Long Ranger, by Capt. Bill Pike, Photography by Jim Raycroft (continued)
Vietnam? Or Holland?
A few months ago, I took Fritz up on his invitation, joining him for the better part of a day while we inspected the first Vietnamese shipyard I’d ever visited. And, sure enough, the experience was indeed instructive.
For starters, Song Thu was immense—reportedly its chain-link fences encompass more than 46 scrupulously clean, highly manicured acres. And what’s more, I soon learned it was affiliated with Damen Group in Holland and had been for more than 11 years, according to executive vice president Bui Hoang Hai. Damen, of course, is one of the largest, most respected shipyard operations in the world.
“This is a Damen project,” said Hai as we walked past the towering, dark-blue, distinctively shaped bow of a ready-to-launch, 50-meter “Sea Axe” Fast Crew Supply Vessel, with a steel hull, an aluminum superstructure, a 6,000-horsepower Caterpillar powerplant, and a reported top speed of 30 knots.
“Please tell Mr. Hai,” I asked our translator, “that his shipyard looks like a shipyard in Holland—I have not seen such safety-consciousness, attention to detail, cleanliness, and mechanized sophistication in a shipyard since my last trip to the Netherlands.”
“Mr. Hai is pleased,” said the translator, as our host smiled. Obviously he was.
But hey, I wasn’t exaggerating. Already, we’d seen a phalanx of administration buildings that looked new and impeccably cared for; a long lineup of spotlessly clean, meticulously organized sheds containing some 11 different vessels abuilding (from Azimuthing Stern Drive or ASD tugs to giant DP-capable oil field supply vessels); several shops containing relatively new machines capable of computer-cutting and/or bending most metals with microscopic precision; a room full of young engineers working with sophisticated CAD programs; and, last but not least, a giant 4,500-ton Rolls-Royce Syncrolift.
“I know the yard is impressive,” said Fritz as we examined a small, freshly painted tanker awaiting delivery to Australia’s Macleay Oil Company. “But what’s even more impressive is the management team here—these people run a tight ship.”