AM Adventures by Don Gale: SNAME Annual Meeting 2011
Day One: Wednesday 16 November
A key element of SNAME's Annual Meeting (AM) has been the offering of several one-day courses on various marine industry related topics. These courses enable marine professionals to enhance their knowledge and skills in specific areas of their vocation and interests. Additionally, continuing education credit is available, with licensed Professional Engineers able to earn 7 hours of credit, and all participants receiving a certificate for presentation to employers or others demonstrating their course completion.
The three courses offered today were:
Shipbuilding Best Practices, instructed by Thomas Lamb; Practical Seakeeping, with Edward Lewandowski; Floating Offshore Engineering Facilities and Mooring Systems, Robert E. Randall and Evan H. Zimmerman.
In Shipbuilding Best Practices today, I learned the value of proactive yard planning for both new shipyards and those undergoing addition or upgrade. Moreover, we were exposed to popular metrics for and drivers of shipyard productivity. Finally, our class was offered several small-group interaction exercises, based on course content, whereby we determined such values as a productivity comparison for a tanker new build between a U.S. yard and the current “best” as well as a scheme for advanced outfitting to improve delivery time for a destroyer. While my office is involved with small shipyards and is owned by one of America’s “Big Two” builders, anyone with interest in national or global shipyard business and productivity would have benefited from Tom Lamb’s course today.
Bill Garzke, naval architect with CSC and active with the SNAME Continuing Education Committee, announced that the three courses offered at next year’s AM will cover topics of:
Marine Engineering; Ship Arrangements; Feasibility and Preliminary Design.
Following class I happily picked up my AM registration package from the SNAME reception kiosk, exchanging greetings with several of our Society’s tireless employees and volunteer servants who I now gladly consider not only colleagues but trusted friends.
Today was also Opening Day for the SNAME AM Expo. All available kiosks have sold out well before the AM in recent years, 2011 included – to the invaluable benefit of those coming to seek new or upgraded products and solutions to the continual new build and refit challenges of vessel design and construction. I was able to scope out further information on ballast treatment systems, including one new such system on the market – evidence of rapid and ongoing growth in vendors’ meeting this crucial environmental and regulatory challenge in the not-so-distant future.
In conjunction with the Expo opening was the Annual President’s Reception, held this evening in the Expo halls and made the more convivial with a variety of delectable hot and cold catered and buffet foods, soft drinks and cash-bar cocktails. This event never fails to avail opportunities to reconnect with colleagues old and new, from near and far, as well as to begin making new contacts within the Society and the industry. Highlighting tonight’s gathering was a greeting to all from Society President Edward Comstock, welcoming us to Houston – and further informing us that the welcome was extended to a total of some 955 registrants thus far! The past two SNAME AMs have seen attendance well in excess of 1,000 souls, so given that this was but the first of three days in Houston, AM ’11 appears well on track to uphold this level. Additionally, Ed updated us on the Society’s mission to support maritime education through scholarships, citing a goal of $1.2 million in contributions to the Scholarship Fund, with an equivalent match by the Society, to extend this fund to $2.4 million in 2012.
Day Two: Thursday 17 November
For all that our SNAME Annual Meeting is and offers there is one thing that it is NOT: a spectator-only event. Interaction is a key hallmark, and this is evident in the four Panel Discussions offered annually at the AM. The two panels held this morning addressed:
Improving the Competitive Posture of U.S. Shipbuilding ... An International Perspective; Naval Architects, Marine & Ocean Engineers - Key Professionals in the Offshore Industry.
Seeking to increase my knowledge of and exposure to the offshore industry, this was the panel I attended. Indeed, the panel upheld expectations and the past practice of enabling attendees to ask questions, interject impressions and suggest follow-up action after the panelists had each presented about twenty minutes of material from their experience. Two naval architects on the panel described their business in this field, leaving me with the impression that offshore is not so alien a field to one accustomed to boat and ship design as I'd initially thought. This is fortunate - as offshore's business places it in a needful category for current and new talent - as well as one considerably less impacted by the global economic crises in our midst than other maritime ventures - making it a fruitful venue for opportunities for individual professionals, engineering and design firms and equipment vendors alike.
If anything is lacking at the AM, it would be the ability to attend every technical session I would have liked - there are simply too many papers from which to choose to hear and be able to experience all that I'd like. The relevant and robust content among several tracks, spread across three conference rooms plus the T&R sessions, was second to none. Both our Society's contribution to the maritime industry and the AM's value to attendees and participating companies continue to be upheld by the technical program.
Vessel stability being a key element of my experience, I took interest in The Second Generation of Intact Stability Criteria. So did many of my colleagues here at Houston; this seems to be one of the most heavily reviewed and commented paper in this year's line-up, with ten attendees offering comments and inquiry. These will eventually be fleshed out and answered by the authors in the upcoming Transactions featuring this paper.
