Grey = stay away

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The Dieselduck
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Grey = stay away

Postby The Dieselduck » Fri Sep 14, 2007 9:56 pm

Theres an old saying on this coast, I'm sure in most parts of the world too. Grey means stay away ! This article below came across my desktop the other day, I could not agree more with the path of the article, especially where Canada is nowadays with shipbuilding.



Grey funnelled problems
15 August 2007 Lloyds List

WHY are naval contracts so problematic? Why is a ship with guns on it, or even an auxiliary merchant ship designed to be painted grey, such a source of difficulty between shipyards and their government customers almost anywhere in the world?

It all starts with tremendous optimism, with the shipyard proudly announcing the winning of a naval contract which will provide work for x hundred shipbuilders for y years. It has, of course, taken z years to get this far, with the contract being subject to several changes of government, not to mention large numbers of defence policy changes, since the need for the ships was first enunciated by an admiral.

Then the project, which begins with huge enthusiasm, is dashed with cold water by the Finance Ministry or Treasury, which postpones the start date because of changed financial priorities, reduced funding as a result of the current spending round and review process — the scope is endless. Year succeeds year, admirals come and go, the technical specifications are amended to accommodate the various add-ons or subtractions.

But one day, perhaps because all the planets are in the same declination or the ducks in a row, and political runes are favourable, the green light is given, the contract is finally awarded and the ship construction phase laboriously begins. But that’s not even the beginning of the end; rather it is just the end of the beginning.

Even after steelwork has been cut and fabrication commenced, the ‘customer’ will be playing around with the spec, demanding changes which will range from trivial to enormous. An additional role will have been dreamed up for the ships. They will have to accommodate 500 marines, or a field hospital, or heavylift helicopters to conform to new military priorities. They will have to be ice strengthened, tropicalised, more fuel-efficient or operable with half the proposed complement.

As all the equipment that was specified in the original plans is by now years out of date, exciting new gear will be demanded. Some of this won’t work, or won’t fit, so structural changes will be required. And so it goes on, up to and after the lead ship is launched or floated out in a pleasing ceremony with smiles all around.

Then the vessel is eventually handed over to a smiling admiral, while the unsmiling accountants back at his admiralty are refusing to pay for all the additionals for which the shipbuilder has billed the customer. Then everyone stops smiling and the long war of attrition begins.

On many occasions people who have been involved in this process, which is replicated in all the world’s military shipyards, wearily suggest, in their respective languages and with various gestures indicating frustration, that “there must be better ways of building naval units”.

Taking some lessons from their civilian counterparts in the commercial sector might not be altogether practical, but would be a good start.

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Postby JK » Sat Sep 15, 2007 2:02 am

Excellent article.
Have you ever seen a Navy spec. I haven't, because my counterparts tell me that it comes in boxes not binders. Then there is the thousands of "extras" on top of that. It is a different world, that is sure.

Wait until the JSS and MDPV are contracted for build, there will be plenty of material for the blog and this forum!! That is if they can ever get them past the Statement of Requirement stage.

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Postby Sébastien » Mon Oct 01, 2007 5:18 am

I have spent ten years in the navy on the west coast before transferring to the merchant marine on the east coast. First of all, a military specification is not as complicated as one might think, it usually specifies that certain components are a little sturdier than off-the-shelf units. For example, pressure switches with metal housings instead of clear plastic or electrical motor fans of aluminum instead of plastic. As for the length of the process and last minute modifications before building, do not forget the nature of the cargo. When a civilian product tanker is designed, the cargo to be carried will be the same when the ship is completed as when the ship was still on the drawing board. A warship such as a frigate carries as cargo a vast array of radar, sonar and weapon guidance systems to go along with all the armament to be carried. Since most of these items are dependant on technological advancement, it is likely that the nature or details of the 'cargo' are not the same throughout the design process.

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Postby JK » Mon Oct 01, 2007 9:34 am

I would think given the length of time to design and getting government funding to build a warship, that the elcetronics package could be completely out of date by the time the ship is launched. Or is it upgraded during the building process?

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