Planning for construction requires to know:
What you are going to build
How many units
Who is going to buy them
How much it will cost
Where the materials will come from
The first three topics concern the market for the vessel. As a starting point, the decision to build FRP boats in a developing country will be taken at government level following a requirement to augment traditional vessel sources. Outside assistance is usually called in at this stage to guide the officials delegated with the task of putting the plan into effect.
The type of vessel required will be one of the first questions to be addressed. The answer in this instance will be taken to be an FRP version of the local artisanal inshore fishing vessel. A combination of information from the national fisheries extension service and other departments within the Ministry of Fisheries will show what kind of vessels exist and in what quantities, how many people are employed in the industry, what percentage of the national catch this sector produces, and what is the source of new traditional boats, gear and motors. With this information, a plan can be made of what the new boat will look like, how many need to be built each year, the target price that owners might be prepared to pay and credit schemes devised as FRP boats are likely to be more expensive than traditional ones. Following agreement on the type and numbers of the vessel to be built, decisions can be taken on putting the vessel into production.
It is rare for the Government of a developing country to have sufficient foreign currency to risk competing in the commercial boatbuilding industry and requests for funding are usually addressed to an Aid Agency. To process this request a techno-economic study is required to support the proposal. It is normal for the funding agency to send in their own study team for confirmation before committing funds. Assuming only minor changes are required and that stage funding has been agreed, the recipient government and executing agency can put the plan into effect.
Flow chart for development and production
For the private sector market entrant the buffer of government support is removed. In this case involvement with FRP boats may begin with repairs, import of complete vessels or a joint venture/licensing agreement. Market research, a knowledge of import regulations and coordination with the local Fisheries Department are important in this case.
Because of long lead times design and equipment sourcing should begin at the same time as site construction or conversion. An acknowledged expert should be asked to provide a set of plans for the new boat following a visit to the region for direct talks and briefing. It is normally several months before plans are presented by the naval architect to the parties who will use them. A decision will have been taken previously on whether to build the tooling (plugs and moulds) locally or have it all prepared abroad by an experienced boatyard together with a completed example of the final vessel. This decision will be influenced by the size of the boat to be built and the competence of the local staff who would otherwise have to build it. In completely new enterprises it is adviseable to begin with small open boats and build up a level of expertise before attempting any complex craft.
If all the tooling is to be imported, then the contractor who receives the order should also be expected to train the foreman and manager who will eventually run the new yard. If the decision is taken to build all the tooling locally then this will need to be under the guidance of an expert and the whole procedure treated as a training exercise. It is unlikely that the cost effective production will be achieved during this start-up period which may necessitate funding subsidies before the yard can continue unaided. It cannot be understated that it is vital to the credibility of the boatyard that the first production design be a success. If a traditional and highly conservative fishing community decides against the early products of the yard then it could be an irreversible set back. For this reason, the likely choice of a first design will be an FRP vessel which will resemble as closely as possible the most widely used traditional boat. It is tempting to make technical innovations which inevitably make the boat more complex than the original, but this should be resisted until the yard has proved its product and has a good reputation. Once a basic model has entered the market and is well accepted then it can be used as a foundation on which the yard can develop a wider range of vessels.
It has been established that there is much to be needed by a developing country from overseas during the early stages of the boatyard. Import requirement will continue with each vessel ordered as resin, reinforcement, engines and equipment all come from abroad. The yard must then have steady access to foreign currency which will entail early discussions with the National Bank to explain this long term and continuing need. Without the Bank's agreement to provide this facility the yard is in difficulties before it has begun.
Between the yard and the vessel purchaser deals are struck in the local currency. Any agreement made can be much affected by currency fluctuations during the long lead times between order and delivery and should not be underestimated. It is also normal that FRP vessels cost more than wooden equivalents which requires much explanation to prospective purchasers who often have little understanding of offsetting the extra cost over the much longer life of an FRP vessel.
Credit schemes may be called for. Yards should not enter directly into offering credit as they are not banks. One solution is to arrange with the local Agricultural Development Bank for loans to be made to a fishermen's cooperative so that the yard receives payment without undue delay.