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'Lessons Learned' Strategies & Ideas for the Marine Industry

LESSON LEARNED #36: Two Owners Means Two Different Vessels

Lesson Learned

A shipyard, constructing an excursion vessel for an owner, was approached by a second owner that wished to contract for a second of the same vessel. Using the same contract drawings and specifications, the shipyard priced the second vessel assuming the benefit of a production learning curve and that nearly all the engineering for the first vessel would be directly applicable to the second vessel. This proved to be an erroneous and costly assumption. In the process of reviewing the construction details and testing/trials agendas, none of which were contractually defined with specificity, the second owner’s representatives were far more demanding than those of the first owner. These greater demands resulted in significant rework, excess engineering hours and more extensive tests and trials.

Lesson learned: even if the same drawings and specifications are being used for two or more vessels, the shipyard should consider each vessel to be the first of a series when it is being constructed for a different owner.


Conflicting Categories of Drawings in Contracts

Contracts for ship construction or conversion typically contain a series of “Contract Plans” or “Contract Drawings” that are listed and identified as essential elements of the contract.  However, often there is a second list of drawings categorized as ‘Contract Guidance Plans,’ ‘Guidance Plans,’ ‘Reference Plans,’ ‘Information Plans’ or some comparable categorization. Unless the intended use and purpose of the second list is clarified, the identification of two sets of plans or drawings within the contract is a starting point for significant problems. Let’s look at the fundamentals of this situation.

Multiple Plans Indicates Different Rights, Responsibilities, and Obligations

If the rights and obligations of both parties were the same for both lists, they would have been consolidated into a single list of Contract Plans. The presence of two lists of plans in the contract signifies that the contracting parties have different rights, responsibilities and obligations for each list. The problems associated with that second list of plans usually start to develop because the contractor (shipyard) has a different interpretation of those rights and responsibilities for the second list than does the purchaser (ship owner). The contractor cannot know what was in the mind of the owner’s technical team when it developed and/or provided the second list of plans unless the intended use of those plans — and how that is different from use of the Contract Plans — has been communicated in the contract documents.

Upon assisting in the resolution of numerous problems arising from the inclusion of two lists of plans within the contract, many different intended uses—or limitations on their use—have been realized. Unfortunately, in many instances this has occurred only after disputes had arisen. There are many possible interpretations of the intended use of such second categories of ‘guidance’, reference’ or ‘information’ plans that are listed in the contract documents.  The wide variation of possible intended uses of that category of plans raises questions that should have been explicitly addressed during contract formation.

  1. Is the Contractor is expected to achieve full compliance with the Guidance Plans unless there is an interference between a component shown on the Contract Plans and one shown on the second category plans?
  2. Can the Contractor rely on the accuracy and/or completeness of those second-category plans and use them without alteration for the construction or conversion?
  3. Can the Contractor rely on those second category plans being entirely consistent with the Contract Plans and Contract Specifications?
  4. If used for a ship conversion or repair, can the Contractor rely on those second category plans being consistent with the actual arrangement and condition of the vessel?
  5. Does the Contractor have to receive permission from the Owner to vary from the second category plans?…and if so, is a formal Change Order necessary?
  6. If it is necessary to vary from the second category plans in order to remain consistent with the Contract Plans and Contract Specifications, which party has responsibility to analyze, understand and take responsibility for the operational consequences of the necessary variations?

Those are some, but not all of the possible interpretations of the intended use of second category plans that are listed in the contract documents. The wide variation of the intended use of second category plans raises questions that need to be addressed when the intended use is not explicitly stated. These problems are generally avoidable if the contract documents describe, in plain and simple words, how the Contractor is to use the plans in that second list, and how that usage is different from the use of the Contract Plans.

LESSON LEARNED #35: Confirm With Vendors Before Specifying

Lesson Learned

A vessel owner’s team set out to increase the refrigeration capacity of the vessel. Among other new components, this required the installation of several additional 250-amp breakers identical to ones already on the vessel. The owner’s staff read the part number for the existing breakers, and directed the shipyard to order additional breakers using that part number to ensure commonality. What arrived, however, were only the casings for the breakers, not fitted with the internals. A separate part number was need for the internals, or an alternate part number for the combination of the internals plus casing. A last-minute contract amendment and extra installation costs were incurred.

