Does the history of other industries show the path of the future?
For some time I have used the analogy that the marine industry is 30 years behind the automotive industry, which in turn is 30 years behind the aerospace industry.
To combat the obvious reply that 'this is just the way it is' and that there is no need to change, I had a picture of the McLaren Formula One pit in 1970 and also in 2002. Imagine telling the handful of guys working in a dusty garage on a car resting on what looked like 2 clothes driers with a single filament bulb hanging from the ceiling, that in 30 years time they would be working on a spotless tiled floor, with a carbon fibre lighting gantry and a machine to pre-heat the hydraulic oil before starting the engine.
(The aerospace guys probably already has that in the 1970's)
In Britain, the aerospace industry probably modernised into its current form in the 1960's, consolidating into a smaller number of manufacturers and implementing systems and standards that wouldn't be seen in car factories for 30 years. Similarly, by 1990 the cull of small British car firms seemed almost complete. TVR survived for many years and Morgan is an enigma. No longer do the Japanese admire the Longbridge workers for fettling parts on the assembly to make the fit.
At the moment I think aircraft and car production has weathered the current economic climate better than expected. Unfortunately some more boat yards are likely to close before things get better. Does history show the future for the marine industry?
Will a strong industry in the next decade consist of fewer boat manufacturers? Will they be using modern systems and practise? Will they be more efficient and profitable?
750 nautical miles, over 4 days & across 3 countries.
This race pushed crews and their machines to the limit.
The Dyena Acceleration Recorder will provided information on the vessels position, performance and shock loads, supplying important data for research into effects of impact and vibration exposure. Accelerations are recorded alongside GPS data such as position, speed, heading and time, to provide a complete record of the race.
Dyena and Alpha Marine Consultancy collaborated to monitor Cinzano 558, providing daily updates of the vessels progress so that all race fans could share the experience as the crews of the ultra-endurance Venture Cup hammer across, through and sometimes under the waves in a brutal, bone-shaking marathon that often lasted more than 5 hours a day, every day, pushing men and their machines to the limit. Boats and crews alike experienced ankle-smashing and hull-snapping forces in excess of 30g, with hearts beating at 150+ bpm, hour after hour, wave after wave.
For many years now we have acknowledged that professional powerboat users face an increased risk from injuries associated with the constant impacts they receive during their daily activities. It is not hard to imagine that constantly driving a rigid hull through a choppy sea will result in some uncomfortable moments, but we continue to ignore the issue.
The term 'Professional' is important. If someone in their spare time wants to drive at maximum speed, exposing them to a risk of injury, then so be it. But the Professional user is not working for fun. They are out in all weathers using the boat as a tool to get them from A to B or to perform tasks. They should be protected from harm the same as a worker in any other industry.
There are plenty of parallels that could be drawn from other professions. If a delivery driver or mail-man reported to his management that he wasn't able to reach a remote farm without risking a back injury on the un-made road, no one would dream of telling him to try anyway. Unless they provided him with a better vehicle suited to the terrain there would be a public outcry, Union strikes and court cases.
A company has the responsibility to protect its workers, overriding the employees enthusiasm if required. We would not let a young worker go to sea without a life jacket, even if they maintained that they were a champion swimmer, so why do we continue to let powerboat operators risk serious injury and turn a blind eye towards it?
An employer's duty of care requires them to ensure that all passengers and crew are safe and it is in their interests to monitor the situation not only from a health and safety perspective, but also to expose any driving habits or situations that may be putting other staff at risk. A crew member or passenger with an injury caused by an overzealous or unlucky skipper could result in a financial loss for the company and a subsequent investigation by the relevant Safety Executive and insurers.
With boats becoming faster and personnel resources reduced, there is even more pressure on professional marine operators to push the limits of their craft and crew. Unless they can invest in more boats and staff, the ability to monitor the health of their workers is paramount. Impact exposure and WBV are not going away and ignoring them will increase the chance of human injury or commercial liability. So it should be addressed now before it is too late!
James Glover CEng, MIMechE, MRINA is the Technical Director of Dyena. He is a naval architect and design engineer with over 15 years experience in automotive, motorsport and high speed marine craft design.