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Life in a newbuilding Site Office

Ever wondered what it’s like working at a newbuilding site office in a shipyard?

When coordinating the construction of a vessel on behalf of its Principals, Thenamaris establishes a Site Office within the relevant shipyard at the start of the Steel Cutting phase of the newbuilding process.  The Site Office will then remain in place until the newbuilding is delivered. Over the past 20 years, Thenamaris employees have coordinated newbuilding constructions at Site Offices in 17 different shipyards in three different countries.

A typical Site Office team is composed of a Site Manager, Hull, Paint, Machinery, Electrical and Outfitting Inspectors, and a Site Office Administrator.  Site Office teams are multi-national by their very nature, including Greeks from the Thenamaris office working together with individuals from the country in which the shipyard is based, as well as individuals who have focused their careers on working in Site Offices around the globe.

Vasilis Valsamis, currently a Thenamaris Superintendent Engineer, lived and worked in Thenamaris Site Offices for more than 10 years in total.  His first appointment was in 2002 at the Huyndai Mipo Dockyard in S. Korea where he worked as the Chief Engineer responsible for supporting the construction of SEACROWN.  Following his first posting abroad, Vasilis then worked in 6 additional Site Offices in shipyards in S. Korea and in China and supported the construction of 14 more vessels, ranging from Aframax tankers to Very Large Crude Carriers.  Vasilis held different roles during his tenure in Site Offices, including Machinery Supervisor and Site Manager.

“The biggest learning for me from my experience in Site Offices is the importance of understanding and embracing the cultural framework and the business rules of the specific country”, explains Vasilis.  “Especially in China, one must adapt to the Chinese way of negotiating, and also understand the vital role that relationships play in business.  Another interesting element when working in a Site Office in China is the big contradictions: you see highly advanced oil rigs being built and at the same time ten thousand workers biking around on rusty bikes.”

Given the scale of the vessel construction being undertaken, shipyards tend to be huge facilities and can be dangerous unless the right precautions are taken.  As in any construction site, when circulating within the shipyard it is absolutely imperative to exercise caution and to wear the necessary Personal Protective Equipment at all times.  Vasilis also explains, “When working in a Site Office, one needs to embrace safety and quality principles wholeheartedly. Physical endurance and mental resilience are also required, as well as a daily routine that consists of a ‘disciplined’ personal life to keep a clear state of mind.”

“But the biggest challenge for me was to manage the complexity of a shipbuilding project,” explains Vasilis. “To achieve this, effective planning, scheduling and budgeting is essential.  There are so many aspects to consider: construction quality as per the company’s standards and project specification, the environmental impact, safety during duty, but also issues such as the availability, transportation and accommodation of the project’s numerous human resources.”

Living away from family and friends is difficult.  However, the new acquaintances and friendships that tend to develop, the team’s support of one another, and the technology that enables Site Office personnel to contact their friends and family more frequently than was once possible all help.  And despite its challenges, life in a Site Office offers the possibility to discover a new culture and understand and appreciate the local tradition, history, food, and language of another country.  For many individuals, it is a unique once in a lifetime experience.

In addition to the personal development that individuals gain from time spent working in a newbuilding Site Office, such an assignment is also considered a key step in the career of individuals aspiring to become Thenamaris Technical Superintendents.  It is strongly believed that the experience engineers gain when supporting the construction of newbuildings gives them invaluable hands-on experience that will greatly facilitate them in their future roles and responsibilities.

“Working in a Site Office rewards you in many and different ways”, says Vasilis.  “You gain significant experience and knowledge of shipbuilding.  And very importantly, you also develop strong moral qualities in your character from the continuous effort to communicate with your multicultural teams, understand, motivate, and reward them with kindness and without prejudice.”