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How are cargo ships built?
Biswajit’s answer is essentially correct. I decided to throw my answer in to the pot in order to illustrate a few important points. Before the owner and the shipyard get to the contract stage there are a few things that may, and frequently do happen. Firstly, if it is for a new or substantially altered service, the owner may ask his staff or a consulting firm to prepare a detailed description of the service, and ultimately the kind of ships that could provide the service. It is commonly referred to as the Statement of Operational Requirements (SOR) – I have written many of them.
Secondly, if the SOR is going to result in a new style of ship, one that substantially departs from the owner’s current fleet and/or breaks new ground in the design of that type of ship, the owner may have the design done before approaching a shipyard. Then the owner could be very specific in asking the yard to build a ship.
From that point forward, Biswajit’s response would be essentially correct, except the design / engineering process he described after the contract was finalized would be a design check, where the yard would confirm that the design could in fact be built without running afoul of the laws of the flag state or the laws of nature. If the design has errors of either type, the yard managers would go to bed with visions of $, €, £, ¥ or other currencies dancing before their eyes. Once that process is complete, the ship will be built according to the amended design, and the yard will already be well off financially. The design amendments did not come cheap!
Finally, Biswajit mentioned trials. At a bare minimum the owner will have provided several benchmarks of success expected from the ship. Obviously speed will have been provided. Other benchmarks will include size limits, in order to fit in certain canals, cabin sizes to meet flag state or bargaining agent requirements, etc. The ship will also have fuel restrictions, with regards to fuel type and consumption. All of the limits will have been provided to the designers, either before choosing the yard or during the process of approval of the ship.
Earlier I mentioned the SOR. At trials, the owner representatives will be checking the vessel against the SOR, if one was provided. It is, in fact, one of the most important reasons for preparing one in the first place. I heartily endorse the use of an SOR unless the owner is acquiring a vessel from a class they already own, or one the yard already produces from their stock of designs.
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