News Article 20/03/2009

Age is no barrier to high performance
(Lloyd's register, Bulk Carrier Focus, Issue 5 February 2009, p.14-18)

Superintendents, surveyors, continuity and a planned approach to maintenance have helped ensure that the 1983 Sunderland built bulk carrier ‘George Lyras’ successfully completed its fifth special survey in December. Many ships pass their fifth special survey but after 25 years of classification the Lloyd’s Register classed George Lyras did more than pass. ‘The ship is in excellent condition. She competes in the same market place as new ships,’ said Lyras Shipping Director, Dimitris Lyras.

Lyras Brothers, as the ship’s operators were then known, had a big site team in Sunderland with four or five technical and engineering superintendents in place at any time.

Dimitris Lyras was a young engineering graduate in his first year ashore with the company during construction of the George Lyras. He has clear memories of the experience. Why is the George in such good condition today? Effective co-operation between owners and class in a quality shipyard, said Mr. Lyras who feels, that this cooperation ensured the success of the project to build a good ship in the first place.

The construction and delivery of the George Lyras also marked the start of a highly effective approach to shipmanagement that has been, not only the foundation of the ship’s maintenance scheme, but of a whole new business called Ulysses Systems that created the ship maintenance systems used for the George Lyras.

Brian Purtle was the Lloyd’s Register surveyor involved early on in 1983 and he has been pleased to have had sporadic involvement with the George Lyras in his various roles up to the present day.

Mr. Purtle said, “Having joined Lloyd’s Register in late 1981 this was the first new construction project I was solely responsible for and I wanted to be certain that I did everything necessary to ensure the ship met all the requirements and both yard and owners would be satisfied with Lloyd’s Register’s service.”

Mr. Purtle, now Manager, Technical Performance Group at Lloyd’s Register, said the project was for two identical sister ships, with one significant difference. The second ship, the George Lyras, was to carry containers in the cargo hold. This was an area where the yard made the mistake of cutting lightening holes in the double bottom structure below the container fittings on the second ship.

“The approved plan clearly indicated these lightening holes were not permitted and I recall doing the survey of the double bottoms and drawing this to the attention of the yard – an early lesson for a young surveyor – always check the approved plans before you do the survey,” he said.

Mr Purtle added, “The fact that I am from a shipbuilding background in Newcastle and the ship was being built in Sunderland, plus and the traditional rivalry between the two areas, may in some way have added to the incentive I had to identify defects!”

Mr Purtle’s experience taught the company a lot, said Mr Lyras, “he helped us learn what to look for. The rules are one thing, making sure that they are followed is another”.

He went on to say: “Brian Purtle was an excellent surveyor to have at the building stage. He was meticulous and that gave him credibility, we were astonished how many more defects he found compared to us – even in a high quality shipyard”.

Twenty-five years on much has changed. Mr. Lyras is now a Director at Lyras Shipping and is an advisor to Ulysses Systems, the maintenance software provider. But some things remain remarkably unchanged.

The George Lyras is able to perform as she would have in her first years of operation in a world of tough port state control, tougher regulations and discriminating charterers. In dry dock in December 2008, the vessel required only minimal steel plate replacement ¬to tank tops in the cargo hold used for water ballast and to small areas on the hatchcovers. The double bottom tanks, wing hold tanks, ballast tanks all had the coatings intact, “no notable wastage at all”, said Mr Lyras. “They were in the best condition”, he added.

Captain Charalambos Binikos, known to his colleagues as Capt Babis, was with the new construction team in 1983 and was subsequently the ship’s first master for the first four years of its operations. With Lyras since 1964, he is now the company’s Technical Director and was responsible for the ship’s recent docking. He explained how ship’s maintenance system had worked. People were at the heart of the system’s successful operation.

The company has always used a small pool of Greek officers who regularly returned to the ship and Indonesian crew who, likewise, returned for many repeat voyages. Capt. Babis says that even today, twenty-five years after the vessel’s launch, 90% of the crew are the same as on its launch date. All of the shore based management staff served in the George at some point. Some were in the yard during construction.

Since its launch each item on the ship that is required to be checked periodically has been entered onto a list and checks of each item are regularly made, 95% of these items are checked over a period of four months and those checks are recorded on computer. And even when the crew changes the management system will have all the maintenance information recorded ready to be handed over to the new person handling the repair programme thus ensuring that the continuity in the system is maintained.

“We continue to monitor the vessel closely and we go aboard every three months looking around the ship, checking every corner and then we give instructions to the master,” Capt. Babis said. As the crew have been with the vessel for a long time they understand how Lyras operates its maintenance system for the ship. It all adds to the continuity of care.

Lyras Shipping has made certain that no short-term savings have been made in the maintenance of the George Lyras. “Whenever we have been told that we will need a part in six months we have always said, get it NOW,” said Capt Babis.

Even during this latest drydocking the company has been ‘hands-on’ in managing the repairs. “We didn’t just find a yard and give them the vessel to fix. We stayed on top of the work assisted by the Lloyd’s Register’s surveyors from the Piraeus office,” said Capt Babis.

So successful has the regime been that the George Lyras’ operating costs, including capital costs and repairs, were 20% less than the costs for her sistership, at mid-1990’s operating costs – a difference of $4,000/day compared to $5,000/day. “And the utilisation figures for the George Lyras were very high,” said Mr Lyras.

Capt Babis is confident in the maintenance regime that has preserved the George Lyras as a working ship and is proud that all of Lyras’ ships have been maintained in the same manner, and they too have been successfully preserved, he says. The vessel is able to regularly trade in all the areas that have the toughest port state controls, Northwest Europe and the US.

A few years ago the company was invited to attend the final docking of another Lloyds classed ship was called Orpheus and was built in HDW Hamburg in 1956, and built to a design bought from Blythwood in Glasgow where the company had build a tanker in 1953. Capt. Babis had also been master of this vessel. Lyras sold the ship in August 1977 and she was finally sent for demolition by the then owners in 2004. ‘We are not saying that the George might last for [48] years but she has many, many years ahead of her we hope”, says Dimitris Lyras.

Lloyd’s Register is proud to remain associated with the ship and thanks all at Lyras Shipping for the part they have played in supporting safe bulk shipping and the contribution they have made to shipmanagement.