Making of an Oil Tanker

Characters

  • Smriti Sagar – Journalist (Leading lady & narrator)
  • Meghnad – Project Manager
  • Madan S – Machinery Inspector (Chief Engineer at Disha)
  • Tony Thomas – Electrical Inspector (Electrical Officer at Disha)
  • TH Kim – Hull Inspector
  • SC Yoon – Coating Inspector
  • KB Kim – QC Hull
  • HB Kim – QC Machinery
  • HC Son – Project coordinator CAD
  • Eric Sommerville – ABS Project manager
  • SH Park – Agent in Ulsan
  • Pradeep Sharma – VP Projects, Disha
  • Editor of Prathamam magazine

Chapter 1

It was a dark moonless night. Rain was pouring heavily. Two important people were scheduled to meet at a secret location; the only information we have is that it was a bar in the outskirts of New York. 

“We need an oil tanker in one year. Is it possible?” the first said. 

“Anything is possible while dealing with you,” the other said.

This is not exactly the way an oil tanker project is conceived, and so are not any other ship building projects. But, this is what I thought it was, before I came and spend my time to make this report, “How to make an oil tanker.”

Before I tell you the answer, mind you it is a long one; let me tell you something about myself. I am Smriti Sagar, a journalist by profession. Our magazine, Prathamam, wanted to create a “How to -” series to make the common man understand the complex engineering behind some products and professions. That led me to this project to understand how an oil tanker is built.

From my early childhood I had a passion for boats. It might have started with the small wooden boat ride across the river in my school days. Later on, it caught up when I shifted my house near the Marine drive in Kochi, where hundreds of boats and ships passed by daily. To be frank, I did not know much about ships to speak of, except that I enjoyed the sight of it moving in the water. 

Our editor was very happy that I volunteered to cover this project. 

“Do I have to run three years behind this?” I asked.

My editor gave a nonchalant look and said, “That was before. Even shipyards in India built tankers in a year. If you are in a good shipyard in S.Korea or Japan, it takes around six months.”

“Then I better find a project there,” I said with a sense of relief.


* * *

Disha is one of the largest shipping companies in India and they have a huge fleet of fifty-five oil tankers. I found that last part from their web site. 

I was rushing to their head office in Nariman point, maneuvering through the rush hour of Mumbai. 

I looked at my watch, “Oops, I am already ten minutes late for my appointment. I hope my editor have good contacts here.”

I approach the reception and they led me to a door with a bold letters, “PRADEEP SHARMA, Vice President Projects”. 

“Good morning, Sir!” “I hope I did not keep you waiting.”

It struck me that Pradeep Sharma was a smartly dressed, in his early forties, and he exhibited an air of confidence in the way he leaned his chair as he looked up to see me.

“Hello! Miss…Smriti. Take your seat. And call me Pradeep!”

We spend the next fifteen minutes discussing about the formalities of getting me to their onsite office in S.Korea, where they had a project to built one oil tanker. Pradeep Sharma oversaw this project and many others in this company. I was eager to proceed to what I was interested in, “How to make an oil tanker?”

I figured out that the best way to learn was to ask questions. I started with him, “Tell me, what is an oil tanker?”

“Oil tanker is a ship constructed or adapted primarily to carry oil in its cargo spaces and includes combination carriers and chemical tankers, when they are carrying oil in bulk. If you ask me what oil is, it is petroleum in any form, including crude oil, fuel oil, sludge, and oil refuse and refined products,” he answered.

“It is easy to identify one when u see it. There would be lot of pipe lines on the ship,” he added.

I was not sure if I had seen one, and not sure if I will recognize one. His answer did instill curiosity in my mind and I eagerly asked, “Tell me more about this ship.”

“This is a 46,000 Ton Deadweight, Oil/Chemical Tanker project at JHI (Jangsae Heavy Industries) shipyard, S.Korea. JHI is one of the largest shipyard in the world building these small sized tankers. ” 

“…but what is deadweight?” I interrupted.

“It is the carrying capacity of a ship. In our oil tanker it means that it can carry up to 46,000 tonnes of total weight including oil in its cargo tanks, fuel for running the engine in the ship, lubricating oil, fresh water in tanks, stores, crew, and their effects.”

I placed my right hand under my chin and asked, “46,000 tonnes – this ship can carry. Is it big or small? I cannot visualize the number. Please help me to understand it.”

“Imagine that you take a ride in an economy car with the fuel that can be carried by this ship. You can travel around the world 15,000 times with this fuel,” he explained matter-of-factly.

