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How are ships inspectors dealing with paper-based inspections?

Thousands of cargo vessels are sailing across the world's oceans every day. The periodic surveying and inspection of vessels are crucial to ensure the safety of human lives and the cargo on board. 

The shipping industry has been highly impacted by the accuracy and quality of inspection efforts. The safety standards had seen their own remodeling due to an increase in regulations and shipping standards. 

A ship's trading eligibility is determined by the annual surveys and inspections that are thoroughly conducted. For a vessel to continue trading, tens to hundreds of inspections are mandatory to be performed to ensure its compliance with international regulations. 

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Maritime transport is one of the largest parts of global trade. Ships have to stay safe to protect cargo and prevent environmental damages. There is an immense effort to conduct ship safety inspections, and paper-based inspections are still common despite the risks. 

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Shipping inspections:

  • Maintenance of sanitary facilities

  • Ropes and wires in bad condition

  • Missing protection for machines' rotating parts

  • Structural deficiencies, like corrosion, loss of equipment, or system because of careless use, cracking, and buckling

  • International oil pollution prevention certificate survey

  • International air pollution prevention certificate survey

  • Safety Radio Survey

Before any of these inspections, companies hire independent servicing agencies to conduct annual inspections of equipment such as fire extinguishers, fixed fire extinguishing installations, annual foam compound analysis for fixed foam, fire fighting installation, yearly servicing, and maintenance of lifeboat equipment and launching appliances.

Sometimes, vessels must perform additional inspections. Usually, after a major failure in critical equipment has been detected. That defect could endanger the vessel's compliance and safety, like hull breach, propulsion or steering gear failure, major steel renewal, system failure of safety measures that lead to accidents, malfunctioning of Oily Water Separator, or any other condition that leads to an invalid certificate.

These third parties inspectors usually have a matrix or a survey checklist that specifies checks, maintenance, and inspection records.

If all these third parties that perform inspections of high importance use different systems to track, store, and share the data, what are the risks of missed or lost information? What are the long-term costs of using too many inspection systems? 

Inadequate inspections could affect the crew's safety, so the inspection reports have to be highly accurate and quickly assigned a time limit to mitigate the deficiencies. If these inspections are still conducted using the paper-based system, everything from human errors to time-consuming data distribution impacts the ship's safety.

Cargoes that store hazardous shipments are often subject to Terminal Safety Inspections. In this case, a terminal safety manager or representative has to come to the ship and ascertain safe operations as per terminal requirements. 

If inspectors conclude deficiencies during the inspection, they can reject the vessel. If any adverse remarks are reported, the terminal may blacklist the vessel for further calls or operations.


Ship inspections are of high complexity, which involves a massive amount of time and high costs. Imagine how difficult it is to track inspections when many audits require different auditing parties to repeat inspections. There are cases where audits require more than one party to review the same records and documentation, such as logbooks, drills, records of ship operations, expiry dates, and validity of certificates.  

Imagine the difficulty of sharing all data with different parties when companies still perform inspections using spreadsheets or paper? More than that, there are cases where seafarers must attend the audits and inspections, which require a great deal of their time. 

There is no better time for the maritime industry to undergo a digital transformation. Facing severe pressures to optimize operations and reduce costs, the traditional methods for vessel inspections do not work anymore. 

The maritime industry has been searching for ways to reduce the time spent during physical inspections or even obliterate physical barriers. According to Marine Insights, investments in drones, smart glasses, and the transition to digital forms in replacement of paper forms have become one of the industry's priorities.

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced restrictions on inspections, which translated into a fast adoption of digitization. Keeping the crews safe from spreading or contracting the virus has been a top priority for the industry. Many companies have started remote inspection trials to see how digital documentation usage reduces time and costs. 

Time is probably the most important thing for the maritime industry. The more a ship spends time out of transit, the more money it costs. Ships produce money only when they are out on the sea. 

Should the maritime industry be starting to invest more in the power of agility? Now that more ship operators and managers are interested in remote access to documents, records, expiry dates, hour logs, tasks logs, and any other data that can be transcribed digitally, so they can save time, reduce administrative efforts and costs and increase uptime, the maritime industry has begun its digital transition. 

Sign up for the webinar Digitalization of ISGOTT and other ship/shore documents 



Smartflow is specialized in digital field service solutions. Developing workflows to digitize your field workforce is based on low code, no code development. It is open to integrate with other software systems based on common industry standards (API-based), allowing a fast development cycle. Together with the ability to perform hot deployments, this ensures a short time to market and a rapid ROI.


Our connected worker solution uses the field users' perspective. We analyze what is needed and how this data can best be exchanged with users in the field. This implies that data can be retrieved from or pushed to other software systems.

However, there are also cases where Smartflow stores relevant data within the enterprise. Hence, Smartflow is a modern cloud application that integrates with legacy systems and uses the outside-in principle. It makes it easy to integrate with all kinds of applications and components so you can interact internally and externally in a way field users and businesses prefer. Our solution can be accessed from anywhere, even in the absence of internet connectivity.

The form's fields are updating themselves once access to the Internet has been established.

Multi experience

We focus on the front-end for the field users. We support a rich set of circumstances and choose the input option that best suits them, e.g., smartphones, tablets, lap- and desktops, smart glasses, helmets, or any other wearables.

There is a wide range of controls to use the best way for data entry as well as providing overviews and data visualization. Architectural changes of the software within the enterprise are therefore hardly noticed by field users.

Their front-end improves over time according to their wishes, while at the same time, significant changes can take place behind the scenes, such as switching from one backend system to another. They continue to work with Smartflow in a way they are used to and satisfied with.

Collaborative development

With our solution, everyone in an organization can collaborate to deliver the best solutions, unleashing the business and IT users' creative potential. It offers visual development and no-code app building resulting in non-disruptive changes.

No more shadow IT

Business users who are developing simple workflows can follow best practices, avoid common pitfalls, and at the same time directly meet their business needs.

Download our whitepaper: How are Spreadsheets and other office tools impacting your Inspections.

Smartflow has experience working with the maritime industry supporting the vessels' stay, loading, and unloading for every oil tanker.

Before the vessel arrives, an email is sent to the captain with a request to provide as much information as possible through the Smartflow platform. This saves time during the stay of the vessel in the dock.

During the oil tankers' stay, all information needed is provided and logged in the Smartflow app, which completely digitizes the process. No more paperwork, efficient work processes, process alignment, safety awareness, and reporting are dealt with by the Smartflow platform.

Operators in the docks use (Atex) Android tablets to keep all relevant information, take pictures, send emails, and other capabilities. The back office has an overview of all ships that are currently processed in different docks. The port authorities are informed of the vessel's departure and receive a full and detailed report about the vessel's stay.

Working with Smartflow ensures a reliable, future-proof IT infrastructure. We facilitate insights into the data needed to improve efficiency and costs reduction.


What is holding your organization back? What is the element that is still missing from deciding to implement a connected worker solution?

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