The lesson learned: the owner’s specification writers should confirm from the vendor that the identified part number is the appropriate one and that the product is currently being manufactured.

Floating Drydock Module Replacement

Fisher Maritime assisted a shipyard in the resolution of a dispute over the value of repairs to their floating drydock which was severely damaged while lifting a vessel. The damage to the drydock was found to have been the result of lack of compliance with the dock pumping plan; the ship was not damaged.  Due to limits on a loss-of-use insurance policy, the shipyard’s survival was dependent on the drydock not being out of service for an extended period. Upon assessing the extent of damage to the floating drydock, the shipyard immediately arranged for and managed repairs by wholesale replacement of modules of the floating drydock. This was commenced before reaching an agreement with the underwriters as to the amount to be reimbursed by the Hull and Machinery insurance policy.

The shipyard’s method of repair seemed extreme to the underwriter but, in the end, was demonstrated by Fisher Maritime to have been technically-superior and far more economical than the underwriter’s suggested method. The full extent of the damage to the drydock was not known when the underwriters initially developed a cut -and-patch repair specification based largely on an external visual inspection only.

The anticipated cost of repair of the initially identified damage under this method already approached half the value of the policy.  However, there was a high probability that the drydock was damaged to a greater extent than visually noted at the outset, thereby making it beyond economical repair with the underwriter’s proposed cut-and-patch method. It was likely that there would be considerable growth work and the dry dock would be declared a constructive total loss sometime before completion of the proposed repair. This would leave the shipyard without a drydock for an uncertain amount of time. Instead the shipyard took action to obtain a more timely, successful repair.

Using less-expensive replacement modules obtained from an oversees shipyard having low steel work costs. the drydock was repaired for a cost below the total constructive loss threshold but above the underwriter’s initial estimate for a patchwork repair.  Those total costs were lower even though they included transportation of the entire floating drydock across the ocean on a heavy lift ship for replacement of the structural modules.

The shipyard and underwriter had disagreed as to the fair value of the repairs.  Without adequate reimbursement being offered, the shipyard sued the underwriter. The law firm representing the shipyard, being familiar with Fisher Maritime’s capabilities and successes from previous assignments, asked it to provide expert assistance. Fisher Maritime developed an analysis of the shortcomings in the underwriter’s repair specification and the associated repair estimate. The Fisher Maritime report then assessed the reasonableness and subsequent cost-effectiveness, as well as shorter schedule, of the shipyard’s repair method.  Following presentation of the Fisher Maritime analysis, the matter was resolved before trial to the satisfaction of the shipyard.

LESSON LEARNED #34: Owner Furnished Equipment

Lesson LearnedA tanker owner’s plan to modernize a vessel resulted in the decision that the owner would supply a certain large item of new equipment to be installed by the US west coast shipyard. The owner selected a vendor based on low pricing, anticipating a savings of about $60,000 below what the shipyard’s charge would have been. After the project commenced, however, the owner’s team discovered that the selected vendor was unable to demonstrate that the component met the required testing and certification standards.

The vessel owner’s team then had to re-order the component from another manufacturer, paying a premium for rushed completion. Moreover, because the newly selected vendor was far from the shipyard, the vessel owner’s team had to charter an aircraft to rapidly transport the component from Texas to the US west coast. In the end, the anticipated savings of about $60,000 was replaced by extra costs in excess of $100,000 above what the shipyard’s charge would have been.

If instead the vessel owner’s staff had spent time to write a precise specification and had given the shipyard the responsibility to acquire the component in accordance with that specification, any and all those extra costs would have been for the shipyard’s account.

The lesson learned: Vessel owners should not use anticipated cost-savings as a basis for deciding to provide equipment as owner-furnished.

$340 Million Award-With Our Help

In two separate but concurrent contracts, a national oil company contracted with a shipyard in the same country to convert a supertanker into an FPSO and to convert a drilling rig into an offshore production platform.  The shipyard experienced significant liquidity problems and consequential delays, primarily due to underbidding, but also due to currency risks and local inflation.

