Personal responsibility in Ship/Boatbuilding

Discussion in 'Boat Design' started by Guillermo, Mar 12, 2009.

  1. Guillermo
    Joined: Mar 2005
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    Guillermo Ingeniero Naval

    This is a question for professional ship/boatbuilders, naval architects and engineers involved in the ship/boatbuilding process of commercial vessels.

    Here in Spain we are hotly discussing about who has to carry on with the personal responsibilities on human safety (so if loss of lives happens) for the final product of a ship/boatbuilding process, this is the delivered ship or boat, from the point of view of the construction works, not from the design or the operational point of view, which have their own responsibilities.

    In the recreational sector the responsibility for the final product is directly asumed by the manufacturer, as its legal representative has to sign the final "Certificate of Compliance" with the CE Directives. The designer or the engineer in charge of works do not sign this document.

    But for the construction of commercial vessels, a Construction Manager is mandatory and he/she has to sign a "Certificate of Construction Management" stating the vessel has been built "in accordance with the design, its approved modifications and the legal applicable rules and regulations, as well as the good practice of shipbuilding". Such Construction Manager has to be (by law) a Naval Architect, who may be an employee of the builder or an external hired one (like it is my case).

    So this Construction Manager or Supervisor or whatever the correct english name is (in Spanish: Director de Obra) asumes personally all civil and criminal responsibilities if due to a defective building of the vessel, human lifes are lost at sea or if a sea contamination occurs. And this is a big and heavy responsibility. (Note: it does not include safety at work during the building process, which is of the responsibility of the builder).

    I would like to know how this is issue is settled in other countries, specially those of the EU. Does it exists the figure of the Building Manager as we have in Spain? What are your national laws and regulations on the matter?

    Any help/collaboration will be greatly appreciated.
    Thanks in advance.
     
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  2. Guest62110524

    Guest62110524 Previous Member

    Guillo
    I would like to introduce you to Captain E.E.Ewbank
    This man is a real ships master, mathmatician, and responsible for safe ship management in NZ
    He is also a designer, and believe it or nor, has a DC8 pilot/ license
    i have built two of his and he is a friend and a delight to know,
    feel free write him
    www.ewbanknavalarchitects.co.nz
    best regards
    Stu
     
  3. Ad Hoc
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    Ad Hoc Naval Architect

    Guillermo

    Yes I am aware that there are some “irregularities” that occur in Spain. I was once involved in a very hotly disputed court case, where the operator didn’t perform his route analysis and business plan correctly and ignored the advice of the shipyards naval architect. When the vessel was at sea, surprise surprise, the vessel was not fit for purpose, and tried to sue the shipyard. They lost.

    I assume what you mean by human safety, is post delivery of the vessel?

    Well, it is all split down in to several disciplines really.

    1) Design….the designers must be fully qualified naval architects/chartered engineers. As such this demonstrates at least some degree of professional conduct and knowledge.
    2) Construction…the shipyard should, have a QA department. This dept will ensure not just the build quality but also that equipment that is delivered into the yard meets the technical requirements as specified in the PO. (At my previous company the QA dept inspected an LR approved WTB door for an engine room. It had a 25mm gap at one end, the dogs didn’t fit correctly neither. We instantly sent it back and informed LR. LR took away their Class certificate for compliance).
    Formal basin trials not just for class compliance but also for pride/quality!
    3)Class/Flag….they just ensure via the rules that all is done in accordance with the specification and hence the appropriate rules. Also, the surveyors then confirm this during the life of the build.

    So, if an accident occurs, say a loss of life, who is to blame? Well, firstly there must be an investigation to establish the cause.

    If it is “design”, then any insurance claim will be against the company not the naval architect. However if it was shown, via an investigation, that it was negligence, then corporate manslaughter charges may be brought against them. Same goes for construction. If this is shown to poor quality, say a weld failing which was discovered that it was tested an approved, then just a basic insurance claim. Since there is “no fault” all correct procedures taken. But, if the weld had no record or discovered that it was repaired several times without any authorisation, then that too can become a manslaughter charge for negligence. As for Class, they have enough caveats to wriggle out of anything, they do not take any responsibility for their rules.

