Dubai Drydocks continues its drive forward

Dubai Drydocks is the largest ship repair facility in the Middle East. Built in the late 1970s, with the aim of capitalising on Dubai?s geographical proximity to the major oil terminals in the Arabian Gulf, Dubai Drydocks was designed to be able to accommodate oil tankers with a capacity of up to one million tonnes deadweight.
Operations started in March 1983 with an initial workforce of 450 employees. Since then the yard has grown progressively in size and reputation and now employs more than 4,500 permanent workers. "On the 1st of March 2003, we celebrated our 20th anniversary and we are very proud of the position we have been able to establish in that time as one of the world?s leading ship repairers," says Keith Burgess, the yard?s chief executive. "We are also proud to state that 25% of the employees who joined the yard in 1983 are still with us, forming the backbone of the company. Employee loyalty is an extremely valuable asset."
The three huge graving docks were augmented by a floating dock, constructed in-house, in 1994. The facility also has 2,400 metres of repair berths capable of accommodating eight ULCCs and travelling cranes cover all docks and berths.
The yard has separate workshops for mechanical, steel, pipe, electrical, painting and galvanizing work. It also has a tank cleaning facility, "The only one of its kind in the Gulf that is equipped to supply inert gas and hot and cold washwater before slops are received," explains Burgess. The yard has progressively built up its own fleet of tugs, which now number five and additional pushing power is available from the adjacent Port Rashid.
Recent expansion in facilities includes a new warehouse with an increased capacity of 50%, and a large open area for secure storage of equipment and machinery for long-term projects; relocation of the pipe shop with an increased floor area, new pipe fabrication machinery and a new open-plan office space; increased space in the steel shop with new welding equipment and additional profile cutting machines, and construction of two additional welding planes to provide space for block assembly of structures and also to meet the increased demand for steel fabrication.
The Afloat Repair Division (ARD), which is the "flying squad" of the shipyard, moved from its original base in Jebel Ali Port into a new purpose-built facility adjacent to the main yard last year. In addition to voyage and anchorage repairs, ARD offers specialised services such as Metalock cold repairs and in-situ electroplating using brush plating processes. The new facility also includes temperature-controlled workshops for more sophisticated hydraulic work and other precision jobs.
The yard?s core business of ship repair is backed-up by conversions and newbuildings. The experience in the field of conversions has developed progressively over several years so that now the yard is able to handle FPSOs, jumboising and other large-scale conversion jobs. Newbuilding experience includes the construction of tugs, floating docks, dredgers, utility vessels, aluminium hulled crewboats, small tankers, diving support vessels, barges and pontoons.
The recent conflict in Iraq had a negligible impact on business, as the yard was already extremely busy with long-term commitments in ship repairs, conversions and newbuilding work. Burgess says: "We received one cancellation of a firm booking from a Far East owner but, apart from that, activity levels at the yard have continued at record levels since the beginning of the year."
The yard suffered a severe setback in March 2002 when an accident involving one of the dock gates caused a sudden ingress of water. Burgess told The Motor Ship: "Twenty nine people lost their lives in the incident and considerable damage was caused to equipment. All immediate efforts were put into addressing the humanitarian issues, after which a recovery plan was defined and the dock involved was able to return to full operation two months after the event."
He explains: "Fortunately our regular customers were extremely supportive and the workforce showed great resilience in making a fast recovery.
"The dock gates have operated successfully for over 20 years and have always been subject to regular inspection as part of the comprehensive planned maintenance programme," says Burgess. "The incident resulted from damage caused to the gate supports by a vessel that was in the dock at the time of the failure and was in no way related to the design of the gate."
In the last 12 months the yard has been particularly successful in branching out into new fields. Although it had previously gained experience in the conversion field, 2002 saw the award of two full FPSO conversions, both now in the final stage of completion. "This has been a valuable learning experience for Dubai Drydocks and has placed new demands on our engineering, procurement and storage capacity," says Burgess. "Several of the aforementioned expansion plans were tied into these projects and we are continuing to look at the need for further investment ? particularly in the area of heavy lift cranage."
Newbuildings also received a boost during this year with the award of a 4,500 tonne-lift floating dock for Saudi Aramco, two 57m diving support vessels and a repeat order for four mooring pontoons for the Dubai Port Authority.
All of this activity has meant a step-change in steel fabrication capacity, which has averaged 2,400 tonnes per month during the first five months of this year.
"The award of the repair of the Maritime Jewel (Ex-Limburg) in late March 2003 has also kept our steel department very busy," explains Burgess. "To make sure we are able to deal with such huge repairs we have increased our steel stock quantity held in the yard to 14,000 tonnes," says Burgess. This is under constant review as the demand for thicknesses and grades varies continually.
To accompany this growth, the yard has been targeting more sophisticated repairs and in February/March 2003 it carried out a 10-ship, back-to-back programme of repairs to the United Arab Shipping Company?s fleet of 50,000 dwt container vessels. Burgess told The Motor Ship: "These ships arrived like clockwork at seven day intervals and each left on schedule within the allotted seven day repair plan." The yard has continued to attract gas carriers ? completing repairs to 18 in the last 12 months and in June 2003, the NYK line owned LNG carrier Broog sailed from the yard after completing a regular drydocking. During its stay, the underwater area was painted with Intersleek ? the silicone foul-release coating. "The demanding requirements for the application of Intersleek provided an opportunity for our coating department to demonstrate their expertise," says Burgess.
Dubai Drydocks has held the ISO 9000 quality standard since 1996 and was re-accredited to the new ISO 9001:2000 quality management standard in February 2002. It has also recently been successfully audited by the British Safety Council and is currently introducing the OHSAS 18000 Safety Management System. "Highly satisfactory results have been achieved from the many audits carried out by our regular customers, which include several of the world?s oil majors," explains Burgess.
In 1983 Dubai Drydocks repaired 34 vessels, rising to 254 in 2002. "Having taken an important slice of the world ship repair market since 1983, we are well placed to continue the drive forward and would like to thank our many clients who have helped make the first 20 years so successful," concludes Burgess. n


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