“Oh my god! That is huge.” I raised my two hands and expressed my amazement. I had more doubts and asked, “I thought your ship was just an oil tanker. What is this Oil/Chemical?”

“Normal oil tanker can carry only crude oil. In such tankers the cargo tanks, the tanks where we carry cargo (oil), are not coated with any paint, except maybe in the top section. In our ship, the cargo tanks are coated with special paint so that it can carry petroleum products and some chemicals in addition to crude oil. Hence we have this terminology.”

“How and when did you conceive this project?” I leaned forward and placed my right hand under my shin, hoping for a long answer.

“Two years back we had decided to build an oil tanker of this size. It was based on market prediction that this kind of ship and this size would be profitable at the time when it starts trading. Once we took that decision, we visited some shipyards and discussed about the yard slot availability. During that discussion the JHI shipyard had given the preliminary or outline specification of the ship. This is the basic detail and layout of the ship they were offering to build. Once we expressed interest and provided them details of our standard requirements in a ship, they modified the design, considering cost addition. 

Based on these modifications the contract specification was made. It is a detailed document, usually running to over two hundred pages, describing all the systems and equipments in the ship. A maker list, which is the list of main equipment makers, was also agreed upon. They include Main Engine, Generator engines, pumps, motors, compressors, electrical fitting, navigational equipments, paint, etc. Our technical team was also present to finalize the documents before signing.

As per our contract, the construction commences on Nov 10 this year – just over a month from now. Almost seven months later, our oil tanker would be ready, on May 14. 

So, you have a month to get your visa documents done, and make other travel arrangements.”

“Why does it take so long for a ship building project to commence after contract signing?” I asked with curiosity. “Why not like cars, where we can pick off the shelf?”

“Ships are custom build unlike cars. The complete design takes around six months depending on how complicated the ship is. Also shipyards order-book is usually filled a year or more in advance.” 

“Last two years has been a boom for shipbuilding industry. There is great demand and limited space to build. Shipyards, in such times, are booked three years in advance.”

“Smriti, let me take you to our project manager. He will answer all your queries related to this project. Moreover he is of your age group, and possibly wavelength will match.”

I agreed to the idea and followed him to the next cabin. 

Pradeep walked right into the cabin. I paused outside to read the name board. But there was none.

The cabin was a large room with lot of shelves on one side and computers on the other. In the center was a huge table probably for conducting meetings. On the shelves were lot of documents and books stacked to full, as if they would squeeze themselves out. On the table were large sheets with some picture or something. On the farther shelf was a guy pulling out a bunch of sheets as we entered.

“Busy!” Pradeep shouted as he entered the room.

“This is the reporter I was talking about… and Smriti this is our project manager, Meghnad.”

“Hi Smriti,” Meghnad wished politely. 

I greeted him back. I noticed that he was bubbling with energy and his eyes had particular glow. He was attractive, I must say.

“What are all these documents and huge sheets lying around here? Is it some kind of a library or what?” I asked while I scanned the room one more time.

“Oh, these are the design drawings for the ship. The shipyard sends it to the ship owner’s office for approval. We go through these plans and suggest necessary modifications and give our comments based on our needs and experiences. Needs are usually our standards for safety and comfort. The experience is the operational experience gained by our sailing staff – the people who run or operate the ship.”

“I was hoping to spend some time with you daily, to understand this process. When is the best time for you?” I asked. “I would surely enjoy his company,” I thought in my mind.

“Afternoon is the best time, maybe three to four.”

“Great,” I said, “I will not take your time today. We will meet tomorrow.”

* * *

On my ride in the subway I could not help thinking about Meghnad. But then I had other things to worry about – I had to brief my editor on my meeting today, and then go to the travel agent for my visa process. “It is going to be a long day,” I sighed.


Chapter 2

“What would you like to have – coffee or tea?” Meghnad asked. 

“Coffee for me,” I said. Like many people from South India, I prefer coffee to tea. I had just arrived in his office and was eager to learn a lot from him.

“Do you mind if I record this conversation. It will help me make a better report,” I suggested since I did not want to miss anything.

“Sure, why not,” he replied shrugging his shoulders.

“Let us continue from where we left yesterday. You were explaining about the design drawing of the Oil tanker.” 

“Ah! Yes. These are the drawings based on which our ship would be constructed. The drawings follow the guidelines agreed upon in the contract specification, which also includes maritime regulations and shipyard standards. Two copies are sent to our office for approval. One copy we return to them with our comments and suggestions. These drawings are also sent to the classification society, ABS in our case.”

“Who are these classification society?” I faintly remembered this name ABS, not sure where.

