You are often working under tight deadlines which ship docking, the ship can only be out of the water for so many days, the old coating needs to be removed quickly, repaired and the ship put back into the water again so it can continue to operate. Every day the ship is out of the water it is not earning the owner money. The often un-spoken challenge is that because so much of the surface is inaccessible while it is in use, you can’t actually see the scope of the work and the condition of the existing coating while it is in the water, which means you don’t actually know until the ship is out of the water, or you are able to climb into the ballast tanks, to assess what the condition really is like. So you don’t actually know and it’s very difficult to prepare. You don’t know how much abrasive you need, what grade of abrasive you need, how many nozzles you need to put on it and you need to prepare for the worst, so that you are prepared for anything that you need to do. You don’t even know what grade the corrosion is.
If you are also doing repair work on the ship you need to have the boat out of the water, cut plates out and weld patches, all which add to the pressure of the painting at the end. While that fabrication work is going on you can’t paint, you have to wait for the welders to finish so that you can then come in and do the blasting and painting, and there may be some heavy delays. You may even need to be working at night which is quite difficult work.
The other thing that is tough about these types of projects is the confined space and the fact that you are in a severe corrosion environment. Because of that you can get very stringent quality controls. Some asset owners want every ‘i’ dotted and every ‘t’ crossed to ensure their coating life is maximized and hence their asset life is maximized. You might have inspectors running around. You are also dealing with the crew on the ship who have nothing else to do, so those staying with this ship look at you, check out what you are doing, ask you questions and waste your time. The other thing is if you run short and delay a docking there are massive costs incurred in the extra docking times, both from the shipyard’s point of view and the ship owner’s point of view. On slipways and in dockyards access is difficult. You might say yes, it’s in a dockyard, but you’re a long way away if anything is to happen. The equipment is always hundreds of metres away, it’s not like you’re in a blast room. Anything that needs to be brought onto the boat to work on the boat needs to be craned on and craned off, so you need to be very well organized to have the abrasive ready to be craned on all at once, the equipment to be craned into position all at the same time. Portable equipment really helps so you can actually get closer to where you are trying to work.
The other thing is, particularly on slipways, the ship is on an angle so what you might think is normally a nice work area, the ship is actually on a slope on the slipway so you need to work on a different angle to what you would normally work and you may need to install stairways, ladders etc, to access where you need to work.