Later today, I attended the Student Papers track. On listening to these enthusiastic young undergrad and graduate presenters and hearing of their work, I began wondering who in the industry is teaching whom. Indeed, our SNAME student population is well capable of teaching even the most seasoned professionals in our industry plenty of new concepts and apprising us of edge-of-the-art technological updates through their careful research. The presentations covered a cutting-edge concept design of an Arctic oil-recovery barge, a solar-powered eco-tour vessel, an analysis of early-stage design options for U.S. Naval projects, and semi-planing hull model tests compared with performance of current market vessel samples.
Enhancing knowledge within my own field of influence and following on Tom Lamb's Shipbuilding course, I also partook of several Ship Production Symposium (SPS) papers. One paper covering the productivity of Naval Dockyards in Britain and opportunities for improvement suggested implications for yards here in the U.S. as well. Another paper presented introductory research into U.S. shipbuilding quality concepts and value investigated from a more holistic perspective than traditionally addressed, with future implications and plans for further research.
I closed out today's Proceedings with the T&R session "LNG as a Fuel", presented by T&R Panel M-43, Alternate Fuels. With more developments in this arena, more new and refit vessels and propulsion systems using LNG for fuel, and gradually improving fuel delivery infrastructure, the area of maritime LNG fuel development is a premier example of how the future encroaches upon us before we know it if we don't keep abreast. This reinforced the value of SNAME membership as well as T&R exposure and participation - invitations for which participation by all interested Members were extended by the Panel M-43 moderator at the close of this session.
While I did not attend the Annual Banquet this year, this was once again a pinnacle of the 2011 AM. Presentations of four medals for outstanding industry achievements plus the playing of U.S., Canadian and Greek National Anthems enhanced the dining experience. Of course, the Banquet continues its tradition as a venue for dining with close associates or meeting still more new acquaintances at table, with the added opportunity for Student Members, who dine free of charge, to further network among experienced Members young and young-at-heart.
Of course, the sessions and presentations I've mentioned barely scratch the surface of what the AM has offered even just this one day. I cite them only because they are the ones in which I found interest and had time to attend and, thus, with which I became familiar. All AM participants have their own profession- or interest-driven topics on which they've sought to stay informed, and I expect there are few if any disappointed attendees. I'm sure the Navigating Risk in Marine Business forums, the Vessel Environmental Performance and other T&R sessions, and the many other technical and SPS papers likewise had a devoted fan base! Truly, the SNAME AM is again proving itself as the premier maritime event at which marine professionals of all stripes can remain informed of the broadest variety of crucial, relevant issues and developments, with the greatest time efficiency and best return on money invested of virtually any maritime conference or symposium.
Day Three: Friday 18 November
It is unfortunate that I was not born twins and, therefore, am unable to be in two places at once, likewise, unable to attend all of the SNAME AM technical sessions within my interests including those conflicting one with another. This, incidentally, reinforces the value to any company that sends not just one but several of its employees to the AM. Your organization could gain double or more of the content brought back home – plus added camaraderie among your employees – not to mention the undeniable market exposure of your organization.
Friday opened with a variety of technical and Ship Production Symposium (SPS) papers. I was gratified to witness the research and results of part of my Company’s parent, Ingalls Shipbuilding, in developing and joining large pultruded composite vessel superstructure components at low cost. While further research is proposed, the Navy has endorsed and continues to support this work going forward. Demonstrated cost and labor savings of up to 88% compared with vacuum-assisted resin transfer molding (VARTM) with competitive strength characteristics are surely prime motivators.
An experimental study in ship resistance and propulsion prediction in pack-ice-covered waters, for which few model tests and no reliable correlative methods exist, addressed a key element of my background and work with a new twist. Current and forecast increased navigation in polar waters north of Canada brings added challenges as demonstrated by this topic. In fact, this was an excellent follow-on to the Arctic oil-recovery barge concept session I’d attended the previous day.
Yet more cutting-edge interests were addressed by the Development of a Short Sea Intermodal LNG Carrier namely, environmentally-friendly operation, cost-effective coastal cargo carriage relieving the burden upon land-based transportation, especially highway trucking, and support to an LNG marine fuel infrastructure. The articulated tug/barge (AT/B) vessel, transporting ISO-type tank containers (LNG tanks fixed in a framework sized as standard ISO 20-foot containers), could operate on LNG-only or dual-fuel propulsion. Moreover, the transport scheme simplifies distribution and startup for an LNG fuel transport infrastructure and is scalable to medium- and large-scale product models.
