A ship is a complicated machine which is able to maintain her balance as she floats in water and is able to move, propelled by
engine or sails, to perform tasks and transport freight and people
In order to do her work effectively and achieve her purpose, the ship must have a strong hull (being exposed to constant twisting and bending), good sea-going qualities and technical equipment (to transport goods and provide safety aboard). She must match the standards set by international regulations.
The ship is built in a shipyard which has all the raw materials and equipment (e.g. slipways, floating and dry docks, numerous cranes, machinery, storehouses) required for the construction of the vessel. There are also shipbuilding sheds each with a different function - for instance, the ship-drawing office prepares a project of the ship whereas the engineering workshop takes care of building the vessel.
As a matter of fact, the very first step of this complex process is done in the office of the naval architect. This person is required to make a configuration of the ship according to planned usage, size in relation to destination harbors, what cargo she will transport and how much, at what speed she will sail, etc. It is the same when you want to buy a computer and the experts ask you why you need it for and how much you can afford to pay so that they can best serve your needs by offering you a satisfactory configuration.
So, instructions are received, contracts are signed and a complete picture of the ship is provided.
We move on to the mould loft - the place where the lines of the ship are laid down. This is a kind of a preliminary preparation for the actual construction. Generally speaking, an exact line-plan of the ship (usually one tenth of the full size) is drawn and laid on the floor of the mould loft. Then, with the use of sophisticated devices and digital computers, the plan is projected full size. This way, templates are formed according to which structural elements of the ship are cut.
Next come the shipbuilding sheds (workshops). The ship construction starts with the hull which is divided into frames or sections. Each shed has a particular section to work on by cutting precise beams and plates as shown on the template. What follows is the procedure of assembling these sections into blocks which contain the machinery, piping and other required equipment. The assembly of parts is made possible by the method of welding which has been in use since 1920s. Its advantage over riveting is that due to welding larger components (for example, the bow) can be put together rather than being done part by part.
We are now arriving at the building berths (also stocks or slipways). This is the final stop of our tour in the shipyard - here all the blocks are fitted together and the ship slides down the stocks to enter the water. (Very large ships make an exception - they are usually launched at docks). After the ship is launched, she goes through final stages of completion. One of these operations is testing of the ship and her systems.