Home' Work Boat World : August 2009 Contents Not so precise?
When I think of Germany, I think of precision engineering. So
precise are they that even their company names are short and
to the point -- cases in point include ZF, MaK, MAN, MTU.
These are people who do not mess around.
Thus it was quite a shock to recently be told that the Germans
were having trouble with one of their naval programmes. Of course
the country is not alone in that regard -- the combination of politics,
defence bureaucracy, armed forces personnel and "state-of-the-art"
systems seems to inevitably result in a combination where budgets
are exceeded, timelines extended and capability reduced. Any
warship or patrol boat buyer who avoids one or more of those
outcomes should probably think himself lucky.
That said, the last headline I would expect to read (other than
"Marine journalist makes millions with words") is "German K 130
Corvettes experience severe technical problems." I have been
brought up to believe that the phrase "technical problem" cannot
appear in the same sentence as "German" or "Germany." The only
exception is meant to be "German(y) solves [somebody else's]
As it happens, the detail of the article points to issues with an
element of the drive-train provided by a German company (not
one of those named above) but which was manufactured in
another European country. Whether that means the fault really lies
outside Germany's borders, or that nobody wants to acknowledge
a shortcoming, I'll never know.
Shakes across the Strait
Until recently the hands across the Taiwan Strait have been
characterised by shaking closed fists -- great news for admirals
looking for justifications to expand their fleets. With changes in
the power structure in Taiwan, though, muscles in those same
hands have been released, fists have been unclenched and
Direct cross-strait links are being established, though most of
the action appears to have been in the non-work boat section
-- namely container and other cargo shipping. As I write this in
June, however, a regular ferry service is on the verge of starting.
Having already completed trial voyages, the operation is about to
become -- at least according to press reports -- the first direct
cross-Strait service in something like 60 years. It will use a 65-metre
catamaran bought by a Taiwanese firm at least twelve months ago.
Clearly, it seems, their anticipation is set to pay off.
The operators of 'Ocean LaLa' -- for that is the cat's name -- are
apparently not the only ones hoping to exploit this potential
market. Rumours abound of even larger ferries being positioned for
the dash to and from the island, with others talking about the
possibility of running down to Hong Kong.
As with any new venture, there are hurdles to be overcome
especially in the area of regulation. Clearly when it has been so
long, all of the rules, procedures, policies and guidelines are up for
revision and one universal rule seems to be that bureaucracy
moves a lot slower than politics.
If you can't sell 'em, sail 'em
This column was not alone in warning that bubbles which
grow and grow and grow eventually burst. Certainly the total
shipbuilding bubble has gone that way, but in the work boat
sector the status of the offshore service vessel bubble is a little
less clear. While there's some doubt about whether it has truly
burst, it certainly seems to have stopped growing and a few
contracts have gone by the wayside. Looking for evidence of
new contracts requires the kind of skills usually only seen on
television shows like CSI. Apparently this is even the case when
you have the necessary "weapon" in hand, as is the case of
shipbuilders that have been building on spec.
Rumour has it that one yard that made quite a lot of
noise about its intentions in this regard has had to invent
an operator of its own to avoid the unsightly look of having
a bunch of newbuilds tied up at the wharf with "For Sale"
signs on the side. Not that this is anything particularly new
-- there's ever so many examples of shipowners that are
shipbuilders and vice versa. Still, I think it more usual to start
out life operating ships and coming to the conclusion that you
can save money by building for yourself than to vertically
integrate in the opposite direction.
The best is not always left to last
"Marine journalist makes millions with words..."
August 2009 WORK BOAT WORLD
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