Tuesday, April 15, 2008

K-9 CORPS

K-9 CORPS: The radio audio of the interview with the welders who worked on the Hawai`i Superferry (HSf) last week is finally available on-line.

Joan Conrow did a masterful job describing the gist of the interview last Thursday, and a closer listening reveals more precise whats, hows and even whys of the boat’s apparent shoddy rush-job construction and recent dry-dock repairs.

That makes for a floating time-bomb, set to sink any time now.

HSF builder Austal USA’s Master Welder 1st Class Wayne Jenkins explained what happened with help from fellow welder Carolyn Slade.

Slade- also a welder was fired in part for complaining to supervisors over shoddy welds by unqualified welders in addition to what she alleges in a lawsuit to be race discrimination, including exposing her to OSHA-violating toxicities without safety equipment when white supervisors wore protection under the same circumstances..

Basically, Jenkins says, the hull of the Superferry is made up of two very thin aluminum plates that are welded together. They are a half-an-inch thick at the bottom and taper down to even thinner at the top. There are “structural welds” that hold the two plates of the hull together and they have to be done so there are no hairline cracks created anywhere around the weld- that’s why they’re supposed to be done by 1st class welders.

But the company- in an apparent attempt to shave costs and time- trained unskilled workers to be welders in 10 weeks* according to Slade- and then had them do the welds on the Superferry.

Jenkins said that when they did what they call “X-ray butt weld” inspections looking for hairline cracks at the point of the weld they found tons of them. When the welds are shown in the x-ray to be defective if they’re not fixed the cracks get bigger as the stress of operation proceeds, especially if there’s more stress than they it was designed for.

1st class welders got a look at them and saw the dangerous cracks. But rather than fixing the original welds Austal told workers to just smooth over the outside of the welds and cover them with insulation because no one would ever see them once the insulation was in place.

Fast forward to the Superferry bucking bronco videos and the apparent enormous stresses on the ship well before they ever considered dry-docking it.

The hidden hairline cracks started to widen due to the mechanical stresses and leaked..

Yes the hull was leaking water and you don’t have to be a master craftsman to know what that means- it means the boat was ready to sink

But the leaks appeared just a week or so before contracts were to be signed with the military to qualify for being one of two companies to compete to build as much as 350 of these half-a-billion dollar-now warships so the HSF people poured concrete into the leaks instead of announcing they would have to fix it.. That stopped the leaks for the week but didn’t fix the underlying problem of the expanding cracks where the faulty welds were-apparently they were leaking already

So it kept leaking as the stresses built up along the cracks even more because pouring concrete in the leaks actually made the problem worse and only bought time by covering them up

The morning after the contract with Austal was approved by Congress. HSf announced they were “moving up” their scheduled yearly inspection although no one had ever heard that there was going to be any down time with the dependability of the ferry for agricultural use being a main selling point in the State’s backing $40 million. or more worth

So all fixed now, no?

Well, according to Jenkins there was no way that the team of repair persons- even though they sent a second team because the problems were so serious- could have possibly pulled out all the insulation, examined and re- x-rayed the welds and fixed all of them in the time they were in dry-dock- it was a physical and temporal impossibility.

They didn’t even have enough time to even remove the insulation much less do the work that was necessary- that is if there even was a way to fix the welds much less the gaping hole in the one-piece aluminum hull done during an incompetent dry-docking procedure

According to Scott Mijares, who hosted a KKCR radio program on the subject today, he attempted to get comments on all this from HSf spokesperson Laurie Abe or any other HSF people like Garibaldi or O`Hallerin and essentially came up with “no comment”

So a floating disaster is now plying the seas between O`ahu and Maui waiting for the second Superferry which, according to Jenkins has been rushed even more than the first to get it out of the way for the new prototype warship that has to be produced to beat out another firm for the “really big” contract, the hundreds of millions so far essentially being peanuts

And that’s more of the story of your Hawai`i Superferry.

Perhaps we can get all those Honolulu Superferry Supporters Association people to join Governor Linda Lingle, Senate President Colleen Hamabusa and all the legislators who voted for “Act 2” to get out there and participate in a final Act 3... go down with your ship. It will solve a lot of problems all at once. While they’re there they can inspect the lack of lifeboats that has been reported in a real life test of their little boondoggle.

*Correction: 4/16/08: This article originally contained an error in fact. The reported training period for Austal welders was 10 weeks, not 10 days as we said. We regret not being able to read out own notes sometimes. The piece above has been corrected.

3 comments:

MauiBrad said...

Andy, nice summary of the interview. Just a few comments on your quotes:

Andy: "But the company- in an apparent attempt to shave costs and time- trained unskilled workers to be welders in 10 days according to Slade- and then had them do the welds on the Superferry."

I think it is a 10 week training program by the Alabama Industrial Development Board that Swan Cleveland mentioned. Still not complete training.

Andy: "But the leaks appeared just a week or so before contracts were to be signed with the military to qualify for being one of two companies to compete to build as much as 350 of these half-a-billion dollar-now warships..."

The JHSV initial design contract has three competitors for as many as 8 to 10 vessels that will cost probably less than $100 million each. The LCS contract (over budget at more than $500 on the first ship) has two competitors, and the first phase of the contract was awarded a few years ago. The first LCS ship "Independence" will be finished by Austal-USA in a little less than two weeks. The Navy would like to have 55 LCS vessels which would be a $25 to $30 billion dollar contract.

Andy: "The morning after the contract with Austal was approved by Congress..."

The Navy awarded the 3 design contracts for the JHSV. Congress would be consulted again later for funding. The first 2 LCS ships already had Congressional funding approval.

Andy: "...HSF spokesperson Laurie Abe or any other HSF people like Garibaldi or O`Hallerin"

Lori Abe and O'Halleran.

Andy: "...While they’re there they can inspect the lack of lifeboats..."

The Coast Guard says the Alakai has enough inflatable liferafts not in view. Wayne Jenkins' mention of the "hairline cracks" from the original welding process needing to be inspected with x-ray equipment and restatement of possible lack of adequate inspection of damage to cross-supports up in the ship by the blocking mistakes would seem to be cause for concern and possibly further inspection or full explanation by the Coast Guard.

Aloha, Brad

Andy Parx said...

Oops- yes 10 weeks- can’t read my own notes sometimes. And thanks Brad for the spelling of the names and other details.

As far as the Congressional approval I probably oversimplified but the go ahead to build the prototypes literally came the day before the announcement of the need for repairs to the rudder. This was after they had been out of service for supposed weather conditions preceding the approval and, if you check their press releases you’ll see that they then “discovered” the cracks around the rudder just hours after the article on congressional approval was published.

MauiBrad said...

I need to correct myself too:

From today's Navy Times: http://www.navytimes.com/news/2008/04/defense_lcs_OK_041608/

"General Dynamics, Lockheed’s competitor in the LCS program, also is moving ahead with its ship, the Independence (LCS 2). Stiller said the ship is about 68 percent complete, and Austal USA, the ship’s builder, is planning to put the Independence in the water next Saturday at its Mobile, Ala., shipyard. Delivery is expected in December, Stiller said."

So it won't be finished, just floated later this month.

Aloha, Brad