The market drives most of the economics in the Gulf of Mexico workboat market, but changing rules, regulations and mechanical issues, especially after Macondo, also have a big impact.

To understand the effect of regulations, and to get a more technical take on the market, I spoke to Brent Savoie, engineering manager at the American Bureau of Shipping in New Orleans. ABS closely monitors stacked vessels because the company is most often the surveyors on cold and warm stacked vessels. In fact, ABS has put together a guide to service laid up vessels to avoid typical stacking problems such as corrosion and equipment deterioration.

From ABS’s perspective, the company notices changing regulatory requirements that will affect vessel design and operational parameters going forward. These include cybersecurity, environmental requirements, energy efficiency, and operational performance.

To fulfill these emerging regulatory requirements, a lot of big data will have to be acquired and processed. IT systems on vessels will become much more complicated, as will data transmission capabilities. These improvements, of course, make cybersecurity an even bigger priority, especially, according to Savoie, since software changes on deployed vessels can now be made from shore. To help mitigate risks associated with cybersecurity, software quality and data integrity, Savoie noted that ABS has developed the ABS CyberSafety series, the industry’s first risk-based management program.

Another area that will see change, Savoie said, is operational performance measurement and management. This involves the analysis of operational issues data such as propulsion, vibration, motions, loads and machinery monitoring. This will be intertwined with environmental management that will evaluate issues related to environmental performance and energy efficiency such as hulls, props, engines, emissions and associated machinery. Collection of this information will require onboard performance monitoring equipment. Using the processed results of this data collection, ABS has created, and will create, guides that support reliability, condition monitoring and maintenance.

And, that takes us back to cybersecurity. At the base of all the mechanical analyses are databases that are susceptible to hacking, generally with malicious intent. Vulnerability depends on how sophisticated and complex the systems are, according to a May 2016 articles in the Marine Electronics Journal.

A common way that criminals gain access to a system is by sending phony phishing emails that may say “click here” for free stuff. If you are dumb enough to click on the email you have probably put yourself in deep danger by allowing the downloading of malware. Another risk are flash or thumb drives we are continually given. Don’t plug them in unless you know for sure what is on them.

Failure to employ sturdy cybersecurity measures puts your data — and your equipment — at risk.