Shipbuilders must combine proven methods with current technology to survive

Shipbuilding is a tough business. Shipyard owners and operators continually face obstacles such as staffing issues, supply chain issues, cost overruns and weather delays. But the shipyards continue, doing what they have done for years: building work boats.

The face of Bollinger Shipyards for decades it was Donald “Boysie” Bollinger. Under his direction, Bollinger Shipyards were one of the first in the Gulf to adopt not only the construction and repair of oil and gas industry vessels, but also non-oil and gas industry vessels.

“If you’re not willing to diversify, you’re not going to make it,” Bollinger said. work boat in the late 1990s. And he was right. There have been many shipyards in the last two decades that stubbornly built and repaired just for the oil field. And many of them no longer exist.

It is no secret that the shipbuilding industry as a whole, not just in the Gulf, is slowly adapting to change.

“This is because the art of shipbuilding has been around for centuries and, like any industry, innovation happens early in its life cycle. In addition, shipbuilding knowledge of the tradesmen in a shipyard was usually passed down through family lineage or the local workforce that lived around the shipyards,” Darren Guillory, Technical Solutions Specialist at SSI USA, he wrote in an article that appeared on SSI USA is the US affiliate of SSI, an international company that provides Autodesk-based solutions for the offshore and shipbuilding industry. The company focuses on sales, support, training and implementation, as well as specialized research and development for US users of ShipBuilder software.

“It’s one of the reasons shipbuilders tend to be slow to adopt changes from external sources. As boat builders we tend to ‘stay in our lane’ and stick with the familiar. We tend to cling to things we know and reject them with phrases like ‘we’ve always done it that way’. This condition has also had the effect of a new problem facing the modern shipbuilding industry,” said Guillory.

That problem is an aging workforce. Often times, more experienced shipyard workers are slow to adopt changes or pass on shipbuilding knowledge to the next generation of workers. “This has led to a brain drain in the shipbuilding industry and forced modernization from the bottom up. The dreaded word ‘change’ raises questions that the industry must face,” said Guillory.


Nick Saban, the head football coach at the University of Alabama, has been so successful throughout his career because of his willingness to adapt to change. If he was running the same offense he was running in Alabama 10 years ago, he’d be out of a job.

Perhaps it is time for the shipbuilding industry to go on the offensive as well. Shipbuilding has never been seen as high-tech. But why can’t it be? It could be a response to industry efforts to attract young people to the shipbuilding industry. The children want to work for Google, Apple, Facebook, space x because they perceive it as “great”.

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Even United States of AmericaThe automated aluminum and steel manufacturing plants in Mobile, Alabama, for example, are state-of-the-art.

“Today’s high-tech industries are moving toward a more pure digital environment, with remote workflows and cloud-based solutions,” Guillory wrote. “The shipbuilding industry, however reluctantly, is trying to do the same. With the advent of MRP (material requirements planning), ERP (enterprise resource planning) and PLM (product lifecycle management) systems, data is now at your fingertips.”

He went on to say that connecting shipbuilding CAD tools to these enterprise solutions is imperative in the race to a true digital twin: a virtual representation of a physical system that serves as a digital counterpart to it for practical purposes such as simulation, integration, testing, monitoring And maintenance.

“With that, shifting to a data-centric workflow forces an organization to answer other serious questions they’d rather avoid. Things like: Do I have the right workforce for this type of shift? Do I need to add infrastructure to help me make these changes? Will this change give us a return on investment?” Guillory wrote.

Shipyards looking to shift to a data-centric workflow can focus on the efficiencies that optimize their business.

“Two things become apparent in a switch to this workflow,” Guillory said. “First, the design phase becomes a central focus, and designers need the ability to use multiple design tools to add accurate information to the model. Second, the design needs to be as detailed as possible so that all stakeholders can access the information in the model and trust that it is accurate and up-to-date.”

Switching to a data-centric model is not something that can be done overnight. And there are big differences between shipyards that employ 23 people and shipyards that have hundreds of workers on their payroll. It is a process and not an easy one. “Any shift to a data-centric workflow can be a major undertaking for any industry, but even more so for one that is resistant to change,” Guillory wrote.


The weather has always been a worthy opponent to the shipyard owner’s attempt to run a smooth operation. No matter where the patio is located, it will face the whims of Mother Nature as sure as the sun will set in the west. Floods, hurricanes, earthquakes, tornadoes, snow, extreme heat, extreme cold are all in play when trying to build a boat. The only difference is where one is trying to build it.

Even if the ship is being built indoors, the weather outside can affect whether needed supplies can be delivered on time, your employees can get to work, or floodwaters can get in. What about the effects of weather on the power grid or wind ripping through the roof?

Extreme weather patterns, like the ones being experienced around the world this year, are a real threat to shipyard owners everywhere.

“Shipyard work has become almost impossible due to sweltering temperatures and workers have had to take unscheduled breaks, meaning production has been delayed,” according to a report written by three of the UK workers. . Reed-SmithThor Maalouf shipping lawyers Sally-Ann Underhill and Lianjun Li. “Therefore, many shipyards have to declare force majeure due to extreme weather and while owners may back off depending on their particular wording, it’s hard to see what shipyards could reasonably do to alleviate current conditions.”

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These conditions can prevent a shipyard from being able to deliver a ship on time. The Reed Smith report says that shipyards have traditionally fared poorly in court in cases involving delivery delays. To protect your business, the report suggests doing the following:

• Claim allowable delays as they arise and ensure records of delays supported by critical path analysis are maintained.

• Comply with all formal notice provisions under the contract.

• Keep track of how conditions have impacted work in other yards, and even how they have impacted other industries in the region.

• Keep a clear record of what has been done to try to overcome delays in an effort to show that the shipyard has acted reasonably.

“Most shipbuilding contracts establish an agreed ‘delivery date,’ with liquidated damages payable to the buyer (via a reduced purchase price) in the event the yard fails to meet the delivery date,” he says. The report. “They tend to contain a system to calculate a long deadline, whereby the buyer has the right to cancel the contract entirely if the ship has not been delivered. Most shipbuilding contracts also contain a mechanism whereby the shipyard can delay the contractual delivery date in the event of certain types of delays.

Generally, force majeure delays are tolerated as long as the contract has provisions for delays.

“The term ‘Fortuitous event’ is frequently used as a general provision in force majeure clauses, such as Article VIII of the SAJ (Shipbuilders Association of Japan) Shipbuilding Contract Form,” according to the Reed report. Smith. “It has been defined in English law as ‘an operation by the forces of nature which reasonable foresight and skill could not reasonably foresee or prevent.’ If the shipyard wants an extension of the delivery date based on an ‘act of God’, it must prove not only the impact of a natural phenomenon on the expected delivery date, but also that it could not have been reasonably avoided.”

The report raises the question of whether the extreme heat can be identified as an act of God. “It seems likely that the weather could constitute an ‘act of God’ if it is so extreme, judged in light of the usual conditions at the contract performance site, that the yard could not reasonably have been expected to take steps in advance to avoid that, according to the report.

A workers’ strike is another event that can affect the shipyard’s delivery date. “For example, in a strike situation, the buyer could argue that the yard has been unreasonable in its dealings with its workforce, ie the strike was not beyond the yard’s control,” the report noted. “The courts have been sympathetic to arguments like that.”

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