To keep the conversions moving forward, the oil company pumped cash and management resources into the shipyard to ensure the work was completed.  When it became obvious that the budgets would be far exceeded, the shipyard’s surety was advised that the purchaser would look to the surety for repayment of the extra-contractual funds; but the surety refused to take action.  After the completion of the two conversion projects, with over $300 million of extra costs in dispute, the matter went to US federal court because the surety was an American entity.

When Fisher Maritime was engaged, three experts, previously engaged by the attorneys, had already produced their reports.  One was an experienced shipyard manager; the second was a naval architect experienced in the design of offshore production equipment and vessels; while the third was a forensic accountant who identified the extra-contractual costs for the completion of the conversions. While each of the reports answered the important questions that were addressed to the experts; they were not collectively suitable for a court presentation in such a high value case; they need to be integrated for a comprehensive and more pointed presentation in court.

Fisher Maritime was asked to evaluate whether the proposed expert testimony clearly supported all aspects of the oil company’s case to obtain the proceeds of the performance bond issued by the surety.  Fisher Maritime reviewed the work of the three experts, determined how to strengthen the presentations, how to tie together the work of the three other experts to convey the overall picture without giving up salient details, and how to cross examine the surety’s experts to exploit the weaknesses of the other party’s case.

Fisher Maritime met with each of the experts, reviewed their findings and the data and correspondence that led them to their conclusions.  The result was that Fisher Maritime worked to integrate the work of the three experts to provide a readily understood presentation to show that the owner, by working with the shipyard, had proceeded diligently and economically to complete the conversions.  It was established that there was no other, more economic alternative available to the owner than to provide the substantial financial assistance to the shipyard that had been done by the owner.

Fisher Maritime prepared a presentation utilizing and integrating the findings of the previously engaged experts for the attorneys’ opening statement. We also provided extensive lists of questions to be used in the cross examination of the sureties’ expert witnesses. The result was a court award of $340 million in favor of our client.

This was the second time that Fisher Maritime had been central to the successful outcome of a litigated matter valued at over $300 million, in addition to the many lesser matters in which Fisher Maritime has brought success to its clients’ challenges.

The Impacts of Customer Inspectors on Shipbuilders

A shipyard had contracted to construct a naval vessel with the requirement that the shipyard provide facilities for a certain number of naval inspectors. Subsequent to the start of the project, the naval procurement staff (i.e., the customer) asked the contractor to provide a proposed contract modification to provide facilities for a certain number of additional naval inspectors who would be present for the remainder of the project (more than doubling the number of inspectors). The customer anticipated that the proposed amendment would cover only the rental of the additional office facilities and associated support for those additional inspectors. However, realizing that there would be additional impacts due the presence of the greater number of naval inspectors, the contractor asked Fisher Maritime to prepare an analysis of the expected impacts arising from the greater presence of naval inspectors. The following is a greatly consolidated synopsis of the analysis and evaluation.

Additional Inspectors Would Have More Than “Minimal” Impact

Fisher Maritime determined that the contractor could not accept the customer’s assumption that there would be only minimal other impacts. It was noted that as the additional naval inspectors fulfilled their intended roles, they would be reviewing the contractor’s detail drawings to a far greater extent than originally planned; they would be inspecting work in progress to a far greater extent; they would express numerous and more-diverse opinions on many more aspects of contractor’s work (both engineering and production); and they would be questioning the adequacy of quality assurance and testing to a greater extent, as well.

The consequence of this would be that contractor personnel would have to respond to many more inquiries, defend many other decisions that were within the contractor’s realm of responsibility, revise many more drawings, possibly modify already-completed work to accommodate the preferences of the inspectors, and likely have to retest many functional capabilities to demonstrate compliance with alternate interpretations of the testing protocols.

In the process of converting the contract-level design to the final product, numerous detail decisions have to be made by the contractor. Through the contract’s drawing-review clause, the customer has the right to review those decisions before the design details are ‘translated’ into tangible results in the form of a component, piece or element of the vessel.

When naval inspectors review and challenge or question a detail decision that has been initially made by the contractor, the contractor often has to expend additional resources to allay the concerns, questions or challenges expressed by the inspector’s review. It is those additional resource expenditures, among others, that translate into extra costs incurred by the contractor due to the presence of additional naval inspectors.

