This article is the first in a series commissioned by ADCI regarding shipyards and repair and maintenance
BY GARY JONES
Shipyard practices have been under scrutiny for several years for numerous reasons and navigating these changes can sometimes be tricky. The reason for this is because eventually most vessels will end their life being dismantled and stripped of their valuable steel. Although it is labeled “recycling,” the environmental conditions and the competitive nature of the industry push prices lower, and the standards traditionally follow. Shipyards in India, Bangladesh and Pakistan have been known to have subpar labor conditions that can put safety into question.
For this reason, choosing which shipyard to dry dock or have repairs preformed on a vessel is a major decision that has a direct impact on the bottom line. Consciously choosing to use one of the lower-cost facilities can directly impact the overall cost of the repairs and this puts vessel owner operators in a precarious position as they sometimes must weigh a choice between profit and morality. This has been such a problem that many conscientious companies have stepped in where global regulation has been absent. For instance, Maersk has taken it upon itself to commit investing in responsible ship recycling and try to bring the standards up and the market rate up along with it. As we all know, establishing safety protocols can come with many hurdles, however, if safety is the focus the result will be better conditions all around as well as a better value proposition for the market and the business environment.
Shipowner operators are in a unique position to affect this change by choosing their business partners. Following are a few key factors that shed some light on criteria to consider before selecting a yard for maintenance and repair. The indicators we are going to look at are safety, communications and repair – before and after. We will not be covering shipbuilding or anything that applies to the new construction of vessels or containers. This is strictly to provide information for vessel owners, operators, and diving contractors selecting DSV charters that have had recent or will need recent repair.
The main mission of the ADCI is to promote safety to the highest practical standard so let us focus on the safety of the shipyards first. Keep in mind that the safety of the vessel while undergoing repair and maintenance is a consequence of the collective effort of the shipowner, ship crew, the shipyard and the shipyard crew. This means that in many cases the shipowner/operator will not have full control over the outcome of many of the repairs. Therefore, prior preparation, planning and decision making are imperative to keep the ship operating safely and cost efficiently. Much like diving operations ship repair is inherently dangerous. Hazards around a shipyard can include but are not limited to electrical hazards, shifting loads, paint and cleaning solvents, hot work being performed in tanks along with toxic fumes and potential explosion hazards. Also, keep in mind that many shipyards have multiple operations occurring simultaneously and with the COVID-19 related materials and personnel shortages, their supply chain and repair capabilities may turn a standard lead-time into a lengthy and costly repair. Whether it is a large shipyard or a small boatyard, they are all currently facing difficulties procuring materials in a timely fashion and at a good price. The cost of steel has increased and according to a poll from April 12, 2021 by S&P Global, “Out of 91 poll respondents, a total 44% said they expect to see domestic finished steel prices increase in the coming six months, with those expecting prices to rise by more than 10% and those expecting the increase to be less than 10% at 22% each.”
The first thing to look for is a health, safety and environment policy. All documentation regarding the HSE management system should be well documented in an HSE manual. Before selecting a shipyard to work with, it is recommended that the owner of the vessel have a meeting with the crew to both review and audit the shipyard. This will help familiarize staff with the requirements for the ship prior to entry of the shipyard. Items to look for in their HSE manual include any identified hazards the shipyard has identified, rules for the worksite, and compliance measures from the local authorities. Making notation of any unfamiliar risks, items that may be questioned, or anything that looks uncertain upon entry of the yard, may come in handy later if something goes awry and if the bill needs to be examined later. Noting items that work and do not work on the ship can also be helpful if something gets damaged during repair. Pay particular attention to the needs of your vessel and the ability of the shipyard in correlation to its geographic location.
Documentation is vital when it comes to good communication and having your ducks in a row prior to entering a shipyard will make the whole process run more smoothly. Communicating with your team and the shipyard beforehand can ensure that your vessel is in the proper arrival condition. This will also give you a chance to review the contractual items required by both parties so that there are no surprises, including ship access requirements, the yard’s requirements for the work, the ship status, permits that need to be issued, medical and safety considerations with a special notation about the firefighting capability during hot work. Once all the contractual procedures and communication of the scope of the work is completed, the repairs begin and the bill starts to accumulate.
Monitoring the repair will ensure that the job is being completed according to plan and in alignment with the contractual obligations. For easy tracking, take a picture of the protected area where the ship status board is located for your vessel. This should give you an idea of progress and the expected duration of the work to be completed on the ship. The shipyard will have its own rules about transferring fuel and managing gases and systems on board that the operators must follow. However, pay close attention to how the work is being performed. For reference, you can always check to see if the OSHA requirements are being met or at least jobs are being performed in a manner close to what OSHA suggests. For reference, the documents and videos on their website are located here www.osha.gov/maritime/resources.
The daily progress of the ship repair should be monitored by the ship repair manager, ship officers, and supervisors from both the shipyard and any subcontractors performing work on the vessel. Daily meetings should include a list of priorities, systems and equipment checks, a review of the work permits, gas status and validity of gas-free certificates, and the locations where the work is being carried out. Lines, valves and pipes should be covered as well. A proper daily meeting will ensure the work is being managed safely and completely. This is not only good for the ship and the personnel it is also good for the environment and the conditions of the workers. Monitoring work, especially in areas where safety practices differ culturally, promotes higher standards and better quality work. Staying vigilant also ensures that the vessel operators’ equipment stays safe and functions correctly upon exit. A quick and easy way to do this is to create a checklist that will serve as a final quality check before going underway. Temporary guidelines that have Covid -19 updates can be found at www.ocimf.org/media/167805/2020_Temporary-Guidelines-for-Conducting-a-Vessel-Inspection-During-Covid-19.pdf.
I hope this article is helpful in some way and provides some direction for anyone looking to have their vessel serviced. Our focus in the next article will be on specific shipyards recognized as optimal working partners in the industry. Until next time, may you all have fair winds and calm seas.