Saturday, August 29, 2009

there's something about a shipyard

my fascination with ships and shipyards is rather ironic in view of having grown up in a little town on the vast prairie, as far from water (at least big ship type of water) as you can imagine. but there's just something special about ships, ports and shipyards. especially shipyards. it has to do with what bill mentioned in a comment on yesterday's post, that they are so busy. there's just so much activity going on. it's quite amazing. and all of that activity creates its own kind of energy and i think that's what i love about shipyards.

from the bridge of an under-construction LNG carrier - samsung heavy industries, south korea

i've been to a number of shipyards - samsung heavy industries and daewoo in korea, two newbuilding yards in ulsteinvik, norway, sembawang in singapore and yesterday a small repair yard in frederikshavn, denmark. and they are all fascinating.  the big yards in korea are overwhelming in their size and the number of ships they're churning out (or at least they were, that's slowed down quite a lot). unfortunately, i didn't get a lot of pictures when i was there (it was back in 2005 before my camera obsession set in), but one of the most striking sights was of more than 5000 white-clad workers, lined up on a field, doing jumping jacks together at the daewoo yard. i think i was more stunned by that sight than of the VLCC (very large crude carrier) hulls being welded together in the enormous dry dock. but there were other wondrous sights, like a whole section of a ship being lifted by enormous cranes.

at samsung heavy industries, south korea

inside the membrane tank of an LNG carrier - samsung, south korea

people bike around the yards as transport.
if i were this guy, i'd be getting out of the way.

last may, i went to the west coast of norway to visit several newbuilding yards. newbuilding is what they call new ships. this is as opposed to repair yards, where ships go to drydock every 5 years, for repairs and to retain their certificates to sail. they're doing some of the most innovative shipbuilding in the world. here are two x-bow vessels, both are offshore support vessels, which service offshore oil rigs. they are some of the most specialized ships in the world.

in singapore, i visited a repair yard. it was a large one and there were no less than 5 LNG carriers there. i've probably mentioned it before, but LNG carriers are my favorite, because in my previous job, i sailed on one for ten days, from barcelona through the suez canal (we were slow steaming because the ship was going to anchorage off fujirah to await its next cargo), it was heavenly. LNG are also very specialized ships, because the cargo is cryogenic - the ships are basically an enormous thermos bottle, sailing around with cargo at -160℃.

view of an LNG carrier from an LNG carrier - sembawang, singapore.

and then yesterday, i visited an anchor handler that was finishing up its stay in drydock in frederikshavn, here in denmark. an anchor handling ship is another type of offshore supply vessel, which assists when moving an oil rig. this one had also served as a standby vessel, literally standing by, waiting for when it was needed by the rig.  its drydock was nearly finished. absolutely everything had been taken out of the ship - through holes opened in the side - refitted and was in the process of being put back. all in four weeks. the amount of work that goes into such an operation is mind-boggling. the coordination of people, spare parts and hard work is a marvel to behold. so every time i see it, i'm in awe.
an anchor handler at frederikshavn, denmark

this is one of the aspects of my job that i love. the people involved in building and repairing ships are so hard-working and pragmatic. they still know how to do things, such a variety of things. how to make things work. how to connect wires and pipes and fittings. i observed a polish ship's electrician yesterday that simply astonished me with how much he knew and how well he could do and communicate his work. i think being at a shipyard reminds me about hard work and a down-to-earth way of being that i sometimes feel i lose touch with in my daily very information society-oriented job and life. plus, ships are just so cool.


Stacey Childs said...

Nice timing. I was at a wee soiree last night in this very cool bar across from the port here in Auckland. Watched boats, no, ships, unloading and said to friend "hey interesting". Friend said "you think so ahe?" "My boyfriends idea of romance was to take me to a small hill overlooking the port and watch the cranes lifting and moving the cargo." "Oh" I said. "Maybe boyfriend should get own boyfriend?" Now maybe I think I have found your soul mate. Weird ship people.

Char said...

very interesting inside scoop and I love the shots

paris parfait said...

Thanks for the behind-the-scenes tour. Fascinating! xo

Bill Stankus said...

Sweet stuff.
The various ships, those unique sounds, the smells and a bunch of characters all in a place so special unless you've been there it's difficult to imagine.

Again a terrific posting.

shoreacres said...

I simply stumbled in here and loved finding a bit of a congenial spirit.

I live on the Texas Gulf Coast, and left life in the "real world" 20 years ago to begin a life doing "brightwork". That translates as varnishing the wood on pleasure craft for a living. I taught myself the trade, and never have regretted the change for a moment.

Shipyards are magical places. I love working in them, although most of the time I'm in marinas, working in solitude on a dock.
You allude to the appeal - real people, doing real work that requires skill and accountability.

At the end of the day, I can see what I've accomplished - quite literally. That grounding in the world of physicality is the best (and most unexpected) "perk" of the job.

ADRIAN said...

These are superb images, everything from busy to arty. I really like the gas tankers tank, tank you!

spudballoo said...

Gosh who knew shipyards could be so fascinating, seriously I had no idea they are so 'visual' (that sounds all wrong but you know what I mean...perhaps I mean photogenic?). Fascinating! x

jenmorrison said...

I have sent the link to your wonderful images to my sailor father. I'm sure he'll enjoy them even more than I have.

Jennifer Morrison

MissBuckle said...

I need you as my guide when the big LNG-plant opens here :-)

Izzy said...

fascinating photos...

ulrikakullenberg said...

I get so curious to hear what your job is! I am in somewhat the same business.
Nice photos!

The Fragrant Muse said...

Your shipping posts are making me nostalgic. I grew up around shipyards being the child of a 30-year Navy man. I spent much of the first 15 years of my life around shipyards and it's amazing how familiar everything looks. The energy in a shipyard is quite powerful with all that metal and strength and hugeness.

Soon Heng said...

Great shots!
Like you I am a geek for ships. And shipyards. I worked many years for the Keppel Group of shipyards. I now run my own practice as a consultant for shipyards. You can find me on advisory board of We also do work in computer graphics. See these at Youtube: Tags. Sixtrees 3D: Let me know if you visit spore. LIM email

I'm Kim, by the way said...

See, I think there's something about coming from a landlocked area that makes ships and water so fascinating. I LOVED these shots!

Bee said...

Bill's comment really struck me, too. Like you, I really admire people who know who to DO and MAKE things.

This is a fascinating glimpse into such a specialized world. Ships carry a huge percentage of all of the stuff that gets transported around the world but how many people ever get to see that ship-building up close?

Elizabeth said...

You have such a fascination about ships and the people who work there. (I am thinking about the captain of an earlier post) Why don't you start interviewing these people? Start a collection. Interesting topic and personal stories are always popular.

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