Fisher Maritime's Fairleads

'Lessons Learned' Strategies & Ideas for the Marine Industry

LESSON LEARNED #39: Buying Used Vessels Creates Certain Risks

Lesson Learned

A prospective megayacht owner sought to purchase a used government tugboat for conversion to his private yacht. He engaged a yacht design firm and shipyard to accomplish the conversion. The government agency presented a different sister vessel for inspection, promising that the one that would be actually sold was substantially the same vessel. The owner accepted that representation, taking delivery of the previously uninspected vessel.  The designer and shipyard concurred that the actually-delivered tug was unsuitable for the conversion, even though the one shown would have been suitable. (The vessels started only as sister ships, not identical twins, and had not been modified identically during their lifetime.) At the last minute, the owner had to alter his order from one of conversion to one of newbuilding.

Lesson learned: purchasers of used vessels should be suspicious because sellers of used vessels never tell the full story, even when the seller is a government agency.


LESSON LEARNED #38: Undertake Emergency Evacuations Without Delay

Lesson Learned

A shipyard was undertaking the replacement of insulation in reefer spaces on a vessel. After removing the stainless steel liners, the old insulation was ripped out. New insulation was being glued into place, using brushes for the glue that was sitting in an open bucket in the reefer space. A residential-type extension light was in use by the installers. No special ventilation of the glue fumes had been arranged. Upon being cautioned by the owner’s representative to immediately replace the extension light with a non-explosive, double-globe one, and to commence ventilation of the space, the contractor personnel were allowed to continue their work without attending to the light and ventilation issues. The next day, another reminder was matched by continuing indifference to the hazard. On the third day, an explosion in the reefer space caused significant burns to the workers.

In settlement of litigation, the ship owner as well as the shipyard had to compensate the injured parties. Unfortunately, this is not merely an issue of extra costs and schedule delays. This is a matter of personal injury or possibly death. Concerns by the owner’s staff about not interfering with the work or procedures of contractor personnel is, in those circumstances, irrelevant.

Lesson learned: personnel safety comes before concerns about contractual interference; when an explosive atmosphere is detected and imminent risk of explosion or fire is identified, everyone must immediately evacuate the entire vessel until appropriate measures have been taken by trained hazard-reaction personnel, regardless of the impact on project schedule.



LESSON LEARNED #37: Geometry of Replacement Parts

Lesson Learned

A vessel owner arranged to have the heads of several ballast tank vents replaced with new ones. The owner’s team specified that the heads were to be the type to bolt onto an 8″ vent line. Upon arrival of the vent heads, it was found that the top elements of the heads were several inches larger in diameter than the original ones, although they mated to the 8″ line. In order to accommodate the larger vent heads, a number of nearby handrails had to be modified, requiring hot work when no hot work would otherwise have been needed. This resulted in considerable extra cost to the owner.

Lesson learned: the owner’s team should confirm in advance the suitability of all aspects of the geometry of replacement parts, not just one or two key measurements.



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.


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.

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.