Jeffery Flynn, Technical Manager, Cruise Division at W&O Supply shares his insight on our pre-drydock survey offering to benefit cruise vessel managers and streamline their maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) process.
What is your position at W&O Supply, and what are your responsibilities?
In my role I work with both technical planners and technical purchasers in the cruise industry, assisting them by providing innovative technical maritime product recommendations such as valves, pipe, actuation – just to name a few.
I am responsible for planning and carrying out surveys onboard cruise vessels, as well as tracking drydocking schedules for our customers, so we know when to reach out to them to arrange scheduling for a survey ahead of a scheduled drydock.
When onboard a vessel, we work alongside the vessel’s chief engineer to get a preliminary list of valves, which we can then verify and seek additional data where required.
Following the survey, we then work with our colleagues at W&O Supply to put together a preliminary quote and lead times for the required valves and identify any potential problems we might encounter. We then correspond with the customer and pass on any recommendations we have.
If we are just looking at the overboard valves, we can get this done in one day. We aim to board the cruise ship around 8:00AM and, if all goes smoothly, we can be finished by the end of the day. Often, passengers on the cruise ship don’t even know we are onboard at all!
What must you consider ahead of surveying a cruise ship? For example, are there particular areas you focus on or particular systems you must check?
When working in a high-value, active industry that cannot experience delays or disruptions due to tight schedules like cruise, time is of the essence. The first thing to consider is when the survey is going to be conducted. We aim to survey cruise ships at least nine months in advance of the scheduled drydocking. This helps to ensure that the appropriate valves can be supplied and installed with plenty of time and to avoid any disruptions to the cruise ship’s schedule.
The most critical valves are the ‘seawater direct’ valves. Cruise ships cannot sail without these, and as such, they require pressure testing to ensure they comply with the vessel’s class society specifications. We pay particular attention to these during our survey, and we collate information such as size, pressure, valve type and material requirements. This information will be compiled into a document, which we share with the vessel operator to help us to provide an accurate quote and ensure we have appropriate lead time to secure what we need.
An additional factor to consider when working with cruise ships is the tight schedules they are facing – more so than in other maritime industry segments. The cruise industry has clearly defined busy periods - such as the summer holiday and Christmas. If a drydock goes on longer than expected or is delayed and eats into holiday-goers time, this could lead to increased costs for the cruise owner. While we take a proactive and efficient approach to all our operations, it is of particular importance to our cruise customers that no time is wasted.
What kinds of things are you looking for during your inspections?
Our main focus is to inspect the valves already onboard the vessels and their specifications for compliance and longevity. We also record which system that each valve belongs to – for example, whether it is part of the plumbing, fuel supply, scrubber, or galley waste system - so that we know the application of the valve and can then evaluate the chemistry of each system and make recommendations, if necessary.
This is particularly important on cruise vessels, which can be more complex compared to other vessel types due to their requirement to cater to thousands of customers. Understanding the exact role of the valve and the conditions it is subject to helps us make sure we are providing a product which is suitable. This is highly important – with thousands of passengers onboard, expecting a relaxing holiday cruise, the last thing a vessel needs is failed valve in a system dealing with waste products!
What are the most common challenges or issues you encounter during your work?
Some cruise vessel managers are unaware of the need for assessment and surveillance of valves on their ships, but this is where it pays to have a knowledgeable partner with a global presence that can provide informative data and solutions. New customers soon realize the significance of working with a partner like W&O that carries out assessments and implements digital solutions to ensure that cruise vacations have limited to no disruptions.
During assessments, it is important we receive the right information from cruise lines and develop strong working relationships with the managers, chief engineers or staff chief engineer and chief superintendents. For example, while they might provide us with the size and pressure measurements of a valve, they may not be able to tell us if it is actuated remotely or if it is manually operated. By working in close partnership, together we can identify and troubleshoot to therefore eliminate any issues and ensure the dry dock process is smooth and efficient.
Another challenge we have faced is simply getting onboard a vessel due to rules and regulations. Once we have obtained clearance and are onboard, we are sometimes required to inspect highly unique and unusual valves – often these have been modified without anyone being informed, and we have to use our initiative to work out their intended purpose.
Is there anything unexpected you can share about your job that some people wouldn’t expect to hear?
We have had the pleasure of travelling to many countries across the globe, getting a flavor of their culture and way of life. But it’s not always glamorous, and people are sometimes surprised at the locations we visit for inspections. This goes to show how a global industry needs global support, meaning inspections and solutions are needed wherever, whenever. We are also often required to crawl into tight spaces onboard vessels – but it’s these unique aspects of our job that keep us interested and on our toes.
Do you have any job highlights or experiences you’d like to share?
I enjoy the fact that I am not behind a desk all the time, and that I am able to meet people all over the world. I am an ex-mariner, so it is great to be able to speak to the young mariners and build relationships with these people. Knowing that we can be a supportive partner and useful resource to them is a great feeling.