“Classification society is an independent, not-for-profit, non-governmental organization that establish and apply technical standards in relation to the design, construction and survey of marine related facilities including ships and offshore structures. These standards are referred to as rules.

It is interesting story how the first such society, Lloyds register of Shipping was born. It was originated by a group of underwriters in a London coffee house named Lloyd’s, in the year 1760. At that time the Lloyds register of Shipping’s role was to provide a subjective assessment of the strength of the vessel for the intended voyage and the capability of the master, to aid the ship owners in obtaining insurance coverage.

Our ship is classed to ABS, American Bureau of Shipping. It means that design of the ship will be approved by ABS to ensure that it meets all regulations. The ship will also be inspected by a representative of ABS, called a surveyor, at various stages of construction.

“If ABS makes sure that it meets all the criteria, then why do we need to approve the drawings and have a site team in the shipyard?” I asked.

“Good question. It is true that a classification society ensures that the ship meets the requirement of regulatory rules, both during design approval and during construction. Safety of the ship, safety of the people, and safety of the environment are their prime concern. But, there are many aspects that are beyond their scope. Some of them include life of coating (or painting), the appearance of the ship (aesthetics), the comfort of the crew, the convenience of operation and maintenance, the cost and efficiency of operation of the ship, the speed of cargo loading or discharge, etc. These are matters of vital importance to the ship owner and hence our role in both design approval and during construction is so significant.”

“So are all ships either Lloyds register or ABS classed?” I wanted to know.

“No,” he said emphatically. 

“More than fifty organizations worldwide define their activities as providing marine classification. 

Ten of those organizations as members and two as associate members formed the International Association of Classification Societies (IACS), to promote improvement in standards of ships. Members include American Bureau of Shipping (ABS), Bureau Veritas (BV), China Classification Society (CCS), Det Norske Veritas (DNV), Germanisher Lloyd (GL), Korean Register of Shipping (KR), Lloyd’s Register of Shipping (LR), Russian Maritime Register of Shipping (RS), Nippon Kaiji Kyokai (NK), and Registro Italiano Navale (RINa). 

Croatian Register of Shipping (CRS) and Indian Register of Shipping (IRS) are the associate members.”

“Is classification society a regulatory body, then?” I asked.

“No. Class is not a regulatory body. It is a third party organization working independent of the ship owner or shipyard during ship construction. The main function is to ensure that the ship meets with basic standards, as established in the class rules. In situations when the flag state authorizes the class, it can also certify that the ship meet the flag state and international regulations.

“What is a flag state? Are they a regulatory authority?” I asked wondering what this new term meant.

“Flag state is the basic regulatory authority. All ships have to be registered in a particular port (port of registry) and country (flag state). Every flag state has their own regulations, which have to be followed by the ships that are registered. The flag state generally follows the International Maritime Organization (IMO) rules. However they have the power to include additional requirements or exemptions in the IMO rules.

“I have heard about this IMO. It is like UNESCO or UNICEF, right?…based in London?” I asked hesitantly trusting my general knowledge skills.

“You are right. IMO is a body of the United Nations (UN) formed in 1948 to encourage and facilitate the general adoption of the highest practicable standards in matters concerning maritime safety, efficiency of navigation and prevention and control of marine pollution from ships. IMO came out with various conventions, codes, and guides. The two most important are SOLAS (Safety of Life at Sea) and MARPOL (International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from ships). I will talk about it in detail later.”

“Are there any other regulatory authorities?”

There is a very important authority called the Port State Control. They represent the government of the ports and have the power to inspect a ship and detain it if it does not meet their standards. They have become more strict and relevant because they feel that the ship owners, flag state, or classification society have not adequately ensured that the ships comply with international maritime regulations. In addition there are special requirements of the underwriters (insurers), oil companies (or charterers) who rent our oil tanker.”

“So, our oil tanker is Indian flagged right?” I guessed.

“No, our ship is registered in port of Majuro in The Republic of Marshall Islands,” Meghnad replied smilingly.

“But, why? What is the connection?” I was agitated and expressed my displeasure.

“We have most of our ships flagged with Marshall Islands because of less taxes. Earlier such flags were called flags of convenience. It was mainly because of less stringent regulations and partly because of the less taxes. This is no longer the case now. Other flags of convenience included Panama (the largest in the world), Liberia, Cyprus, Malta, etc.”

“Ehm,” I sighed, “So, every ship has to be flagged with a flag state. Does that mean every ship has to be classed with some society?”

“Actually no. Technically a ship can sail without classification, but practically no ship will do so. The enforcers include the insurers, who most likely will not insure a non-classed ship; Port state control, which may not permit a non-classed vessel in to the port; and oil companies which will not rent a non-classed oil tanker.”

