This year's Ship Repair & Conversion Exhibition and Conference, held recently in London's Olympia, attracted delegates and visitors from most parts of the world.
President of the Association of Singapore Marine Industries and managing director of Keppel Hitachi Zosen, both addressed the question of whether, or rather how, Singapore could maintain its leading position in the shiprepair market. The implication, as the two presentations made clear, was that Singapore had to concentrate on providing high quality work and winning relatively high-added-value contracts.
Denholm Ship Management's technical director, Hamish Cubitt, spoke on "Ship management in the Next Millennium". Ships will become a little bit more sophisticated and consequently a bit more difficult too to maintain. Mr Cubitt did also stress how increasing standards, regulatory and industry-led, were affecting what had once been an easy-entry business. The International Safety Management Code ISM, especially, had implications for shipmanagers and owners that also affected shiprepairers. Reputable shipmanagers may have no option but to insist that owners implement adequate maintenance and repair policies.
Presentations dealt with the transformation of naval yards into commercial ones. Andrew Rowe, executive vice-president of Cascade General, described how his Portland, Oregon, yard was saved from the brink of bankruptcy. The private US yard survived by dint of a change in the mindset of its workers and a new focus on commercial, rather than naval, work. In the UK a specifically formed consortium of Marconi Marine and Vosper Thorneycroft has done a similar job at the Portsmouth repair facility. Managing director Peter Macintosh gave a particularly frank account of the challenges faced in taking a workforce with a civil service mentality into the commercial world.
Mr Macintosh said: "Royal Navy shiprepair and maintenance requires work carried out to a specification far beyond that required by most commercial shipowners, specifications that take extra time to complete. Craftsmen who have developed their skills working on Royal Navy ships would find it difficult to transfer to working on very time-critical commercial projects. Similarly the level of detail that the Ministry of Defence demands . . . would frustrate a commercially trained marine tradesman."
Fleet Support Ltd (FSL) has decided that naval and commercial work must be treated separately. FSL has developed two quite separate workforces working within the same facility, one for naval work and the other for commercial contracts. Other yards do combine naval and commercial work successfully but FPLs solution is a reminder of how different the two markets really are.
More information: Article published in Shipping Times by Mr. David Hughes