My first experience in dealing with Class was a steep learning curve, and one that took the communication and collaboration aspect of my job to another level.
On this particular project, the structural design and drawings for the aluminium cat were supplied by a world-class naval architecture firm, but it was up to me to submit them to Class and deal with the day to day feedback and comments surrounding the drawings. The bulk of the drawings were accepted as is, but there were a number of details that resulted in open comments. Once I had downloaded the comments I would spend hours researching the applicable Rules, gaining an understanding of what needed to be done to satisfy the comments. Thereafter I would either forward them to the Naval Architect, or put together a drawing myself with the missing information required. These drawings were either related to structural drawings, electrical design, systems design or so on. I quickly learned that every shell plate penetration would be scrutinized, particularly bilge outlets, exhaust outlets and all other overboard discharges. Handrails were another area that were heavily scrutinized. But of course the single biggest aspect was…brackets!
I can completely understand the position of Class, especially relating to any aspect of the vessel that could affect its safety and seaworthiness. And their need for absolute confidence in the integrity of the vessel before they could endorse it.
None the less, it was not an easy job, especially relating to having to have some form of redundancy for pretty much every system on the vessel. And as this vessel was under 24m, very often each chapter of the rules would contain some dispensations which could be used as an alternative. I could see the need for these dispensations, as on a vessel this size it would be physically impossible to install the same amount of equipment as on a tanker, for example.
During this project I formed good relationships with the Senior Engineer and the Surveyor. If there was a particular design issue the Senior Engineer would call me on my mobile and discuss it with me, making my job all the more pleasant.
Looking back, my skills in two areas were increased by my experiences with this project. The first was in my understanding and interpretation of the Rules, and the forms that my drawings and documentation would have to take in my submissions. The second was in communication: with Class, the Naval Architect, the electrical designer, the factory floor and the equipment suppliers (and no doubt a few more). Forming good relationships with all these entities benefited me greatly, as they were all able to help me a great deal.
By the time the last open comment was closed out, I felt that I was in a much better position than when I started. And if I were to repeat this process I have no doubt that the entire project would be that much smoother.