Meet The Experts

The SeaKing Group was established in April 2001; specialising in marine electrical engineering. SeaKing’ targets maintenance and project work for commercial ships, ferries, naval vessels, cruise ships and superyachts. The company work across Europe, Asia and the Americas covering many market segments of the marine sector. Over the years SeaKing have so-far employed over 100 apprentices. SeaKing is certified through Bureau Veritas for the ISO9001 and 14001 management standards.

Andy Spicer

QA Manager

The role of Quality Assurance within Marine Engineering.

We spoke to Andy Spicer QA Manager for SeaKing, to grasp an insight into his role and what effects the recent pandemic has had.

Q1: How long have you worked in this position & What is your background?

A: I joined SeaKing in March 2008 as an electrician, having just left the Royal Navy after 24 years’ service as an electrical engineer. By mid-2009, I moved to the technical department writing the Installation specifications for the Royal Fleet Auxiliary vessels. I shifted to SeaKing’s remote site in Cammell Lairds in 2012 where I started to improve the Quality Assurance & Control of the work that Seaking were conducting on the vessels that came into the dockyard for repairs and maintenance. Over the last eight years, this role has expanded to include not only the QA & QC, but also the Health & Safety and Environmental aspects for the company.

Q2: What are your main responsibilities in your current role?

A: On a day-to-day basis, I collate and catalogue all the information that comes in from an installation or work package, this can be anything from test sheets, data sheets, manuals, to original ships drawings or new drawings created by our Drawing Office. All of these need to be checked that the correct information is shown, within the tolerances set for the testing and that the drawings or the manuals are also at the correct modification state for the equipment they refer to.

These are all collated in to one package which would then be handed over to the customer on completion of all works, my aim is to ensure that Ships Staff have as much information as possible on any installations that have been fitted, so that in the rare case, that there is an issue with a piece of equipment whilst they are at sea, they can fix it themselves, without having to delay or divert the ship where possible.

Secondary to this, is supplying Technical advice, from the location of a particular piece of equipment onboard a vessel, where equipment power supplies are fed from to what standard an installation must conform to or identifying 60 pin Military connection plugs and then showing how they are fitted to a cable.

Additionally, I also ensure that the company follows the following standards:

    • ISO 9001 (Quality Management), by improving the product and the information package that we provide to the customer but also to give the best value for money, and by ensuring that the correct processes are followed to supply a repeatable consistent high quality of work.
    • ISO 14001 (Environmental Management), by reducing our footprint caused by transportation, waste, and disposal of redundant equipment, by working more efficiently, reusing equipment and materials where possible, but more than anything else ensuring that we leave a good legacy for the generations to come after us.

I also liaise with an external Health & Safety provider and members of staff from all levels, to make sure that our staff are safe and happy, to ensure they have the correct equipment and better conditions to work in, Seaking are also currently working towards obtaining the ISO 45001 (Occupational Health and Safety) certification, and this will have the benefit of showing that SeaKing are serious about improving employee safety, reducing workplace risks, and creating better, safer working conditions, for not just our employees but also sub-contractors and others that are working around us.

Q3: Tell us about a typical day in QA.

A: Very busy, I could be dealing with the QA packages for up to five ships at any one time, and they may not necessarily be in Cammell Lairds Dock Yard or even within the River Mersey docks, they may be at either end of the UK or sometimes in a completely different country altogether, whilst being asked for information on an installation that took place 10 years ago for a particular vessel, and then having to stop everything to provide 1st aid for an injury.

A normal day goes fast, but you still must concentrate on the minute details, whether that is recalling test equipment to send it away for calibration, making sure that staff are sent for eye tests and provided with prescription safety glasses if they need them, to ensuring that the correct facilities and equipment are installed, which follows current legislation, for a disabled toilet on a passenger ferry.

Q4: What are the most common issues around QA that you encounter?

A: Tracking down information, occasionally test sheets will come in with missing details. It might just be which test equipment that has been used or the type of cable that has been inspected and tested, but each of these are important, as it will affect traceability later or being able to confirm that the test results are correct.

Q5: Has the pandemic affected your role? If yes tell us how?

A: Due to the Ministry of Defence contracts, we have been classed as essential workers, so life has continued as normal as it could be but with changes and adaptations, the major impact was creating space for everyone, so more mess huts and offices had to be brought into our remote site in Cammell Lairds to ensure that everyone could both work in the offices and have their breaks with as much room as possible around them.

Q6: How do you see the Marine engineering industry changing?

A: There has been a significant increase in shipping being used for various purposes over the last ten years and this will continue in the future, from Cruise ships to Cargo ships; the River Mersey alone can have over 100 Cruise ships visiting over the course of the year and Seaforth Docks can now receive Cargo ships carrying up to 6,500 Shipping Containers onboard.

But because of Environmental concerns, all the shipping lines are having to learn how to reduce the emissions from the ships engines, so alternative power systems are being looked at or existing systems are being converted.

Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) is a choice of alternate fuel because of its environmental friendliness, but it can cause issues for storage, especially onboard the ships, so the favourite at present is integrated electric propulsion technology, which is where gas turbines or diesel generators or both generate electricity which can then be used to power electric motors which in turn drive the propellers.

This all requires much more technology to be fitted onboard to control the systems, the ships may require less crew these days, but the engineers onboard and ashore need to be more highly trained with diverse skills to be able to use and support these systems.