Designed to Commercial Standard?


Lantern Swinger
I keep reading about RN and RFA ships being designed to a commercial standard.

What's the significance of this and does it involve them putting a disney store in there, or is that just me?


Lantern Swinger
No problem with commercial standards as long as they are the commercial standards of Blomm & Voss in Hamburg or the Dutch shipyards. They build tip top ships. Bear in mind that the UK procurement can't even buy a decent foul weather jacket!


War Hero
Commercial standards can mean a lot of things. There are commercial design standards (for ship structures and equipment) and commercial build standards (which reflect the above) and have an inspection regime during the build process and then through life. These standards are usually applied by Classification Societies (eg Lloyds Register, Det Norske Veritas, American Bureau of Shipping) and essentially assess designs against a set of rules (derived from empirical experience) to ensure adequate structural strength, reversionary modes for machinery, build standards of equipment and other various levels of sophistication. There are also a number of procedural notations, denoting required crew proficiency etc. Once all design info is approved by the Class society the ship is assigned a "notation" which basically defines the performance and seaworthiness of the ship. Without notation suitable for the ships proposed route, she won't get an insurance certificate and will not therefore be able to trade.

To stay "in-class" through life the ship has to submit to surveys at 5 year intervals. Fail the survey and not put defects right, then out of class, no insurance etc.

The "build" standards involve similar oversight by Class soc surveyors in the shipyards and involves acceptance of material (eg plate quality tests) and constructive processes (eg alignment checks) to be carried out by the shipyard to the satisfaction of the surveyor . As the Naval overseer organisation no longer exists, this is how MoD aims to ensure build quality. Similarly, while the old Naval Engineering Standards still exist, they will only be retained in areas that Class Socs don't deal with (eg Magazine design). Basically, the MoD no longer has the money (or more importantly the expertise) to maintain all NES and ensure design compliance with them.

Some of the Class socs have taken this onboard and have produced Naval Ship Rules of their own (Eg Lloyds NSR) which reflect Naval design practices and which are applied in exactly the same way as their Commercial ship rules. In terms of equipment fit, it is easier to get (say) a pump to a high-spec commercial standard than it is to get one that does exactly the same to an NES. You can pretty much get a Class-approved pump off the shelf at a reasonable price. However, because so few NES-spec pumps are required, the manufacturer charges through the nose for a NES spec pump just because of the documentary proof and compliance required. When I worked in a shipyard purchasing office, the rule of thumb was that an equipment manufacturer would charge you 3 x the price of a commercial spec item if it was specified NES.

The other thing to appreciate is that commercial build standards do not necessarily mean shoddy. A sophisticated commercial craft (eg an Offshore support Vessel or a FPSO) have demanding class regimes which means an awful lot of inspections and tests. The trick is to get the shipyard (trying to make a profit) to comply with the surveyors wishes without too much trauma all round - exactly the same as with the Ministry, but without the long-drawn-out horse trading.

As with all ships and organisations, some Class socs are better than others at some types of ship and some shipyards are better than others.


War Hero
Afraid not Dunkers. Commercial design rules actually lead towards thicker steel compared to designing to the naval standard. Thats because the Corps always went for the lightest possible structural design, which meant less plate, more sections / stiffeners and very little iwo corrosion margin.

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