    However, what ever scenario it falls under, the investigating body will then report their findings to the appropriate institution. If it is a simple design/construction of even an operator fault that upon reflection requires rectification, this is then addressed via rule updates etc. I am on LR’s technical committee and this is how many new updates are “introduced”... all follow in-service experience, whether there is any loss of life or not. We review them and make comments accordingly.

    So in your “certificate of compliance”, it is not so straight forward since there are many parties involved and as such is recognised. It can never be the sole responsibility of one person.
     
  4. Alik
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    Alik Senior Member

    Actually 80% of marine accidents are due to human factor (i.e. operator). We clearly state in design agreement that designer does not take any responsibility for any accidents or loss during navigation, transportation or any other operation with boat. The designer only guarantees the correctness of his calculations based on common engineering principles, with achivable degree of accuracy - that's all. Small craft design business is not money making affair, so smart lawyers should not be very interested :)
     
  5. mydauphin
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    mydauphin Senior Member

    I believe the biggest problem is the marketing of boats and boatings products. They promise something that most people are incapable of doing with proper training. Boating is dangerous, expensive and fun. Most people are under sold the first two and over sold the last. Just look at the three missing guys 50 miles out in 20 foot in bad weather. They were clueless. Manufactures should require training and boat safety course for new boat owners. Would a car dealer sell a car to someone who doesn't have a drivers license. But they will sell a 50 foot boat , with 2000hp to someone who thinks that the gps is going to tell what to do.

    How about something simple...Anchors,when was the last time that you say a brand new boat with the proper a anchor and ground tackle...

    How about enough bilge pumps, fire gear, MOB gear, or even a proper manual.

    Alik, I think it is closer 99%, simplly, if you Captain a boat and something fails did you properly inspect it, prepare, maintain or have backup unit. Chances are if someone did their jobs it would have been caught and avoided.
     
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  6. TeddyDiver
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    TeddyDiver Gollywobbler

    Was there a design or construction flaw in Estonia? German authorities seemed to conclude it's wasn't so dropping essentiel parts of the ship in the deep is "a act of god" or smth..
    So I won't ever buy a german boat..

    However believe Guillermo would preciate more NA insight..
     
  7. Guillermo
    Joined: Mar 2005
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    Guillermo Ingeniero Naval

    Thanks a lot everybody. Really appreciate your comments.

    I would like to focus the answers a little bit more. I'm interested to know what the regulations are on the construction process in the different countries (not about the designing nor the operation), this is, what is mandatory in your country? Let's put some questions:

    - What technical qualifications are needed to open and run a ship/boatyard building new commercial ships/boats?
    - Is there any differentiation on such qualifications based on the size/type of vessels to be built?
    - Is it mandatory that a NA is in charge of the construction works?
    - Is there any document to be signed by the person in charge of works, stating the building of a commercial vessel has been done fullfilling all mandatory laws, rules and regulations for such building?
    - Or is it the legal representative of the shipyard's owner who signs such document if it exists? (Under the CE rules for recreational boatbuilding, is this legal representative who signs the mandatory Certificate of Compliance).


    Cheers.
     
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  8. Guest62110524

    Guest62110524 Previous Member

    Here if you build commercial, you must be accredited proof of you experience is needed
    it costs abt 800, or did 5 years ago then a fee each year
    When you build there need be no NA present, just the inspections from the certifying body
    the shipyard would offer a guarantee I gave 10 years for small pleasure hull, I have no idea what it would be for ships
    i think of course if an owner enetered into a contract, then his/her representative would be on site daily
    In fact if I were an owner I would have this IN the contract
    Sorry can't be of more use
     
  9. Guillermo
    Joined: Mar 2005
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    Guillermo Ingeniero Naval

    Thanks Stu.

    To focus more closely the issue, let's forget about the civil responsibility, which usually is covered by insurance policies. Also guarantees given by the ship/boatyard. Let's focus answers taking into account who is the one who will asume criminal responsibility because of construction flaws in the final product.

