Newbuild trawlers lessons learned

April 14, 2021 08:47

The Sea of Okhotsk pollock fishing season is over.  It is very important for the Far Eastern fishermen, and this year it was remarkable because of participation of newbuilt ships.  The trawlers have gone through a lot of childhood illnesses, which was expected.  We, at, understand that all the problems will be cured, and the experience gained will be used in the construction of the next ships.

There has been no new construction of trawlers in Russia for a long time, so it seems that looking at the problems’ roots might be useful to those who are just getting ready to send their ships to sea. The source of information is observations from the outside, and conversations with people involved in projects who asked not to disclose their identity.

  • It is necessary to establish from the very beginning that the designer and project manager are not the owners of any part of the intellectual property and do not succumb to their persuasion to the contrary, even when turning into “blackmail”.
  • The project must be open for audit and comments within the company.  Statements like "We have designed and built a lot of ships, we are experts, and we know everything" are about nothing.  
  • It would be a self-deception to build a terrible commercial secret out of a project. Seafarers move between Russian companies freely, and this cannot be stopped, there is no such NDA they would not violate.  Actually, what losses can the company incur due to the fact that colleagues learn something about their ships? The quota will not be taken away, everyone will catch the same fish volume.
  • The company should audit the project internally and/or externally and carefully consider the comments received, with the project team participation, but not by them only.
  • There should be real responsibility for deadlines for everyone except the commissioning team. Otherwise, they might start to "cut corners", and consequences might be grief.
  • There should be a plan of acceptance tests, an acceptance sheet, where the person who accepted, who designed and who did it, signs. The collective responsibility "this was done / designed by our company " is irrelevant at this stage. Anyway a foreman and the leader of the respective design group must sign to confirm they had done the job.
  • Accept for yourself that comments on the project and its implementation are, firstly, inevitable and, secondly, good for the company. To implement such an approach, some willpower is needed, as designers and commissioners will resist this, motivating this by delaying the deadlines for which they are responsible. It is necessary to praise and reward the inspectors and the first crew for problems found before starting work. Deadline for this would be departure of the vessel from the factory or sailing on the first fishing voyage.
  • The construction supervision team must be unquestionably competent and understand what to do. The fact that someone spent half the life at sea is not in itself a reason for being included there. There is a chance that he will build on the new ship something outdated, to which he is accustomed. Clear requirements for members, competitive selection, high salary, high responsibility are necessary. Several people for each direction: navigators, mechanics, , computer technicians, production technicians,... The list is not exhaustive.
  • The crew should be trained to operate the new equipment before the ship is commissioned, and not after sailing. Saving time as "they will learn everything during the voyage" - self-deception.
  • Key crew specialists must be on board during the construction phase. At least, a captain, a first mate, an electronics guy (whose importance on computerized ships increases many times over), several mechanics, a factory manager, a ref mechanic.
  • New ships are controlled by people through many computers. Therefore, it is important to ensure that the programs on a highly automated vessel are working well, as debugging would be really at owner account. To do this, have not just an IT specialist in the observation and commissioning teams, but a competent software tester who can not only participate in the commissioning himself, but also explain to specialists how to test the programs that manage their departments.
  • The payment system for the monitoring team, project manager, contractors should imply the payment of a significant part of the remuneration (for example, 25-30% for companies and up to 1-2 annual earnings for employees) after trial operation during the production cycle. Optimally - a year, at least - a season. At the same time, the appropriate remuneration should be paid to all participants in the process, including those who have long been dismissed / left the company by the time of reckoning. All this, of course, should depend on the ship performance.
  • It is necessary to test each major unit and machine / shop as a whole. As well as fishmeal plant, engines and other things. This must be done before signing the commissioning certificate.
  • Surprisingly to write it, but the production line on the ship must be scrolled with the fish. It is necessary to bring to the shipyard a ton of pollock, herring, sardine and other raw materials that are planned to be processed and start the factory. The result might be refreshing.

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