BUYING INTO THE FUTURE U.S. Industry Is Changing To Compete
will, the U.S. shipbuilding industry is making changes to become commercially competitive on the international market. There are myriad factors involved in the trend, including: funding from the government via Technology Reinvestment Project (TRP) or Maritime Administration Title XI guarantees for yard modernization; partnerships with overseas competitors fostering technology transfers; and introductions of new, commercially viable products. The bottom line: suppliers and shipyards are pulling out all stops to efficiently manufacture quality, cost effective ships.
Here's a look at some recent developments. New Designs, As announced in the April edition ofMaritime Reporter, Newport News Shipbuilding (NNS) debuted its design of a product tanker for the commercial market. Dubbed the Double Eagle 333, the ship measures 649 feet (197.8 m) long and 102 feet (31 m) wide, and has a deadweight of approximately42,000 tons (design draft). According to Ed Waryas, director of commercial marketing at NNS, reaction to the new vessel "has been very favorable, we have had a number of serious inquiries domestically and internationally. One design feature that interested potential cusmanaging editor tomers is that the Double Eagle utilizes all mild steel construction." He also said that the shipyard is in the position to sign a contract and start the process now. "We've done a lot of successful, on-time and on-budget ship repairs, and now with the Double Eagle the word is out that we are back in the commercial business," Mr. Waryas said.
While NNS—a yard long in history, experience and reputation— was announcing its commercial offerings, more recently a new shipbuilding venture announced its intentions to build ships in the U.S.
Shipbuilding Ventures, Inc.—formerly U.S. Shipbuilding Consortium, Inc. and a member of the Skaarup Group—made a joint announcement with McDermott Shipbuilding that the new group intends to build product carriers and other ships based on the Skarhar design (please see page 47 of this issue for full details). Perhaps most interesting is that, along with the venture announcement, it was revealed that the Skaarup Group and SVI have signed a letter of intent with the new company— dubbed U.S. Shipbuilding Corporation (USSC)—to build a 40,000-dwt product carrier, with an option for a second.
Automation: Portable Shipbuilding Robotics A TRP grant was awarded to CYBO Robots, which seeks to develop a dual-use portable robot weld- CYBO Robots helped modernize General Dynamics' Land Systems Div.'s Lima, Ohio plant with robotic welding stations to build the M1A1 Abrams battle tanks more efficiently. The company is currently working—with the help of the government and shipbuilders—to develop portable shipbuilding robotics to help make the U.S. competitive on an international level.
ing system to help improve U.S.
shipbuilding productivity. The $12.5 million project will attempt to integrate technical advances in personal computers, robot design, offline programming software, three-dimensional vision and weld sensors to provide a system that meets the unique needs of a shipyard.
The keys to these robots will be their mobility and ability to be automatically programmed, offline, for a one-of-a-kind design. Further, the development team, in its proposal for the TRP funds, estimated that the cost of welding robots will be reduced more than 50 percent, enablingU. S. shipbuilders to purchase robots for less than $25,000. If successful, it is estimated that robots will automate up to 75 percent of ship welding.
To ensure that it will create a marketable product, CYBO Robots has assembled a team of partners and consultants to help every step of the way. According toRon Reeve, CYBO Robots' president, the team basically consists of three member types: commercial members, technology members and marketing members. Four shipyards—Bath Iron Works, Ingalls Shipbuilding, National Steel and Shipbuilding Company (NASSCO) and Trinity Marine Group—are in essence the "marketing committee," Mr. Reeve explained, as each of their input will be used to define the yard's needs and determine if the product is usable. CYBO Robots is no stranger to helping develop productivity-enhancing robotic solutions, as evidenced by its role several years ago in the modernization of the General Dynamics Land Systems Division Lima, Ohio plant, which builds the M1A1 Abrams tanks.
Similarly, Mr. Reeve is no stranger to government-assisted technology programs, and of the ongoing TRP program he said: "I've been in industry a long time, and this is the most exciting government program I have ever seen.
Research and development takes a long time, and getting venture capital (to fund R&D) is tough."