    Cheers.
     
  10. Guest62110524

    Guest62110524 Previous Member

    Ok, I will call our biggest yard in Perth on Monday
    They will know for sure, because in Australia we are more litigeous than USA, and this has been acknowledged lately but there are not so many people in the forums, that are involved this way(inc me)
    i would like to know the answers too, because there are some business opps. for me come up in the last week
     
  11. Ad Hoc
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    Ad Hoc Naval Architect

    Guillermo
    "...Let's focus answers taking into account who is the one who will asume criminal responsibility because of construction flaws in the final product..."

    In actual fact, this is rather easy to answer. Any yard, well, a yard that builds quality vessels and not a cowboy yard, will have some form of "quality control". In yards which employ more than a handful of people, there should be a Quality Assurance Dept.

    The QA dept is totally removed from production and is answerable only to the Managing Director/President or whatever name your company/country uses.

    As such, the issue of quality procedures for errors, mistakes etc are all covered by this dept.

    So how do you know if the QA dept is any good?

    Classification societies issue QA certificates. They do an audit of the yard, their procedures, the personnel (& qualifications), the equipment etc etc. Everything that goes into making the boat is reviewed. If it is deemed that a yard has sufficient procedures and personal, then it will be granted a QA cert, usually in the form of ISO 9001/2 etc.

    All it really does is document what has been done. Hence if there were any criminal activity as you suggest, there should be records.

    Yards which do not have this, when entering into a new build, are reviewed by class with an MPQA. Basically class will look at everything from a first off point of view...to see if the yard is technically capable and competent to build vessels under class.

    So, in answer to your question, the QA dept are usually the first line of attack. Very very rarely is it attributed to an individual, unless there are extenuating circumstances.
     
  12. Guillermo
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    Guillermo Ingeniero Naval

    Thanks a lot, Ad Hoc.

    Yeap, in a big shipyard with well stablished quality procedures and under the supervision of classification socieities, etc, personal responsibilities are more diluted and it is very difficult to blame a single person.

    The bad thing in Spain is that our laws do not recognize this fact and insist on asking for "a head to be cutted" in the form of making mandatory a single NA to sign the Certificate of Compliance. Ridiculous, in my opinion, but such NA has not to be very worried because in fact it is very difficult a major quality flaw to happen in such shipyards.

    But things are quite different when we come down to small ship/boatyards with no quality processes. Then the NA legally in charge of the supervising of works may be (and in fact is) under big risk.

    Regards.
     
  13. Ad Hoc
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    Ad Hoc Naval Architect

    Guillermo

    Yes that's very true. I recall having to fly out to Spain for literally just a few hours, to say what was sent by email an drawings etc was ok and I authorised it and I took responsibility etc. All a bit silly really.

    Yes with smaller yards it is harder. This is very difficult to "police" as well as enforce. So, it just comes down to the reputation of the builder.....are they known for quality boats and if there is a warranty issue how do they deal with it etc. There is only so much one can do. But bottom line is, if you buy a boat from a one man band who has no reputation from his/her peers, then you get what you deserve. You only get what you pay for...i know this doesn't help the family if life has been lost. All it will do is put them out of business, but there are some potential new EU rules which will make them accountable now.
     
  14. Guillermo
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    Guillermo Ingeniero Naval

    So for small ship/boatyards the responsibility falls on the owner. My question is, is it like that in all countries? Are there any other countries where the involvement of a NA or some other entity or person is mandatory?

    You mention new EU rules. Which are those?

    Thanks for your help.
     

  15. Ad Hoc
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    Ad Hoc Naval Architect

    In the UK, no. A yard in the UK does not need a NA to build boats.

    Here in Japan, not sure. There are many caveats and ways for companies to wriggle out of such litigation.

    I can't recall the EU rules to hand. I'll have to ask my friend at the MCA. I was a regular member of the MCA's HSCAG but now I'm here in Japan, i can only do this by correspondence; can't afford to fly to the meetings all the time! Anyway, i recall this subject being brought up some time, hence the vague reference i have for it.
     
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