“Having a ship classed with a reputed classification society, like one of the IACS members, ensure that the ship meet certain standards. It is also an independent evaluation of the ship, which you recall was the reason why class society came in to in the first place.”

“Smriti!” he said after glancing at his watch, “I have a meeting with my team today. Can we continue tomorrow? Maybe you can meet Pradeep before you go. He can also tell you about the process of contract signing better,” Meghnad suggested.

“Sure…I hope I have not asked too many stupid questions and irritated you,” I hesitated.

“No, not at all. I do not believe that there are stupid questions. There are only stupid answers,” he comforted me. “Anyway see you tomorrow.”

It was a great session with Meghnad. He had great patience in explaining the process of ship acquisition. “My report is going to be informative,” I figured.

I walked to the reception and checked if Pradeep was in his cabin and available for a short meeting. Before entering his cabin, I mentally organized the questions to be asked to him. 

As I entered he greeted me with a charming smile and led me to my seat. He then asked, “Did Megnath help you out today?” 

“Yes, he did. It was a nice learning class. But, there are some queries that you can answer best, which is why I came to you.” I said.

“Shoot.”

“Yesterday, you told me how the process evolved after you chose the JHI shipyard. Tell me why you choose a shipyard in Korea, and why not in China or Europe?” I asked remembering an article I read on shipbuilding in some newspaper.

“It is true that Europe had great shipbuilding history, but these days they mostly build specialized vessels and passenger ships. Ships like oil tankers are mostly built by far eastern countries. Korea and Japan are the leading shipbuilding nations with their share of forty and thirty percent respectively. China is a relatively newcomer with just over ten percent of shipbuilding orders.

Our ship being an oil/chemical tanker is complicated and our company policy dictates that we build at shipyards with good track record and experience. JHI was the right choice based on these.”

“Meghnad told me that our ship is ABS classed. Do we decide the class and if yes why we chose ABS?” 

“The classification society is mutually decided by the ship owner and the shipyard. The ship owner and the shipyard may have a preferred class because of commercial reasons, or cordial relationships. It is shipyard that pays class society during ship construction and ship owner pays during ship operation (after ship is delivered by shipyard). In our case ABS class was offered in the specifications, and since most of our ships in the fleet are ABS classed, we accepted the offer.”

“Ehm, I see,” I said, grasping the explanation. I looked up my watch and noticed that it was time for me to leave

“Pradeep, I will leave now. By the way, this weekend I am going home for a short vacation, maybe a week, to the god’s own country. If I don’t go my mom is going to crib.” 

“Alright see you after you trip,” he got up to see me off.


Chapter 3

It was a nice trip to Kerala. Like always, I took train on my way home, along the beautiful Western Ghats. The monsoon had made the mountains green and the water bodies full. 

Many of my relatives were surprised that I decided to go to Korea, a place not many heard, and some associated it with “snake-eaters”, and short people with flat nose and small eyes. I learnt later how most of these were just misinformation.

Like always I took the flight on my return journey.

* * *

“Good morning Meghnad,” I greeted as I entered the design approval room. 

I startled him. He quickly composed himself and asked, “Did you enjoy your holiday?”

“Yes, I did. Did you miss me?”

He answered very chivalrously, “Yes I did. In fact not just me, there are two more people who really missed you.”

I was curious, “Who are the other two?”

“You see, we have two more people in the site team from this office apart from me. They will be here any minute.”

“All right. It will be my pleasure to meet the team members.” Not wanting to lose any precious time of learning, I asked, “You had told me about the design. Would you tell me how the whole process is done?”

“The best person who can answer your question is the project manager in the shipyard design department. However, I can give you a rough idea,” he added, noticing my disappointment.

“Do you know what is a contract specification?”

“Yes I do. Pradeep told me that it is the detailed description of all the systems and equipment in a ship,” I answered confidently.

“Good,” he said, “In addition to this document, usually running in to several hundred pages, another important drawing accompanies it. It is the General Arrangement plan.”

“Let me show it to you,” he said and walked towards the shelves. As he came with a folded drawing in hand, he added, “In case of ships like oil tankers, another drawing also accompanies the contract specification. It is the Piping Arrangement plan, about which I will tell you later.”

He took the folded drawing and placed it on the conference table. As he spread the drawing I noticed that it was a huge one, a never-ending sheet. Soon it was spread out and looked like it measured almost a meter in width and a meter in length.

When Meghnad saw my surprise, he said, “This drawing is in A0 size – 840 mm by 1188 mm, sixteen times the size of a normal A4 size paper. Most of the drawings are this size to ensure that all the details are clearly seen.”