Engineering Impacts:

The contractor does not wish to merely ignore the inquiries of the customer’s inspectors, since that attitude may start deterioration of the contractual relationship, which should instead be one of mutual cooperation. Accordingly, when the inspection staff questions why certain detail decisions have been proposed by the contractor, or when the inspectors wish to have the contractor consider an alternative solution, the contractor has to investigate, analyze, consider and respond.  All of this effort by the contractor consumes professional man-hours in both engineering and project management. Allowance in the contractor’s budget and schedule for an appropriate number of professional man-hours was included for the initially nominated number of naval inspectors. Now, however, with additional inspectors the impact would be greater in both cost and schedule.

It was realized that the additional naval inspectors would generate inquiries that require a significant input from contractor personnel. Some of the responses may require less than one man-hour of the contractor’s efforts; some may require several man-days of effort; but most of them likely would require a major portion of a full man-day. It was assessed that, on average, there would be an additional five contractor professional hours needed for each eight additional naval inspector hours, to investigate, analyze,
consider and respond. That is, for each eight additional naval inspectors the shipbuilder would have to plan for the equivalent of five more full time persons on the engineering and project management staff.

Production Impacts:

In addition to those engineering impacts, there would be impacts on the production work of the project. Perhaps the most apparent impacts would arise in association with inspection/quality deficiency reports issued by naval inspectors. Accordingly, there was a certainty that contractor would have to respond to a far greater number of inspection/quality deficiency reports due to the presence of additional naval inspectors.

When an inspection/quality deficiency report is issued, the contractor has to decide how to respond to it. If use of the naval inspector’s alternate interpretation would be a significant cost or schedule burden on the contractor, the contractor’s engineering staff may set about to educate the naval inspectors as to why the already accomplished work does, in fact, meet the contract requirements. However, if it is not too big a burden, in the interest of wanting to accommodate the customer’s perspectives, the contractor may simply modify the already-accomplished work to satisfy the inspector’s interpretation. This is not an acknowledgement of error by the contractor; rather, it is a business accommodation made only for the benefit of promoting a good relationship. But additional naval inspectors lead to a lot more of such accommodations being made since there is every reason to expect that each naval inspector will go about his/her work diligently. This rapid growth of accommodating actions due to the increase in the number of naval inspectors should not become the financial burden of the contractor.

Testing Impacts:

In addition to the impacts on both engineering and production costs arising from the greater number of naval inspectors, there would be comparable impacts on tests and trials. Not only would the naval inspector’s interpretation of testing requirements vary from those of the contractor, but the greater number of naval inspectors would result in multiple customer-proposed interpretations of how the standards and testing requirements are to be applied to the project. This means that the contractor has to address not only a proposed alternative interpretation of the standard or testing requirement, but also has to sort out the differences and ramifications of each of the multiple customer-identified alternatives and work with the team of naval inspectors to resolve their internal differences of opinion, as well. This would undoubtedly lead to multiple reinspections and multiple re-tests to an extent far greater than if the number of naval inspectors was not significantly expanded. These production and testing impacts could easily exceed the engineering impacts if there is little control over the timing and/or extent of the interruptions that originate with the additional naval inspectors.

An example of multiple interpretations of a testing standard was for the examination of welds in the gas turbine anti-icing devices for the fleet of US Navy FFGs. The government interpreted the contractually-defined pipe weld inspection standard for steam plants, that now had to be applied to a gas turbine plant, to require radiographic examination of certain welds. The vendor interpreted the same inspection standard to require only dye-penetrant examination of the welds.

Under protest and claiming the extra costs, the considerably more expensive radiographic processes were applied to all 240 devices for 60 ships. The government’s subsequent independent revision of the standard, extending it to apply to gas turbine plants, as well as the subsequent award by an arbitration panel, found the government interpretation to be invalid. The vendor was compensated accordingly.

The ‘Attractiveness’ of Project Mismanagement

Erroneously disguised as a problem-solving opportunity

Project mismanagement is not the same as poor project management. Poor project management means that the project will eventually be achieved but at greater cost and longer schedule than otherwise accomplish-able. Project mismanagement takes the project in the wrong direction, introducing seriously flawed decision-making which later necessitates either a reversal of direction or far greater cost and schedule corrections. It masks itself as a decision to help resolve a project’s problem. But in reality it is not a decision; it is only an expression of hope, such as, “This should work out satisfactorily, I think.”

