Boris Zubkov: it takes more than just building a vessel

Interview by Konstantin Sholmov

The company Hotchya Shipyard has successfully completed design projects for two supply vessels for offshore fleet of JSC "Gazflot". How did the young and rather small company managed to win against its competitors to get a beneficial order and why market analysts are no less significant than developers? Let us hear the opinion of LLC "Hotchya "Shipyard" President Boris Anatolyevich Zubkov.

- Boris Anatolyevich, your company has been scarcely known in the professional sphere until now. It was publicly mentioned just in the year 2007, when Hotchya-built yacht "Gaja" won the "Best Design (up to 40 m)" prize at the international boat show in Cannes. Yachts and ice breaker vessels - aren't they completely different?

- This is only a matter of first sight. The matter is not just the vessel applicability - whether it drives anchors at offshore platforms or takes a family of a millionaire out into the Mediterranean. The thing that really matters is the extent of demand for the vessel and the quality the producer can provide to satisfy this demand.
The very idea to create the "Hotchya Shipyard" implemented a little more than five years ago was based on the need to form a brand new type of a company with engineering as the basis for its activity. Before starting the actual work on the project we took a year to seriously analyze the world market trying to estimate the existing interest of vessel purchasers and predict the next day's demand. A simultaneous evaluation of potential possibilities of the Russian shipyards, design and development bureaus was performed. The potential is enormous despite the heavy crisis which our shipbuilding industry has been trying to overcome in the past 20 years.
We are still very strong indeed due to the powerful reserve accommodated during the previous decades. We possess serious academic school, manufacturing capabilities, highly professional engineers and workers. Why does our share in the world market of civil vessels only cover less than one percents?
To my mind the problem is as follows: our weak engineering and project management. This nation's problem - to concentrate on the production process and pay little attention to what comes before it. That is why our companies have very few chances of winning foreign orders.

- What actions do the western producers take?

- Both western and eastern leading shipbuilders pay great attention to marketing, engineering and customer relations in general. It takes more than just building a vessel. More important is to explain to the customer, how much funding shall be required and in what terms the project shall be fulfilled. This is the finest work to be done and, in fact, this part is most classified - believe me, we have thoroughly studied the experience of our Dutch, German, Norwegian and American colleagues.
Another component of this process, which is no less important, is the search and selection of subcontractors, material and spare part suppliers, construction process management and acquisition of classification authority approvals. The vessel is a product, the customer is a consumer, and modern consumer psychology is based on growing competence. A typical example - trying to win foreign tenders our shipyards try to play with comparatively low prime cost. And for foreign consumers it is much more important to save during maintenance rather than to save while buying goods! And he awaits ready-made solutions - how and where he can make future savings.

- Are you trying to say that such a process is well ensured by "Hotchya"?

- From the very start we have been trying to form a very serious team, and I believe we have succeeded. There were certain difficulties we had to face mainly due to professional narrow-mindedness. I am not trying to make any insults, for our shipbuilders deserve great respect. Nevertheless it is sometimes a complicated task to teach a person possessing years of experience to go beyond the standard production method. We had to devote a lot of time to training programs and seminars. Our specialists traveled to the West to participate in training programs, and we invited best foreign experts. We have thought of the instruments they were going to use, and ordered the most up-to-date licensed software. "Hotchya" was the first and, unfortunately, still remains the only Russia's shipbuilding company to manage its business and manufacturing processes through a unified information system based on SAP ERP solution. This certainly allows to be in competition with world renowned brands. Let us say,
almost head-to-head.

- You have mentioned shipbuilder's broadmindedness several times to be the necessary condition for winning in competitions. But how can "overall intelligence" help in such a deeply specialized matter?

- Our final product is not a block of papers with drawings, but maximum extent of customer satisfaction. Sometimes we even have to argue with the customer. The most recent argument occurred while we were working on the anchor drive project for "Gazflot". The order clearly indicated the width of the future vessel - 18 meters. What was the designer supposed to do in this case? Sit down and make a design. But our specialists analyzed all the possible occurrences and offered to increase the width to 20 meters. The customer did not want to hear of change in dimensions, until we gave this example: In the year 2007 a similar vessel keeled over while driving the anchor for "Burbon" platform. Half of the crew were killed. This argument became decisive, but it was possible only due to broadmindedness of our personnel. In fact we work as a consulting company, inclusive of legal and insurance support.

- Now that we have come to discussing the vessels for "Gazflot", would you, please, give a more detailed description of these projects.