“This General Arrangement drawing or GA as it is called contains the layout of the ship. Let me show you some of the items,” saying that he pointed out to drawing and continued, “For every three dimensional (3-D) body there are three views – plan, elevation and front/back view; all shown in 2-D or two-dimension. All the three views combined give the complete 3-D picture of the body. “

“Similarly in case of the GA of the ship, it also shows the three views. The plan is the top view of the ship at various decks or levels. The elevation is side view with the forward of the ship in the right side and the aft of the ship in the left side of the paper. Lastly the two views taken when the ship is viewed from front and back is also shown.”

While I was trying to grasp the drawing, the door to the room opened and two gentlemen walked in. As they closed the door behind them, the one who was ahead walked towards me and extended his hand. He cleared his throat and said, “Hi Smriti, I am Madan, Chief Engineer at Disha, and part of the site team. This is Thomas, our Electrical Officer on ships, and also with us in Korea Site office,” he led my gaze using his hands.

“Hello Smriti ji. How are you doing?”

“Never been better,” I replied excitedly at getting to meet the rest of the team.

“I thought Chief Engineers and Electrical Officers only work on board ships. Do you guys spend time in the site office too?” I asked to the two, shifting towards Meghnad hoping that he will reply.

“Well, normally they work on board ships. However, their experience on board is very useful to the company to operate the ships from shore office. In this case, their operational experience is very useful to the site team to ensure that our main objective of having Owner’s representative, as explained before, is fully satisfied.” Meghnad further said, “In addition to these two we have other professionals in the site team whom we will meet when we reach Korea.”

“As a Chief Engineer, my main responsibility is to take care of the inspection of machinery and its systems, attend shop trials, installation and testing on board our ship,” Madan told matter-of-factually.

Thomas added, “My role is to take care of the electrical installation including power generation, transmission and utilization.”

“What about the other professionals? What do they specialize in?” I asked Meghnad.

“We have Mr. Kim Tae Ho who is in charge of Hull structure, which includes all the steel and structural fabrication. Mr. Yoon Sang Chan who takes care of coating, which includes all the surfaces on the ship.”

“Interesting! There seem to be experts in all fields. Are ships that complicated?” I wondered loudly.

Madan was ready with his wisdom, “When we at the sea, we do not have any workshops or repair center there. So, a ship has to be totally independent from the outside world in all aspects. Because of that there are lot of machineries and system onboard and that makes it complicated.”

“All of you were involved with this drawing approval that Meghnad mentioned?” I directed towards Madan and Thomas.

“Yes. We are the most experienced officers in this office. We have also done lot of take overs,” Thomas replied.

“What is take overs?” I enquired.

“Well, when our company purchase a ship from another company or shipyard, there is a formal process when our team of officers and crew go on board the vessel and take control of operation. From that time, the ship operation becomes officially the buyers and this process is taking over,” Madan replied.

“You mentioned about experience. How many years since you guys have been sailing?” I asked.

“I have been at the sea for twenty five years. And he twenty, right? Madan directed at Thomas.

“Twenty one to be precise,” he replied.

“My god! you guys don’t look that old. Must be leading an active lifestyle,” I complimented their looks.

Even before they could elate themselves, Meghnad interjected their thought with a very acidic comment, “it must be the hair dye in action.”

I could see the irritation in their eyes; but before the silence became unbearable, I asked, “You shippies interchange the name ship and vessel. Are they one and the same? And was the term shippies appropriate for shipping personnel?”

“Perfectly appropriate, to use the terms ships and vessel interchangeably as well as the grouping shippie,” Madan smiled and replied with warmth restored in his voice.

Shippie sounds cool; like hippie,” I laughed aloud. Others also joined in.

Once we got settled down, Thomas asked, “Did you get your visa formalities done? You see, we cannot wait for you to join us in Korea.”

“Yeah, got it done. Don’t worry we will travel together,” I replied.

“Before we go, we have to find out what else to carry – masalas, curry powder, etc.,” Madan added.

“Oh come on. How does it matter. We can survive on any food,” Meghnad replied.

“You can. You do not seem to each much. That is not the case with us,” Thomas pounced on the chance to get even on Meghnad’s comment of their hair dyeing.

“Don’t worry Thomas sir. I did my research on the net and found from an Indian community in Korea that all stuff these are available,” I demonstrated my knowledge.

“Smriti! do not call me Sir. Just address me as Thomas.”

“Ok”

“And me Madan only.”

“Perfect.”


