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Director's Comment

Managing Director - John White

Managing Director - John White

Managing Director John White looks at the recent advancements in shipbuilding.

Welcome dear reader to your latest edition of Inside Marine. Within this bumper edition, we feel that we are bringing you the latest news and views, company profiles, enticing advertisements, events and much more. Hopefully enough to entertain you, inspire you and maybe help your company grow or improve. 

The major focus for this edition is shipyards and shipbuilding. As an industry, this sector seems to have been slower than others to embrace new technologies and improvements, in my opinion. However, much has changed of late and shipyards are now embracing the need to change to produce the latest in technological design using the very latest equipment at a reduced cost. So, the same incentive as for most industries then, namely; better, quicker and cheaper! 

Many design firms and shipyards are looking at reducing cost by reducing materials, minimising material handling, reducing resources (man power, lift and turning, late outfitting, etc) and at the same time improving the output quality. Some of the reasons that are causing change include the difficulty for companies to find highly skilled workers or even enthusiastic young minds to educate. 

A shift toward technological aid has contributed toward a reduction in the amount of workforce required and the resulting ability for the existing workforce to accomplish their job faster. The automation used now not only enables a process to be repeated but helps to reduce human error and can keep costs down due to its ability to continue to work all hours, thus eliminating workers’ overtime costs. The industry has been able to focus on and improve quality of aspects of the shipbuilding process without the need to raise the costs dramatically. 

These things enable companies to keep costs down, supply the result quicker and encompass the latest technology. But for me, having read a few articles recently, one of the most interesting changes is caused because of the shipping industry’s demand for these shipbuilders to create vessels which are arguably some of the most complex structures that man is capable of today – across any industry sector. And with autonomous ships now being seriously discussed in some quarters as the next shipping gamechanger, the technological emphasis on shipyards will jump even higher if they do indeed become reality. 

This complexity sees a greater need for more companies, suppliers and people to be involved in the process. Many parts of the whole are constructed in different locations by different suppliers in parallel and therefore timing is key to avoid additional complications. This results in having many stakeholders involved in different locations and often in different countries. Therefore, the industry now must find ways to communicate and collaborate to embrace this wider distribution.

It seems that long gone are the days when every vessel was completed, from start to finish, at one shipyard by a highly skilled handful of craftsmen and women. The old romantic in me can’t help but miss the days of seeing a vessel take shape on top of its wooden runners in a giant shed, surrounded by hundreds of skilled workers, grinding, chipping, welding and riveting away to create a goliath of the seas. 

Our demand for safer, cheaper and more advanced vessels, built quickly to order, has put an end to those days; but such is progression and our need to be ever innovative and more efficient. Although I accept and admire such advancements, it still warms my heart to see craftsmen at work in some of the smaller shipyards, where if you are lucky, your senses are treated to all the old sounds, sights and smells of days gone by

John White - Managing Director