- These are very interesting projects aimed at development of the Arctic program for "Gazprom". The equipment intended for operation at the northern seas offshore territories shall start being put into massive operation in the year 2010. This includes drilling rigs, onshore facilities, transportation fleet and supply fleet. Both of our vessels are intended for combined operation with the "Arkticheskaya" jack-up floating drilling rig. The supply vessel (22380)
and the anchor driver (22370), DWT is 3950 tons and 3000 tons correspondingly. We struggled to win this order and did our best to implement all the recent achievements in the sphere to work for these projects. We have succeeded in building vessels which definitely belong for tomorrow. Extensive attention was paid to safety and controlability of the vessel. It was required
by the customer that stability and fixity of the vessel near the drilling rig shall be guaranteed at open sea conditions at score of up to 5-6. This task shall be fulfilled by the second type dynamic positioning systems.
Besides, significant attention was paid to comfortable operation of the crew on board, design and ergonomic structure of the control panels both in the rudder house and in the machine compartment.
The vessels feature high level automation class complying with the regulations of Russian International Register of Vessels - AUT1-ICS. For all standard control operations of the onboard systems automatic and remote automated control algorithms were developed for the equipment and hardware.
In order to ensure safe operation of the vessels under winter navigational conditions and at minus ambient air temperatures the projects include installation of frosting prevention and deicing systems.
Several options have been evaluated and worked through while design of onboard cargo tomming and transfer systems. Here the most reasonable option in terms of safety, reliability and serviceability was chosen and approved by the shipboard personnel possessing work experience on similar ships.
It was our major target to work out possibilities of installing nationally made high quality and competitive equipment on our vessels.
The design process included works aimed at insuring project compliance with the requirements set both by the Russian Maritime Registry of Shipping, and the requirements set for the similar ships by foreign maritime classification societies, such as DNV, BV.

- What shall happen to these projects in the future, who is going to be responsible for implementing them?

- This decision shall be taken by "Gazflot". Our only desire is that the shipyard administration works adequately and the work is done willingly. I shall emphasize this again - we are convinced about the skill of Russian shipbuilders. The example of "Gaja" yacht, which was voted in best by the jury of 15 independent experts in Cannes is a perfect acknowledgement. This is a yacht constructed by Russian staff at the Russian shipyard. Moreover we have made a breakthrough in the sphere, where not a word has been heard of the Russians - the Luxury class vessels, where extremely high, sometimes insane requirements are set. This victory became possible only due to development of production culture and much attention to details.

- "Hotchya" work methods are based on network technologies: an engineering center in one city, developers may be located in another one, shipyard - in the third, designers -
in the fourth city, or even in a different country - all this is rather peculiar. Does this kind of 'dissipation' prove its worth?

- Let us remember we are living in the XXI century and apply all possibilities rendered by globalization. I have four video displays on my desk, the fifth is on the wall. We can very comfortably work online with our partners anywhere in the world. What is necessary is to realize what exactly you need right now. Network technologies enable us to freely work our the orders using outsourcing. Presently we are working in several perspective directions. One of these - creation of modern port fleet. Russia's ports are being renovated, new ones are constructed, and the port fleet being used remains since the past century. Keeping in mind the "Yantar" plant in Kaliningrad we have developed a project of multipurpose tug and fire fighting boat. This project implies all structural innovations: engine compartment located in the middle, bulkhead located at the bow, open cargo deck at aft end and two aft orbit-roll rudder propellers. This vessel alone can replace almost all of port fleet; it is capable of conducting rescue operations, towing, and support for divers. Ice strengthening enables this vessel to overcome ice cake up to 0.55 m thick at 5 knots.
We also take great interest in constructing fishing vessels. In the Soviet times these were mainly built at shipyards in Poland and the DDR; today our fishermen are in fact deprived of their main vehicle. This is a sore point for Russia, which has been under discussion
for two decades and still remains unsolved. However the situation shows positive indicators, and we need to meet a situation head-on. For instance, we are now making a project
for a scientific research vessel to explore sea bioresources and another project for the purposes of fishing industry.

This is all about engineering - a comprehensive phenomenon. "Hotchya" does not aim at becoming a giant, this is not the point of our mission. Our engineering center now employs 45 specialists. A close-knit team which took us not just a year or two to shape is our superior achievement. Engineering requires time and experience, and we possess this experience.

Hotchya Engeneering

6b, Karla Marksa str., Severodvinsk, Arkhangelsk region, 164500, Russia

Phone: +7 (8184) 92 00 92


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# 3(29), 2009