Re-Assigning the Problem Does NOT Simply Make it Go Away

Project mismanagement usually starts when an entity involved for certain purposes in a project offers a very attractive solution to a problem that has arisen in an area beyond its original purview. It appears that the problem will be resolved if the project managers simply re-assign responsibility for resolving the problem to a different entity than originally had that responsibility. This usually is a very attractive proposition––it is thought that the problem simply will go away if the project managers assign responsibility to the entity that is volunteering to resolve the problem, albeit at some additional cost. When project management is already stressed-out by multiple problems, the opportunity to see one of those problems be easily resolved is welcome relief. It is offered as a clean, efficient, effortless means of resolving the problem that has arisen in the project. But often it doesn’t work out that well.

Here’s an example. A dredge owner wanted to purchase a new, large split-hull hopper dredge to have it available within 24 months, in time to commence a long-term project. But the bidding shipyards all stated that the desired delivery date could not be achieved because the extremely large hydraulic cylinders to open and close the hull were long-lead items, controlling the vessel’s delivery to over 28 months. This later-than-acceptable delivery date was the project’s main problem.

At that point, the owner-retained naval architectural consultancy offered to procure those components faster than the shipyard, provided the owner would designate the consultancy as an equipment provider and tell the shipyard that the equipment would become owner-furnished. This appealed to the owner; at the stroke of a pen (it seemed) the schedule problem would be resolved. The consultancy would obtain the equipment (for an additional fee) and arrange to have it timely delivered to the shipyard so the 24-month vessel delivery requirement could be achieved.

Of course the end of the story is predictable. The consultancy had no special powers that could eliminate the long lead time. The ship was completed late. Moreover, the owner had to pay extra to the shipyard due to the multiple critical-path impacts of the late-delivered owner furnished equipment.

The assignment of equipment procurement to the consultancy essentially was an expression of hope, but not of promise. It was hoped that action would result in avoidance of the long-lead time problem. The appealing result offered by the consultancy vastly overshadowed the need to analyze why the switch from shipyard-provided equipment to owner-furnished equipment would have such a dramatically different result. In making that assignment, the owner hoped––but did not analyze. This is but one of many examples of project mismanagement that Fisher Maritime has observed over the 43 years of its existence.

The lesson learned from this example, among many others, is this: When an entity offers a solution to a vexing problem, but before project management makes a decision about that potential problem, analyze whether the pending decision will definitely resolve the problem, or if it is only an expression of hope that by trying something different the problem will be resolved.


An Ounce of Prevention

Just as a hurricane begins as small disturbances in the atmosphere, a shipyard claim may start forming without the owner being aware of it. Although curtailing the formation of a hurricane isn’t possible yet, curtailing a full blown shipyard claim can be. Since hurricanes are not controllable, avoidance of its disastrous effects can only be achieved through early forecasting and positive action to brace for the storm. Sometimes shipyard claims may also seem inevitable. In fact, however, with appropriate management techniques, they are avoidable.

The principles of claim avoidance are mainly the same as when dealing with a hurricane — early detection of the conditions which breed them, and positive action right from the get-go. It is in the interest of both the owner and the shipyard to avoid claims. Such claims typically result from a lapse in effective contract management by either or both parties.

Fisher Maritime routinely provides, to both owners and shipyards, management consulting efforts to monitor the conditions which might breed a claim, and to recommend actions which can lead to the avoidance of one. If you are concerned about the possibility of a claim developing and appreciate the benefits of avoiding it, call on Fisher Maritime to begin claim-avoidance procedures. This is what Fisher Maritime does best — its primary mission is to develop and help manage ship conversion, repair and newbuilding contracts to avoid claims.

The Art (and Risks) of Managing Owner-Furnished Equipment – Part Three

Editor’s Note:  This is Part Three of a three-part series focusing on the management of Owner-Furnished Equipment.  This article addresses additional items of supporting owner-furnished information that needs to be considered when using Owner Furnished Equipment (“OFE”), which were originally introduced in Part Two.  For readers wishing to start at the beginning of this discussion pertaining to OFE, Part One can be found here.


