Sun | Aug 20, 2017

What of the dry dock?

Published:Monday | April 4, 2016 | 4:00 AM

Jamaica is a player in the maritime industry. We register ships, we provide seafarers, large crews for shipping facilities.

We sit at the front of major shipping lanes on the way to Panama, North America and the West Atlantic countries. We are regrettably and negligently missing from the dry-docking industry. Dry-docking is multifaceted, involving disciplines such as mechanical and electrical work, insulation, complex electronics, engine control, propulsion, refrigeration and accommodation.

The recent history of Jamaica speaking to a dry-dock facility at Harbour Head, St Andrew, is laughable. Jamaica has an ideal deep water location for dry-docking at Cow Bay, St Thomas. The Jackson Bay facility is only 18 metres deep.

The construction of a significant dry-dock facility is estimated to employ 3,000-5,000 workers over a five-year period. We would need to train, to international standards, skilled personnel in all the trades previously listed - and more. According to one executive at a major shipyard, "Ship repair is not sexy and glamorous, but is, without a doubt, a critical part of the maritime infrastructure, and a critical part, no doubt, of shipyard profitability, as well.

"It is not glamorous, but routine maintenance and unscheduled repairs are most yards' bread and butter. Repair yards are kept busy by both scheduled dry-docking and emergency work. Scheduled maintenance is 90 per cent of the business, with the remainder being accounted for by unscheduled repairs."

The availability of dry-dock facilities is scarce, and lead time to book space is at least one year. We are moving ever so slowly, yet we constantly speak of the need for sustainable, well-paying jobs. These would number 5,000 or more. The size of the facility will dictate the number of permanent jobs.

In September 2015, Todd Vorenkemp, writing in the Maritime Executive, gave an update on the industry's status. I herewith reproduce excerpts from his article:

 

PROCESS IMPROVEMENTS

 

"Detyens recently underwent extensive infrastructure upgrades to enhance its environmental consciousness, as well as the safety of its clients and workforce. More power and amperage were added to pier facilities along with upgrades to firefighting capability.

"With an eye on the future, it has established a CNC (computer numerical control) machining apprenticeship programme and a welding school to train the next generation of shipyard workers. At Bayonne Dry Dock, computer technology has enabled the company to engage in complex #D-design imaging and perform computer overlays for vessel modifications, all leading to faster turnaround and shorter yard periods for customers. It's also working with the state of New Jersey to install a wastewater-treatment system, the first of a number of environmental-related modifications it sees coming in the next five years.

"MAN PrimeServ's Remmer observes, 'We have, for some time, seen a market demand for a dry-docking maintenance kit for engines, consisting of all the components required to conduct a complete engine overhaul during the dry dock. The first step is a pre-docking inspection, ensuring the foundation for our recommendations. The result of the inspection is a detailed report on the engine's condition, as well as a list of recommended spare parts. Based on this, we create an offer for these spare parts.

 

LUXURY YACHT SERVICE "Much of the ship-repair business, particularly in places like South Florida, is focused on large private motor and sailing yachts. James Brewer, director of business development for Derecktor Shipyard in Fort Lauderdale, says the luxury yacht owner's motivation is different than that of the commercial owner. A commercial owner, he explains, is looking for maximum efficiency, cost savings and on-time service, whereas the yacht owner is looking for a high standard in outfitting a vessel and is less concerned about the time in dry dock or the budget.

 

"Depending on the class society's requirements, a luxury yacht will undergo an extensive yard period every five or 10 years, but the vessels are usually hauled out every 12-18 months for normal maintenance, keeping yards busy. Derecktor, primarily a builder of world-class yachts, emphasises supporting both the product and the owner throughout their lifetimes with an eye on gaining repeat business.

"With the economic downturn of the recent past, orders slowed and so did the repair business. However, the luxury yacht market is recovering and, according to Brewer, most of the top builders have a backlog of orders for vessels of more than 75 metres in length. While the service and repair side of the market currently lags behind new orders, it will improve over time."

Ronald Mason is an attorney-at-law and Supreme Court mediator. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and nationsagenda@gmail.com.