for maintenance and an outline of the requirements and responsibilities of the five roles.

ISO has granted provisional acceptance for the proposal and BIMCO expects a working group to complete the standard in 2021.

IMO is scheduled to analyse the software maintenance standard for shipping at the NCSR-meeting in February next year.