Ship Building Process Explained

Marine engineers, navigating officers and other staff working on ships are mostly concerned about day to day operations and even though they are very familiar with their jobs, yet there is an aspect of ship life which does not involve the onboard members and this is about building a new ship, but involves naval architects, designers and other shore working staff.

So in this article we will discuss briefly about the ship building process and how does a huge and complex structure like a ship get constructed from scratch. The entire detailed process of ship building is perhaps more of a matter to be covered in a full sized text book so here we will only touch upon the very basic points, which should be sufficient to give you an idea about the ship building process, including technical and non technical aspects of this exercise.

Invite Tenders and Quotations

The first step in a ship building process is to get the bid proposal from several ship builders. The ship builders make a proposal based on the request given by the client. The bid proposal is very important because the client decides to give the contract or not as per this proposal. The proposal is basically the rough idea of how the ship is going to be, the time it will take to build the ship and the costs involved in the same.

Reach An Agreement

The next step in the ship building process is to discuss the specifications and get to an agreement. Once the bid proposal is accepted the ship builder and the client get together to decide the specifications of the ship. The details and the specifications help to decide what the final price of the ship is going to be. Once all these details like the ship building process and the layout is decided the agreement is made between the two parties and all the legal formalities and agreements are completed.

Different Design Phases

Performance Design

Another important point in the ship building process is to make the performance design of the ship. One of the most important factors in a ship design is speed. Before actually starting to make any designs or the real thing, ship models are testing in a test tank, wherein these models are used to measure the speed of the real ship if the hull is formed in a particular manner. Apart from other things which matter in ship design, if the hull is not formed in the desired manner, the real ship would not achieve the desired speed so this stage is necessary in ship design.

After the initial formalities and the tank testing phase, the design phase begins to take shape. The design is basically done in three sub phases namely the basic design, detailed design and production design. These designs basically differ in their level of details and refinement.

Basic design

It is mainly concerned with making the ship comply to the requirements of the client in terms of its load carrying capacity of whatever nature and type of ship it is, say for example a bulk carrier, tanker etc, the fuel storage and consumption capacity, ship stability and so forth. All these factors are interlinked and also related to the previous discussed factor of ship speed.

Detailed Design

After the basic design, comes the next stage of detailed design and this involves more details that the first step and in this stage the basic design model is made more detailed. This is more of a practical implementation stage. In this stage it is ensured that the ship is built more accurately and as per the design. The designers ensure that they make a ship that will be as close to the original specifications given. If there is anything that they feel will not be as per the original design they will have to inform the client. They ensure that the performance ability of the ship is not compromised.

Production Design

The production design stage further goes a step into the details and the actual drawings of the components are made from which the field staff can actually produce the various components. It must however be remembered that not everything is build from scratch but mainly the body of the ship is built and other major components are purchased from third party suppliers and fitted to the ship to complete the construction. This includes but not limited to components such as the main engine, generators, and most other auxiliary equipment.

Order Materials

Once all the above steps are done and the plan is more or less prepared the ship builder moves to the next very important stage. In this stage the materials are ordered as per the specifications given. There is a lot of material that is used in the ship building process. Acquiring these materials on time and within the given dates will ensure that the delivery dates are made and the procurement are in order.

Production Plan

Now all the preparation for the ship building is done and even the material is acquired. Now the next stage is making the production plan. This is very critical. This is mainly because a lot of things have to be coordinated in order to ensure that the production goes as per schedule. The job assignments must be done in a realistic manner so that the targets can be reached. The plan should also be a little flexible as this will ensure that the targets can be reached easily. It is important that the delivery of the goods happen on time and the production goes on as per the plan.

Steel Cutting

Cutting and processing is the next very important stage in the ship building process. In this stage steel plates are cut and they are processed as per the blue print that was prepared in the design stage. The steel plates are heated and they are bent so that they can be curved. Making the correct shapes take a lot of expertise and this also is a very critical function in the ship building process. A slight mistake in this can jeopardize the whole plan.

Plate Assembly

Now the next stage is of assembly. In this stage the cut steel plates and the processed components are assembled. The assembly is mostly done block by block. This ensures that the manufacturing efficiency is maximized. The assembly is carried out in a phase by phase manner. The first is the small scale assembly, followed by mid scale assembly and in the end the large scale assembly is done.

Pipes & Wires

The one of the most vital stages in the ship building is installation of the rigging articles. In this the assembled blocks are joined and huge blocks are made. In this stage pipes, electric wires and wires are installed. To enhance the efficiency of the manufacturing process and to ensure the efficiency of the dockyard this is done. These rigs are in place until the block is docked on to the ground.

Mounting of Blocks

Mounting of huge blocks is the next stage in the ship building process. In this stage huge blocks are installed onto the ship using the rigs and cranes. This stage is vital as this must be done as per the specifications. Sometime as many as ten blocks need to be joined. After joining them we have to be assured that he dimensions remain the same. It is the biggest challenge for the engineers to ensure that the design and the final product is the same.


Now that the ship is all set the launching stage is the next. In this stage the dock is filled with water so that the ship can float in it. At this stage the ship slowly moves into the sea. It is a thrilling sight for all those who were involved in building the ship. It is a special day. The ship builders ensure that they celebrate this day. It may take months to get to see this day. Well this is not it there is a vital stage yet to be done. This is called the operation at the quay. In this stage the hull that was launched is quality checked. Each and every part and system that is installed in the ship is checked to ensure that all is in place.

Sea Trial Run

The next stage is of the trial run. As the name itself suggests this is a sea trial that is taken by the ship builder to ensure that the ship is perfect and in operational conditions. All the instruments and the speed of the ship are checked at this stage. This is to ensure that the ship is exactly as per the specifications. As we already mentioned speed of the ship is very critical for meeting the client’s satisfaction.

Final Delivery

Now that all is in place the final stage of the ship building comes. This is called the delivery stage. In this stage the ship is delivered to the client. The captain, the chief engineer and the crew prepare for the ships maiden voyage which is indeed a very special day for all. All those involved in the making now can only wish that the ship always sails smoothly.

These are the various stages that are involved in a ship building process. By following these steps we can ensure that the ship building is completed in time and smoothly. Ship building is a tough job and a lot of hard work is involved. Both the planning and the execution are equally important in the ship building process. This is also a very good example of team work.

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