Vereinigung Europäischer Schifffahrtsjournalisten

How a ship is built and supervised

Constructing a new ship is a major task involving hundreds of people and many claims are to manage. For example it takes nine months to construct a 200-metre general cargo carrier with 50,000 DWT (Deadweight Tonnage).
The construction process is similar to a jigsaw puzzle; the shipyard constructs gigantic blocks that are put together to create sections which are then assembled one by one. Of course, some of the pieces are missing at this stage; cargo cranes, the bridge and so on have their own sections. Additionally the vessel is not evenly sliced. Structure and interrelationship dictate the appearance of the segments.


However, before the first steel plate is cut the owner or ship manager sends out a team of professionals (yard team), often comprising employees and contracted consultants, who have great experience and might be sea-going staff or surveyors etc.
This team of five to 15 people has a site office, becoming an inherent part of the process. The site project manager leads the team and reports to the owners; other team members might specialize in tasks such as coating or hull inspection.
The team also monitors the construction progress to verify adherence to the schedule. Milestones are tracked and visualized, using for example a simple MS Excel bar chart or even sophisticated new building software.

construction schedule

Surveying the ship’s construction work
The surveyors examine the steel plates used to assemble the first blocks – it is a delicate process to bend and cut the steel in form. No block is complete until the supervisor has given final approval for both block and pipes. Approved blocks are joined together by welding lines that are also checked, resulting in 400 to 600 items to survey before all 200 blocks can be assembled.
Detail is vital – a fraction too long and the vessel might be for example prohibited from entering the Panama Canal, rendering it unfit for its intended purpose. Thus, compliance with construction laws from flag states and class societies is subject to thorough investigation. Class societies and other authorities send their own surveyors.

construction scheme

During the five-month pre-erection stage, the ship’s keel is prepared for laying in the dry dock. During this stage the outfitting for the engine room block, bow-thruster and deck machinery are installed and blocks are assembled to sections. At the end of the stage cranes move the blocks and sections into to the dry dock, laying the keel.

keel laying

During the erection stage, all sections are assembled and the main engine is installed. At the same time the auxiliary engines, rudder and propeller are fitted plus cargo cranes for various decks, and the hull is also painted. Various markings such as freeboard marking are painted and confirmed after the vessel has been measured. It may take up to two months before the ship can be set afloat.
Launching the vessel is the busiest time. Superintendents have to check 380 additional items. Starting with the accommodation and bridge, every installed application is examined in operation, including lighting and cables. Teams of engineers, ship store suppliers and paint workers check through the vessel, working under high pressure to finish in time.
Claim against the ship yard
The yard team will file hundreds of claims in total and must inspect a couple of thousand items – the painting job alone has a thousand inspection items. After finding a fault the yard team opens a claim against the shipyard. Many of these claims can be resolved simply, for example by repainting a block or improving a welding line.
To manage all claims surveyors use software like CODieBOARD# supervision-center, which enables the yard team to avoid double registration, report to the headquarters and track the claims. The true purpose of claim management is to lower the price by negotiating with the shipyard before the ship is handed over. Accurate claim management can save thousands of dollars.
The stage before handing over the ship is the sea trial, a journey that lasts two to fourteen days and takes place approximately 20 days before the vessel will be delivered. The ship’s performance is measured; the navigation and communication equipment is audited.


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