Chapter 4

It was not long before we were on the flight to Incheon, the international airport near Seoul, S.Korea. My first memory of Seoul was during the 1982 Asian Games closing ceremony in New Delhi when the song, “See Se oul…” was sung as a welcome song by Seoul (S.Korea), the host of 1986 Asian Games. That was when I was a kid and hence I do not have much idea of anything else.

As we got down from our Korean Air flight from Mumbai, we saw the first signs of politeness from the air port staff and air line personnel while moving towards the immigration counter. This never failed to surprise me even six months later, at the end of my stay.

Our agent was there outside the airport with a name board and “DISHA” written in bold letters. After the customary welcome, he took us to the domestic terminal to catch the next flight to Ulsan. 

“Thomas, we must come here to see the city,” I said looking at the receding profile of Seoul from the airplane window. He was sitting next to me.

“Sure, maybe during the new year holidays in Feb,” Thomas replied. 

As we got down from the domestic flight, I noticed that Ulsan airport was much smaller than Seoul. Seeing my expression Madan offered a consolation, “Seoul is a dominant city in S.Korea. Almost one-fourth its population thrive there. Ulsan is just ninth largest city.”

Here again, we had our local agent to pick us up. With a very characteristic smile and a bow, he announced, “Welcome to Korea. I am Seong Ho Park. You can call me SH Park.”

On the walk to the vehicle I could not help noticing the cold outside. Although I had prepared myself for this eventuality, the wind was piercing my exposed skin like needles. I had one simple question to ask, “Mr. SH Park, when does this winter get over?”

“By end of February. Don’t you like winter?” he asked.

“I do not particularly enjoy the cold. I hope spring is good.”

“Once it starts snowing, maybe you will like it,” he replied.

“Oh really! that is very nice. I am looking forward to that.”

Soon the pick up vehicle reached our studio apartment building. It was six-storied and on a small hillock facing the sea.

“All of your rooms are in the ground floor,” SH Park announced. He then added, “Room no. 3, 4, 5 and 6.”

We had about an hour to freshen up before going out for dinner and I surprised every one by coming out first. I guess they all thought that all girls take very long to get ready.

Thomas was the last to come. He had put lot of layers of clothes to protect himself from the cold. 

“It is very windy. Smriti, I hope you can manage this cold,” he asked me.

“I too hope so.”

“Lets go to the Chinese restaurant nearby. Once we get our car we can venture out to the exotic varieties, spread around,” Madan quipped.

Their previous experience in Korea and Ulsan ensured that they were quite familiar with the place, people and their culture.

While we were walking towards the restaurant, I asked Meghnad, “The construction commence on Nov 10th, you said. Why are we here a week before?”

“It is true that the steel cutting, the formal start of the construction process in on Nov 10th. However, we have to setup our site office, set up the process for inspections, reporting and dispute resolution,” he replied.

“What kind of disputes?” I asked.

“Do you remember the contract specifications?” he asked.

“Yes,” I nodded.

“Well. There are many occasions when the shipyard’s and our interpretation of this do not match. In such situation we have to sit and discuss. It is best to plan out the sequence of action in such an eventuality,” Meghnad continued.

“Not just the contract specifications. We might need to add or modify equipments, fittings, or layout as per our operational convenience, which might come to picture only when the construction is in progress,” Madan added.

“Can’t you guys discuss about the shipbuilding in working hours. There are so many good things to talk about in this beautiful night,” Thomas interrupted the conversation.

“Well, ok. Maybe today we can accept your request,” I replied.

* * *
A good dinner of Chinese fried rice (called pokumpap) and a deep sleep ensured that we were all fresh for the next day. SH Park was there in the morning to pick us up from our building. It was just ten minutes drive to the entrance of JHI.

As we entered the gates, I was awe struck by the size of cranes, and huge parts of ships all around. It was simply a difference world all together. “This is amazing!” I exclaimed loudly.

“What you see here are called blocks,” Meghnad directed my gaze towards these parts of ships. “Hundreds of them are joined together to form a ship. We will explain in detail later.”

“These are fabrication shops. All equipments, piping and other fittings are completed here,” Thomas pointed at huge buildings on either side of the road. “We will arrange a yard tour for Smriti. What do you say, Meghnad?”

“Sure.”

It took about five minutes drive from the entrance to reach our office at the other end of the shipyard.

“Your office is in the third floor, room number 318,” SH Park said as we stepped out of his car.

As we entered room number 318, two gentlemen who were seated in the sofa got up and introduced themselves, “I am Kim Tae Ho. You can call me TH Kim. I am the Hull inspector.”

“And I am Yoon Sang Chan; you can call me SC Yoon. I am the coating inspector.”

