The guidelines are available for download now on the GL website and will enter into force on 1 August 2013.
GL notes that as the maritime industry makes greater use of automated systems, data networks have become more and more complex, while also integrating safety-critical and non-safety-critical application systems.
An increasing number of application systems are connected through data networks in order to minimise the length of cabling, and thus reduce the cost and weight of the cabling.
In merchant shipping, more and more vessels are equipped with integrated bridges that link information from the navigation and automation systems. Integrated systems comprise monitoring sensors, control systems for the propulsion and power-generating systems, and monitoring and alarm systems.
GL says that type approval would be required for data networks which connect application systems related to classification such as: automation system, navigation system, alarm & monitoring system, general alarm & public address system.
Non-class related application systems would include entertainment systems such as: radio, television, audio and video on demand and private internet access. The required approval would cover the entire network, including routers, switches, and process controllers connected with network cables.
In order to follow a risk-based approach for the approval process, a so-called Requirement Class is assigned to the respective data networks. The scope of documents to be submitted for approval and the required function tests depend on this assignment.
GL explains that there are five different Requirement Classes, differentiating the individual network according to the magnitude of the damage which would result from a potential component or system failure and its effect on the persons on board, the environment and the technical condition of the vessel.
This approach follows the same procedure as the approval process for computer systems under GL's Rules and Guidelines.