Integration is the engineering and design process that confirms that each item of equipment will integrate perfectly into the vessel before purchasing the OFE. This means that the owner’s team has to ensure for each OFE item that an appropriate entity is charged with the responsibility to confirm the validity of each of the following applicable aspects:

  • deck area and dimensions
  • structural arrangement to support its weight and deal with possible vibration and noise concerns
  • compartment geometry to ensure there is sufficient space for installation and maintenance
  • installation geometry, determining the route by which the item of equipment will be rigged into its final position and checking in advance for interferences in that route
  • electrical power sources, cable requirements and location of connections
  • electronic controls, alarms and signals requirements (and associated cable requirements) and compatibility with console designs
  • liquids inflow and outflow requirements, location of piping connections, and sources and destinations for such flows
  • airflow and heat dissipation requirements

Some specialized OFE may create additional integration requirements.

Vertical Integration

Integration is divided into two categories, using the modifiers ‘vertical’ and ‘horizontal’ to assist in remembering the differentiation of their roles. Vertical integration is the application of the described integration functions to the interface between each item of OFE and the ship. Which party has that responsibility? It is not realistic to expect the shipyard to accomplish those engineering tasks for equipment being purchased by the owner unless the owner’s team provides the shipyard with everything there is to know about the OFE well in advance of the time it is to be installed. Alternatively, if this task is assigned to the shipyard, the owner has to give the shipyard the authority to modify other parts of the vessel to accomplish the physical integration as may be needed, or at least contractually address those possible requirements.

Horizontal Integration

Horizontal integration comes into effect when the owner provides two or more items of equipment that have to fit and work together or otherwise communicate with one another. The objective of horizontal integration is to ensure, long before installation commences, that the two or more items do, in fact, fit and work and communicate with one another. Are they compatible with one another in terms of geometry, electrical power, signals, controls, fluid flows and heat dissipation? Which party is responsible for providing connecting cables between them? These responsibilities automatically fall onto the shoulders of the owner’s team unless, as with the vertical integration, it is contractually assigned to the shipyard, in which case the owner’s team will have had to provide the shipyard with everything there is to know about the OFE well in advance of the time it is to be installed.

Testing & Commissioning

Once the item of OFE has been installed, if it is anything more complex than a pump, it will be subjected to a series of tests to confirm that it has been properly installed and integrated into all of the ship’s systems with which it has to work seamlessly. Often, these confirming tests consume considerable resources, namely, skilled labor and schedule-critical time near the end of the project. In order to avoid surprises and last-minute impacts to the project’s cost and schedule, the shipyard has to know in advance––probably at the time of bidding the project––the entire set of requirements for the testing that is necessary to achieve commissioning deemed applicable by the vendor, classification and flag-state authorities. These requirements include:

  • identification of what other ship systems have to be up and running before these commissioning tests can be accomplished
  • description of the minimum status of the OFE’s compartment completion when the tests are conducted
  • specially purchased or rented equipment needed for the tests
  • number of craftsmen of each skill needed to support the vendor’s technical representative during the tests
  • expected duration of tests
  • identification of what other work can not be on-going at the time due to possible interferences with the tests
  • other requirements unique to the type of OFE (e.g., fluids for flushing hydraulic systems).

If the owner’s team cannot provide that information to the shipyard in advance of contracting, there will almost certainly be growth of the project in both schedule and cost. This will come about because the shipyard will not have been able to allow for such contingencies in its competitive bid unless all the bidders were told what contingencies to include in the bid price and schedule. On the other hand, if the equipment is provided by the shipyard, the owner is not bearing the risks of growth or delay due to those potential problems.


When an item of equipment is provided by the owner, there are two sources of warranty: the manufacturer’s warranty on the item itself, and the shipyard’s warranty on the workmanship of installation. While not a major concern, the existence of two sources of warranty places a burden on the owner to figure out which party to call. If the wrong one is called, the owner could be facing an expensive service call invoice from that party, and incur a delay in getting a warranty visit from the correct party.


The use of owner-furnished equipment in a ship construction or conversion project effectively transfers to the vessel owner responsibility for the consequences of problems that arise from the risks associated with that procurement decision. When a vessel owner has decided to use OFE in the project, a careful and continuous monitoring of all the potential sources of problems, as described above, can effectively minimize, if not avoid, the consequences arising from such risks.