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(civil engineering)
The construction of ships.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific & Technical Terms, 6E, Copyright © 2003 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



the branch of heavy industry engaged in the construction of ships. Shipbuilding as a group endeavor began in antiquity with the growing need for large vessels, and it subsequently developed in ancient Egypt, Phoenicia, and ancient China. In the Middle Ages significant numbers of ships were built in Byzantium, the Mediterranean countries, northern Europe, and ancient Rus’. Shipbuilding underwent intensive development in Portugal and Spain in the 15th and 16th centuries and later in England, the Netherlands, France, and other countries.

Methods of building ships changed comparatively little until the early 19th century, when metal came to be used in place of wood for the hulls of ships and mechanical engines (steam engines) replaced sails. These changes rendered previous techniques inapplicable, required the creation of calculation methods for testing strength, speed, and other characteristics of the ships being constructed, and demanded development of new production processes. Significant changes in the construction of steel ships were brought about by the introduction of electric welding in the first half of the 20th century to replace the riveting of hull structures, the increase in the sizes of ships, and the appearance of new types of vessels.

The shipbuilding industry includes shipyards (often with advanced machine building), design bureaus (abroad, usually owned by the shipyards), and scientific organizations with test basins, water tunnels for studying cavitation, and other equipment for research in shipbuilding. In the USSR, machine-building and instrument-making enterprises are also part of the shipbuilding industry.

A modern ship is one of the most intricate engineering structures, consisting of a large number of components—hull elements, power plant components, and electronic and other equipment—and constructed from an assortment of materials. Furthermore, the design requirements of ships are often contradictory, and engineering solutions that improve certain qualities may worsen others. A ship is operated—usually for 20–25 years—as part of a large transport, fishing, or other enterprise whose characteristics must be taken into account when the vessel is designed. These factors predetermine the complexity and high labor costs in shipbuilding as well as the long design periods, during which the information necessary to build the ships and to ensure the ship’s efficient and safe operation is obtained and recorded. Many countries, including the USSR, are developing automated, computer-based systems to improve the quality of work and reduce labor costs and production times.

The building of a modern steel ship includes preparing sheet and shaped material, cutting hull elements (principally by means of cutting torches), bending parts, welding the individual hull elements, manufacturing sections and blocks weighing up to 600 tons (at some yards, more than 1,000 tons) in preliminary assembly shops, assembling the hull from sections and blocks, launching the ship, outfitting with equipment, finishing interior areas, and testing ship equipment and the ship as a whole.

The hulls of large ships are assembled from sections and blocks in construction docks or on inclined, longitudinal building slips. Small and medium-sized ships are often built on slips. At many enterprises series construction of ships is performed on production lines, where the ship is built from sections and blocks and moved from one station to another, with a certain amount of assembly, installation, and other work being performed at each station. In order to accelerate the building process, a considerable amount of installation work is done during preliminary assembly by fitting sections and blocks with machinery, instruments, and other equipment. Integration of equipment is widely used; this speeds up assembly and improves quality because integrated equipment is assembled and tested in specialized shops rather than on board a ship under construction.

Special production processes are used in fabricating individual design elements, for example, superstructures, or hulls made entirely of lightweight alloys, reinforced concrete, or plastics. Given the wide assortment of but relatively low demand for materials and parts used in the construction of ships, the shipbuilding industry typically exhibits extensive cooperation, sometimes on an international scale, with many other branches of industry. Because of the significant differences in the design and equipment of different types of ships, the industry uses shipyards that are specialized according to the type of ship being built.

World shipbuilding is highly concentrated in a small number of countries. Approximately half of the total gross tonnage of ships built in the period 1965–75 was produced by Japan. The ten countries with the most highly developed shipbuilding industries account for more than 80 percent (by gross tonnage) of the world’s shipbuilding (see Table 1). Many countries build ships primarily for sale abroad: for example, 70 percent of the ships built in Spain in 1974 were for foreign sale, 65 percent in the Federal Republic of Germany and Japan, and 70 percent in Sweden (by gross tonnage of all ships built in the country). Shipbuilding for foreign sales is being developed in several countries that have a surplus of cheap labor, such as Brazil, Greece, Singapore, and South Korea.

Transport shipbuilding is developed in the USSR, Poland, the German Democratic Republic and Yugoslavia and, among the capitalist countries, in Japan, Sweden, the Federal Republic of Germany, Spain, France, and Great Britain. Floating equipment, such as drilling platforms, is built primarily in the USA, Norway, and Great Britain. Among the socialist countries, the leading builders of fishing vessels are the USSR, Poland, and the German Democratic Republic, while Japan leads the capitalist nations. Construction of river vessels is most highly developed in the USSR, Czechoslovakia, and the German Democratic Republic and, among the capitalist countries, the USA.

Table 1. Ships built during the period 1970–75 with a gross tonnage of more than 100 register tons
 Number of shipsGrass tonnage (million register tons)
Japan ...............1,0379928851,0801,04593010.10011.13212.85714.75116.89416.991
Sweden ...............3942423940471.5391.8632.0282.2902.1812.188
Federal Republic of Germany ...............1841781481341281641.3171.9681.3891.9262.1422.499
Spain ...............1301611612022302100.6490.8301.0831.3191.5611.593
Great Britain ...............1391221301191161141.3271.2331.1971.0671.1981.170
France ...............13170605654590.8591.0861.0301.1701.0461.150
Norway ...............1151211251271291380.7020.8840.8250.9840.9641.052
Netherlands ...............1011071121231271430.6320.5720.7500.8520.9421.028
Denmark ...............5256625963580.5180.7280.9521.0041.0760.969
Italy ...............4866585154410.5460.8720.9020.8370.9530.792
Total ...............2,8142,9172,7762,9992,9492,73020.98024.38826.74930.40933.54134.203

The construction of naval vessels and auxiliary naval vessels is most intensive in the capitalist world in the USA, France, and Great Britain.

In Russia, shipbuilding as a branch of industry emerged at the turn of the 18th century. The majority of the ships built were naval vessels, but it was in Russian shipyards that the first icebreaker (the Pailot, 1864) and the first ships with internal-combustion main engines (the river vessel Vandal, 1903, and the oceangoing ship Delo, 1908) were built.

In the years of Soviet power, shipyard operations were resumed after the Civil War and the economic dislocation of the mid-1920’s. In the succeeding decade, timber carriers, freight-passenger ships, refrigerator ships, tankers, and trawlers were built. A significant number of torpedo boats, patrol boats, minesweepers, cruisers, and submarines were built in the USSR before World War II. After the Great Patriotic War of 1941–5, several large series (in some cases numbering several dozen vessels) of tankers, timber carriers, freighters capable of operating in ice conditions, medium and large trawlers, and fish-processing ships were built. Combination river and oceangoing vessels, dry-cargo freighters with large deck openings, and high-speed river and oceangoing hydrofoils were designed and built for the first timejn large series. Shipyards involved in these design and production activities included the Baltic Shipyard and the Admiralty Association in Leningrad, the Krasnoe Sormovo Shipyard in Gorky, the Black Sea Shipyard in Nikolaev, and the Kherson Shipyard. Soviet shipyards have built the world’s first nonmilitary nuclear-powered ship (the icebreaker Lenin, 1959), the largest research vessel (the Kosmonavt lurii Gagarin, 1971), and the most powerful nuclear-powered icebreaker (the Arktika, 1974). Container ships and roll-on, roll-off ships, large tankers and bulk carriers, and factory ships for conducting commercial operations at great depth are being built. Some ships in the USSR are purchased by foreign shipping companies and shipowners.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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