As I looked around the office, I noticed that it was furnished very well. There was a table for each of the six of us; a conference table at one corner; a pair of sofas facing each other; a refrigerator, coffee machine, and a drinking water fountain. 
My eyes led to the now familiar drawing on the wall – the General arrangement drawing. As my gaze moved on and stood still on the next drawing, Meghnad approached me and asked, “wondering about this drawing, are you?”

“Yeah,” I smiled.

“This is the Capacity plan. In this drawing all the tanks and its boundaries in the horizontal and vertical planes are marked. Its volume, weight, and centers of gravity are also shown,” he added.

“What kind of tanks?” I could not help asking.

“Apart from cargo tanks, which in this case is oil and oil products as cargo, there are water ballast, fresh water, fuel oil, diesel oil, lube oil, oily bilge, sludge, and some other miscellaneous tanks.” Pointing his fingers on the drawing he said, “In this vessel we have twelve cargo oil tanks, six each in port and starboard.”

I tried to demonstrate my knowledge, “port is left, correct?”

“Depends on where you are looking from. To avoid this confusion, this nautical term is used so that ship has unambiguous reference planes. When one stand on the deck and looks towards the direction of ahead motion, the side on the left is port and on the right is starboard,” he replied.

“That is pretty clear,” I replied.

“Before you ask me about the next drawing, let me get back to my desk and plan the day’s task. I will surely take questions in the afternoon,” he answered as he walked to his table.


Chapter 5

“Bang”

A loud noise accompanied by a hissing sound of overflowing champagne and thunder of clapping. It was followed by shaking of hands and congratulatory messages, “All the best.”

It was the formal inauguration of our site office at room no. 318. Apart from our site team members and our agent, SH Park, there were representatives from the shipyard and Classification Society.

“Congratulations,” a hand extended towards me and with a deep voice he said, “I am HC Son, your project coordinator from the Contract Administration Department. My roles is to ensure that the site team as well as the owner’s interest are taken care of with regards to this project.”

Meghnad brought another gentleman to me and introduced him, “This is Eric Sommerville. He is our project manager from ABS.”

“Pleasure to meet you,” He extended his hand, “Meghnad was mentioning you mission here. You can contact me with your queries any time. It will be my pleasure to answer you.”

“Thanks. I sure will,” I replied.

The Quality control manager introduced himself, “I am KB Kim and this is my colleague HB Kim. I will take care of hull inspections and he will take care of machinery and outfitting.”

Meghnad added, “These guys are from the quality control department and we refer to them as QC guys. Their job is to ensure that our ship and its parts are build as per the shipyard standards meeting our as well as regulatory requirements. They will organize the tests and inspection for our team to attend, witness and inspect.”

“What kind of tests?” I asked.

“As you know the structure of this ship is made of steel. The whole structure is constructed in various divisions called blocks. These are like lego blocks. They are joined together to form the ship structure. During the various stages of construction there are lot of test to verify if the structure is made as per the design drawings. Remember that we would have given confirmation to those drawings along with the Classification Society where appropriate. Apart from that the standard welding quality, fitting quality and workmanship is assessed to see if it meet the approved standards. KB Kim will give us these structural inspection schedule for each of these blocks and their parts at various stages.”

Pointing to HB Kim, Meghanad added,” The QC in charge of machinery and outfitting will take care of all the tests not related to the structure. This include test of machinery and installation, piping, electrical system and equipments, other outfitting items. I will elaborate all the tests before each inspection.”

KB Kim added, “One of our main role is to ensure that all your comments after the tests and inspections or during your general observations are taken care as long as they are reasonable. What I mean by that if they are meant to be part of the contract specifications.”

“We have couple of tests scheduled this week. You will understand these things then,” HB Kim said.

“But, the steel cutting is only next week. I thought you have not started the project and begun to use the steel for our ship,” I asked surprised.

The three of them smiled and Meghnad said, “Officially the work start with steel cutting. However, there are lot of activities that has already set in to motion. The inspections HB Kim was referring to are some pipes and hatches inspections. I will explain about it later.”

“That aside, tell me guys, this is the third Kim I am meeting in Korea within three days. Are you guys from same family?” I quipped.

This time their laughter was very loud.

HB Kim offered the reply, “In Korea you will find lots of people with common family name of Kim, Lee, Park. To answer you question first, we are not related at least as far as we know. However we believe that we are all descendants of the great kings of Shilla dynasty (57 BCE to 937 ACE). Park family also trace their descendants to the same kingdom where as Lee trace to Chosun dynasty (1392-1910 ACE).”