The increasing need for remote collaboration among designers, builders, project managers and vendors has resulted in a proliferation of electronic and Web-based tools, one such being 3D-PDF. PROSTEP, the provider of this tool, has demonstrated its value with prominent customers and exposure among international aircraft, automotive and other industrial customers. In addition to current shipbuilders Myer Werft and Thyssen, PROSTEP now seeks to add value to others in the maritime market with collaboration tools presented in an SPS paper to the SNAME AM today.
Being the son of an electrical contractor as well as employee of a wholly-owned subsidiary of a major U.S. shipbuilder, with attendant crucial safety issues, I took interest in the SPS presentation on a Shipyard Electrical Safety Awareness Program. This presentation fleshed out the dangers of shock, arc flash and arc blast prevalent in shipyards and industrial facilities which injure and kill even seasoned trades people each year. Many misconceptions were dispelled regarding underestimation of the risks involved with the “common” voltages and currents encountered in household applications compared with industrial facilities. The appropriate OSHA and NFPA reference standards and documents, as applicable for shipyards and for general industrial facilities, were introduced, with locations cited for specific topics in alternate sources where one particular source is silent. I would consider this paper a “must-read” for any ship or boat yard, large or small, naval, commercial, yacht or recreational boat builder.
The 2011 AM Proceedings closed out with the final two of four panel sessions, these today being:
LNG Fuel for Ships – Engineering and Regulatory Issues; Public Vessel Acquisition in the 21st Century.
These two selfsame topics being featured at last year’s AM in Bellevue, WA, today’s panels gave those who attended last year an opportunity to keep up on progress in these realms. The ever-developing LNG marine fuel use model being elemental in several of my office’s projects, I continued to gain exposure and feedback by attending that panel again. This followed both on my attendance at last year’s panel, plus yesterday’s LNG T&R session and the short-sea transporter paper from this morning. As in those panels, it was reinforced by presenters and attendees alike that safety, in regard to operation and fuel handling at all supply chain stages, would need to be demonstrated and ensured for market and public acceptance. A 52-year record of safe maritime transport of LNG was cited by one presenter, while another, referencing the gasoline-fueled automobiles aboard an LNG ferry – and everywhere else on the planet – reinforced the notion that any safety challenges posed by LNG were surmountable by technology and all due care of stakeholders and operators, as is the case with many commonly-used combustibles in the culture.
The closing of the final day’s proceedings of the AM has been somewhat of a melancholy moment for me in years past. As people file out of the room, some to ready for one of the Alumni dinners, others to prepare to return home, there’s always a small group hanging out, networking with the presenters and with one another. While I use the opportunity to continue making quality contacts, I also get the feeling that others there are, like me, just not yet ready to say goodbye. While the AM shines as a venue for education, training and business transaction, there is truly a fellowship and camaraderie among all of us who attend, who reinforce existing friendships and nurture new ones, even as we conduct our business and bone up on our industry.
Thankfully, that fellowship was able to continue awhile longer. SNAME’s First Annual “Footy” Design-Build Competition and Regatta, held at the Hyatt’s swimming pool immediately following the last proceedings, showcased the talents of participants who crafted small, radio-controlled sailing yachts and those who raced them around the buoys in the pool. Build rules include the requirement that the hull’s entire keel depth and width fit inside a box 12 inches long, 12 in. deep and 6 in. wide, with essentially no restrictions on sailing rig. Footy is a racing class for these types of boats, with all the SNAME-participating boats registered with the Class. While providing an additional outlet of creativity, fellowship, training, education and friendly competition for SNAME members, it is anticipated that SNAME’s Footy regatta activity will also serve as a springboard for outreach to high schools and colleges for drawing talent to the marine field. Having arrived rather late at the pool to witness the competition, I’ll defer reporting of all the final results – of races, prizes for best designs, etc. to others more in-the-know than I. Finally, I was gratified, once again, to meet still more of the contingent of some 200-plus enthusiastic student Members who attended this year’s AM, as well as to offer my parting good-byes to others I’d met over the past three days.
And, yet, I suspect many of these good-byes will be short-lived, would be better termed ’til-we-meet-agains. Very likely, many of us will be encountering one another in the upcoming year – provided we and our companies are willing and ready to be innovative and to accept new challenges with calculated risks – as we go forth as business partners to address the ever-pressing needs of our clients for reliable, sustainable marine transportation, defense and recreational solutions that only our industry can provide. We must all be most thankful to those at SNAME HQ, all on the Annual Meeting Planning Committee, the Technical Papers Committee, the Education Committee and all who volunteered time, effort, personal and corporate resources to make SNAME AM 2011 the successful education and networking event that it has been.
While I could wish “smooth sailing and fair seas” to all who read this, the technical and economic realities of our day will flatly preclude that – but it is the harshest conditions in which the ships, boats and systems that we design and build most often prove their value. So, too, I expect with those of us who resolve to continue to succeed – and I’m grateful for the tools to that end available via SNAME and the Annual Meeting.