Shipyards Partner with Design Consultants?


To all the shipyards out there: Do you see any value in partnering with design consultants?

Relax. This is not a sales pitch. Just an honest question. Do shipyards see value in outsourcing detailed engineering and lofting to design consultants? Or do they prefer to keep this in-house. I am especially interested in opinions from the smaller shipyards.

I thought about this when I tried to understand what a design consultant really offers for expertise. There is a lot of overlap between an consultant and in-house engineering. I see consultants as experts in risk-reduction and associated math for that risk reduction. Example: any yard supervisor can probably work out what size of stiffener you need for a shell based on experience. But there is always a risk that they are wrong. The design consultant can do the math to prove which size of stiffener you need. Risk reduction. The reassurance that things work like planned, or at least that you can limit the bad consequences when things go wrong. The stiffener is an overly simple example. But you can see this applies to more complicated things like lifting a whole block.

Here is what I think a design consultant can offer:
[li]Advanced engineering services ready when you need them. The shipyard stays competitive and one step ahead of their competitors.[/li][li]Low overhead: you don’t have to carry the consultant when they are not needed.[/li][li]Volume benefit: if the consultant works with multiple shipyards, they can streamline common processes. Take the stiffener example. Every shipyard needs to know stiffener sizes. That can be converted into a quick efficient processes.[/li][li]Risk transfer: If the design is wrong, that is the design consultant’s problem.[/li][/ol]

Here is what I think a shipyard can offer:
[li]Shipyard knows the clients. I once heard an operator say that there is no maritime industry. There is a tug industry, a fishing industry, an OSV industry, . . . Maritime industry is really just a collection of specialized trades. Each trade has their own rules and preferences. A shipyard specializes in this and gets to know what their clients like.[/li][li]Cost awareness: A design consultant will always go for the most efficient design. But a shipyard knows when that efficiency gain comes at too high a fabrication cost. Designs stay pragmatic.[/li][li]Direct client access. Rather than bidding blind with other shipyards, you are intimately aware of the client and design before it even comes time for a contract bid.[/li][/ol]

Outsourcing the detailed design and lofting to a design consultant seems like a win-win scenario, if setup right. What do you think? Have any experience with this type of setup? Did it work out? Or am I wrong?


Yes, this is quite common.

we have contracted this many times for builds around the world.

There are good firms out there.

You define the (engineering) deliverables, and a demarcation schedule is used with the yard and vendors to indicate who does what.

The timeliness and accuracy of the information provided, and degree of interface with the yards production control system is what counts.

if it goes wrong, everyone is screwed.

You’ll have to research the rest.