Meghnad could not help, but interrupt, “WIth all due respects, if we add the number of people with family names who trace to kings, it would seem that there were only kings in the past!”

Luckily all of them joined in the laughter and no one took offense.

* * *

“Lets have food from the canteen,” Meghnad suggested to all. 

“What kind of dish?” I was curious.

“We will find out there. However the menu says bibimpap – an assortment of rice, vegetables and some meat,” Madan replied.

The six of us headed to the korean canteen, the same place where the employees of the yard also have their lunch. It was a large facility and could easily accommodate close to thousand people. We had to join the queue and take the dishes. The ingredients were kept separately and it was up to us to chose the appropriate ratio for each item including the spice in the dish.

“Most of the dishes here are like this. We have to mix and prepare it, some time even cook on our table,” Thomas said.

“Interesting, we should try out some where we do cooking on our table,” I replied.

“Sure, lets go out on the steel cutting dinner to such a place,” Meghnad responded.

As we walked back to the site office, SC Yoon asked, “We have some pipe inspections today. Are you interested in coming?”

“What kind of inspection?”

“It is the surface preparation of cargo pipes. As you might know, the cargo pipes on our tanker is made of stainless steel.” 

“But why are they made of stainless steel. It must be very expensive, right?” I interjected.

“You are right on the expensive part. These pipes are made of stainless steel of a grade that has high resistance to corrosion as well capability to withstand lot of chemicals. The outside of the pipes, exposed to weather surface is coated with epoxy coating. Before applying the coating, the pipe surface is made clean of impurities and uniform roughness for paint adhesion. Today’s inspection is surface preparation check of cargo pipes. We have to ensure that it is as per standards.”

“What standards?”

“Well, there are many. However, the one we follow, as stated in the specification is the Swedish Standards (SIS) for surface preparation with various categories for blasting and power tool cleaning.”

“Ok, I will come with you for inspection,” I answered as I wanted to know more about this.

“There are various types of materials used for pipes apart from stainless steel. These include carbon steel, galvanized, PVC, copper depending on the type, pressure and temperature of fluid,” Meghnad added.

“I will have to sit with you to understand the nuances. Let me do that after this test,” I replied.

The inspection was at a factory half an hour drive from the shipyard. We were taken to the factory by our coating QC, JH Lee. On the way, I decided to increase my knowledge about surface preparation.

“You mentioned about blasting and power tool cleaning. Can you elaborate on that technical terms,” I asked.

“Blasting is a process where metal pellets, usually steel, are fired to the surface of the material at high speed to remove the rust, stains, etc. and make a uniform profile. During the surface preparation in shops, only blasting is done; however onboard ship power tool cleaning is also done. In case of power tool cleaning a wire brush or grinder is used to remove the rust, stains etc. and make a uniform profile. We usually have a reference photo to compare the standard profile for this surface preparation.”

At the factory site, SC Yoon demonstrated how the inspection is done with the aid of tools like good flash light and portable mirrors to check the quality of surface preparation. I must say that he was a good trainer to me.

* * *

While we were coming to office next morning, Meghnad reminded that today was the steel cutting date of the first vessel, hull number 2577. 

“What is this hull number?” I asked.

“Every vessel has a name before it set sail from the yard. But before the naming ceremony the ship is referred by the project number in the yard – namely hull number.”

“What happens today, in the steel cutting ceremony?”

“Well, officially it is the first day of cutting the steel for the vessel. As you will see today, all the steel plates here are cut in a CNC (Computer Numeric Controlled) machine in which the cutting of shapes is done automatically from the computer drawing. We will commence the first cutting at the touch of a button,” Meghnad increased my curiosity.

“After this ceremony, we will usually have some cake cutting, sweet distribution, and the usual champagne in office.” Madan said.

“Wow, that is nice,” I was more interested in seeing the plate cutting.

The six of us accompanied by HC Son, from the contract administration, walked towards the shop where the ceremony was going to be held. As I walked towards the shop, the noise of cutting, welding, hammering reached a crescendo – towards unbearable limits. I wondered how people could work in this noisy environment. Thomas noting my discomfort offered ear plugs to mitigate the noise.

As I entered the shop, I could not but admire at the sheer area of the shop floor. There were various machines, which they later explained as CNC machine. We all moved towards one of them that had a plate getting ready to be cut. The project manager from ABS, Eric, along with his site manager was also there. 

On receiving a cue from the shipyard staff, Meghnad performed the honors of pressing the button to commence the first cut of the plate, signifying the steel cutting ceremony. After posing for the customary photographs and video shots, we moved to our site office where champagne, sweets and cake was awaiting us.