A raft of scrubber and ballast water treatment system refits and Gibraltar government’s interest in LNG as a marine fuel means that Gibdock shipyard is in a good position to extend its services to the refits of ferries and cruise ships
Gibraltar shipyard Gibdock is capitalising on new environmental technologies being deployed on vessels. It has carried out scrubber and ballast water management system refits and hopes that the government’s LNG drive will result in work in that area.
Gibdock focuses on repairs and conversions across a wide range of ship types – ferries and cruise ships alongside dredgers, container ships and offshore vessels – and this varied cross-section of ships is a crucial part of the yard’s strategy. Gibdock chief executive Richard Beards told Passenger Ship Technology “This blend of work across different ship sectors is intentional – we want to be as open as we can for all types of vessels to reduce our risk.” He added that a benefit of this was that it gives the yard a spectrum of experience and skill sets.
Passenger shipping provides an important part of the shipyard’s work. It has had a busy ferry season, Mr Beards said, having drydocked 14 ferries between January and June for general repair work. He noted that the yard’s ferry repair work was “a good springboard” for cruise refit work.
Timing is everything
In November last year it took on a large project: repair and renewal work on Thomson Majesty, the Thomson-operated luxury vessel owned by Louis Cruises.
That project involved two weeks in Gibdock’s Dock One for the 207 m, 41,000 gt vessel within a fixed schedule between the ship coming off its summer port rotations and its regular winter cruising duties. The vessel left the dock on 18 November before departing the yard on 21 November.
Thomson Majesty’s docking coincided with its intermediate special survey. External work included high pressure hull washing and applying a new antifouling coating, along with renewing seals on one stabiliser and one stern thruster and polishing its propellers. 14 of the ship’s lifeboats were lifted ashore for inspection and bracket renewal, while davits were also tested. Internally, Pipework and anchor chain renewals were carried out, as too were extensive steelworks in the double bottom tanks and engine tank tops.
“LNG will come to the forefront of Gibraltar plc and there is talk of bunkering coming here, so LNG will be a successful and natural sector for the country and we will be part of it” Richard Beards (Gibock)
A part of the project required access holes to be cut into sections of the ship’s flat bottom. A prior inspection of the ship in Las Palmas and detailed measurements were carried out by Gibdock project manager Jonathan Pocock. “It was essential that the ship was repaired to the highest standards, but also that it was in and out of the yard on time for its next cruise,” he said. “By preplanning, we were able to prefabricate steel sections and optimise work processes during the project.”
Louis Cruises is a returning customer for Gibdock and Mr Beards emphasised the importance of building strong and lengthy relationships with clients as it regularly carries out work for repeat customers. “The main thing that we at Gibdock has offered over the years is an understanding of the needs of owners: getting the ship back on time and doing a quality job in a safe manner.” It is these strengths that encourage ship operators to keep returning, he believes.
As well as large projects, the shipyard also undertakes small bespoke repair jobs for cruise ships that are just stopping in port for a few days before their next port of call. This work might include tasks such as dealing with the loss of an anchor or carrying out minor repairs on a cruise ship that has touched the quayside.
Gibdock focuses on smaller cruise ships as its Panamax-sized dock is not large enough for the new mega-sized cruise vessels. As a result, its cruise ship vistors tend to be older vessels that start or finish their cruise itineraries in Gibraltar. This niche gives it a “relative sweet spot for cruise work,” Mr Beards summed up.
Clinching scrubber contract
Environmental technology refit work has given the yard a boost that the yard has capitalised on. It has fitted four ballast water treatment systems to general cargo ships and won a five-ship scrubber deal for tanker company Vroon last year, giving it valuable experience of refitting existing vessels with this technology.
“It has allowed us to acquire the technical skills and have us experience of how to put such a project together,” Mr Beards said. This project included piping, naval architecture work and 3D scanning.
He singled out the challenges, in particular that other work needed to be done in the vicinity of the scrubber work. This called for very strong planning, communication and logistics to deal with the trades that needed to be in the same place at the same time to ensure that the vessel was redelivered on time. As well as scrubber work, concurrent jobs took place on the engines, propellers, steelwork, piping and coatings. The vessels not only undertook full dry dockings but also class surveys at the same time.
Mr Beards said that while the yard had not yet fitted any ferries or cruise ships with scrubbers, it hoped to be able to win some work in this area and apply its experience gained from the Vroon refit.
While it has not yet done any LNG conversions, this could be an attractive sector for Gibdock as the government has unveiled a strategy in this area and is in the final stages of constructing an LNG-fuelled power station in Gibraltar.
“LNG will come to the forefront of Gibraltar plc and there is talk of bunkering coming here, so LNG will be a successful and natural sector for the country and we will be part of it,” Mr Beards said.
Something he is particularly proud of is that in April this year the yard made the transition from ISO 9001:2008 to the new ISO 9001:2015 quality management standard and from ISO 14001:2008 to the ISO 14001:2015 environmental standard after a 10-month review and upgrade of operating processes across the company.
A Lloyd’s Register (LR) assessment team visited Gibdock in early April to carry out the external audit and verify compliance, and confirm that its internal processes were fully integrated with the new guidelines.
These new standards bring significant changes: In ISO 9001:2015 there is much greater emphasis on corporate responsibility in internal processes, rather than delegation, while on the environmental side the focus is to ensure that procedures and documentation span a product’s lifecycle. This makes Gibdock responsible for ensuring traceability from the moment a product is sourced until its disposal.
It assessed its suppliers and subcontractors and took the opportunity to strengthen its quality control systems and introduce environmental improvements, ranging from LED lighting to solar panels, and enhance its waste segregation.
Gibdock believes that adhering to the new standards will have benefits for customers as it now has better control and traceability within its procedures.
It has also invested in new equipment. At the start of this year it installed a plasma cutting machine with computer aided design in its workshop, allowing plates to be cut automatically from on computer drawings. The benefits are “speed, efficiency and accuracy”, Mr Beards said.
And in June this year it renewed the slew bearings of one of its 10 cranes. “Crane bearings need to be replaced after a period of time and this work is part of our continual maintenance of the critical assets in our yard,” said Mr Beards. He emphasised that improvement in infrastructure was crucial to the yard so “we don’t take the view of leaving equipment until it breaks – we are structured with our maintenance so that we are reliable and can redeliver vessels in time.”
Richard Beards has worked at Gibdock since 2010; he was commercial director before being promoted to managing director in 2012. Previously he was at Cammell Laird shipyard since 1998, where his roles spanned financial director and commercial director. He gained a degree at Surrey University in the UK in electrical and electronics engineering.