Architect’s oversight

A naval architect entered into a contract with a shipyard to design the structure and access arrangements for new lifeboats and their davits to be fitted to a specific vessel.

The naval architect undertook the design analysis using data received from the manufacturer of the lifeboats and produced design drawings.

The naval architect understood that the yard would seek classification society approval of these designs before commencing the build work under the terms of the yard’s contract with the ship owner.

However, due to time restraints and pressure from the ship owner, the yard decided to commence building prior to obtaining approval from the classification society. The lifeboat support structure was manufactured and installed by the yard according to the naval architect’s design. The yard subsequently noticed that the davits were flexing under operation even without the lifeboats.

An internal investigation within the naval architect’s office determined that an error had occurred whereby figures had been entered incorrectly into their computer programme. Information provided by the lifeboat manufacturer in kNm had not been converted into kNmm as required by the naval architect’s computer programme. The result was that calculations were out by a factor of 1000. This error was not identified during the naval architect’s quality assurance process and as a result, the structural platform, as designed and built, was not fit for purpose.

The yard raised a formal complaint advising the naval architect that the work on the davit support structure had to be rectified because of their error. A few months later they claimed that rectification had cost £347,254.

ITIC assessed the claim and was also able to raise arguments that the contract terms excluded some components of the claim and that the yard should not have commenced construction before the classification society had approved the designs.

A settlement was eventually agreed at £255,000.

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