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IRClass Review of 2021 and Outlook for 2022 – Gearing up for the future

Arun Sharma, Executive Chairman of IRClass.

The year 2021 has been a significant year for Indian Register of Shipping (IRS) with the launch of decarbonisation and digitalisation related services, organisational changes and capability building initiatives to gear up for future growth.

IRS has been able to achieve stable and sustained business growth during the year as operations gradually adjusted to the new normal. Despite the pandemic, IRS was able to ensure that the impact on its customers as well as employees was minimal. Alternative means of evidence compliance were adopted to ensure ships were able to trade. The organisation ensured provision of necessary tools to employees to enable working from home and conducted vaccination drives for its employees and their families.

July 2021 saw top management transition with Mr. Vijay Arora taking over as the Managing Director. Aiming towards strengthening its human resources, the organisation initiated a competency assessment of its key resources for succession planning to identify next generation leadership towards building a resilient and future ready organisation. With a key focus on quality, a structured training program has been arranged through an internationally recognised provider to bolster its resources.

Decarbonisation was high on the agenda for the organisation with two new services being launched – Energy Efficiency Existing Ship Index (EEXI) and Carbon Intensity Indicator (CII). Through these new services IRS is supporting shipowners and managers in assessing the EEXI and CII of their vessels and achieving compliance. Sustainable biofuels have great potential to reduce emission levels substantially and will pave way for a cleaner future for shipping. IRS undertook successful sea trials for two vessels of Ambuja Cements Ltd towards utilising biofuels in concurrence with the Indian flag administration – Directorate General of Shipping.

Towards digitalisation, IRS announced its tie-up with Smart Ship Hub to build a digital platform to offer a wide range of services. Through this initiative IRS aims to offer fully integrated and technology enabled services to its customers.

Guidelines for autonomous surface vessels and remotely operated vessels have been published in December 2021 which cover design philosophy, risk assessment, system requirements including cyber resilience, network architecture, data & software assurance. These guidelines provide a broad framework for stakeholders involved in design, construction and testing of such vessels with varying levels of autonomy.

The organisation maintained its strong growth globally and concluded several international projects which included a vessel conversion project in Turkey as well as Emergency Response Plan and Oil Spill Response related services to ports in Qatar.

Collaboration with the Indian Government has been at the forefront of its work throughout 2021. IRS played a key role in the drafting of the Inland Vessels Bill, which was passed by the Indian Parliament. The Inland Vessels Act 2021 has been designed to promote economical and safe transportation through India’s inland waters by introducing a national framework and uniform applicability of rules and regulations. IRS is closely working with various state governments of Assam, Tripura and others to support the development of Inland Waterways.

A new service to provide certification of marine containers in accordance with IMO International Convention for Safe Containers was launched. This initiative supports the Government of India’s self-reliance mission – AatmaNirbhar Bharat Abhiyan and assists local manufacturers in the production of containers which meet global quality standards.

IRS renewed its commitment with the Indian Defence forces and is engaged in a multitude of projects for Indian Navy, Indian Coast Guard as well as Indian Army. With the improvement in overall situation, IRClass Academy was able to resume in-person courses after a hiatus of 18 months. Two batches of in-person courses were conducted at the IRS Head Office at Mumbai, India, while fully complying with strict Covid safety protocols.

Executive Chairman Mr Arun Sharma, who received India’s Highest Maritime Recognition – the Varuna Award in April and a Lifetime Achievement Award at Samudra Manthan Awards in December said: “2021 has been another complex twelve months not only for IRS but the entire industry as a whole. Notwithstanding, we continue to keep the ships moving, ensuring safe operations.  As we look into the immediate future, I believe decarbonization and sustainable shipping will be the focus of maritime sector.

2022 will undoubtedly be challenging but our commitment to operational excellence, quality and maritime safety remains undiminished. While there is no room for complacency, there is no room for pessimism.”