“Our trainees are those, who depend on the skills learnt at our academy for their livelihood.”


G. A. Soman, Principal,
Don Bosco Maritime Academy
Don Bosco Maritime Academy has been set up to train prospective and serving seagoing personnel. How has been the journey so far?
We started the academy in 1998. There have been several ups and downs, as can be expected in a twenty one year period. But we have grown much in number of available machines and capable instructors, variety of welding processes / materials / positions offered. Today, we are a well known name, not only in Shipping but also in Shipyards, Heavy Engineering Industry, Automobile Industry, and also in organisations like NSDC, CII, and of course IIW. Some of the top names in Shipping Companies and Indian Industry and Shipyards from abroad have got their manpower trained through Don Bosco Maritime Academy (DBMA). DBMA has become “A Go To Institute” for companies seeking genuinely skilled and trained welders. Our certificate holds a lot of value and has become part of the Quality Document for Employment in number of companies.
Over the years, the number of trainees who have been through DBMA may be somewhere in the region of 30,000 + or so. If we add the number of candidates who came for Trade tests, we may easily touch a figure of 40,000 persons. Presently, the Shipyard and the Heavy Engineering Industry training has shrunk . But the Shipping Industry has lots of faith and trust in our training. Even companies having their own training institutes send their trainees to us! Essentially, our Trainees are ready for immediate deployment on Jobs.
What keeps the institute committed towards effectively training the students?
Our Trainees are not ITI or Engineering College Students, who are essentially studying, learning & getting trained for a certificate. Our trainees are those, who depend on the skills learnt at our academy for their livelihood. So our responsibility increases many fold. Many times the companies are sponsoring the training, but the companies are definitely interested to see, either a new skills learnt well or past skills upgraded at the end of the training. A large well known Indian private shipping company has got all their seafarers (800 + and still going on) trained at our academy, over past 3 years and they are very much pleased with the result. Such feedback is certainly Music to our ears, but we have worked with great commitment and dedication to achieve such results every time. The Trust / The Faith shown in our academy, motivates us and also keeps us committed.
What are the key issues that should be addressed in planning, designing, and evaluation of training programs?
The objective of the Training Programme, should be well defined in clear terms. The present status or level of skills, knowledge, exposure and experience of the trainees should be known. The available duration of training has to be considered, vis a vis specific inputs from the stakeholders who will be employing the trainees. Availability of sufficient relevant resources is essential. Evaluation should, as far as possible be, measurable& quantifiable. It should not be based on subjective (person/ assessor specific) assessment.
What is Don Bosco Maritime Academy’s effort towards welding segment?
We have two engines – Maritime Training is one and Welding Training is another. Many times the same candidate undergoes training in Welding as well as Maritime skills. We have been training Welders since 1999. We have been entrusted with the task of training India’s Candidates for WorldSkills competition for last 4 WorldSkills competition. In two competitions, our trainees have won the “Medallion of Excellence”. We have trained candidates for “ARC CUP” competition held in China every year. Our trainees have done well there too. Our Girl trainees have done well at competitions. We have been an active IC member of Indian Institute of Welding. And we have trained a few thousand welders in skills ranging from Basic to 6G/ 6 GR, not only for Shipping but also for Automobile, Heavy Engineering, Shipyards and other industries. The IIW training courses for Engineers and annual welding competitions are held at DBMA for umpteen years now.
What are the type of advance welding courses offered?
We offer courses in SMAW, GMAW, GTAW, FCAW upto 6G / 6 GR position and SAW in 1 G position. The training is available in C. Steel, S. Steel & Aluminium. We also train in Gas Cutting, Gas Welding & Brazing. DNV & IRS certification is available at DBMA.
 A graduate in Mechanical Engineering from I.I.T. Mumbai and a First Class MOT (Motors), you have sailed as Chief Engineer on a wide range of ships. Could you share some of the interesting anecdotes?
One Incidence that I remember is material failure near the Fuel injector Pocket of a Cast Steel Cylinder head of a Large Slow Speed Diesel Engine of a Large Oil Tanker. The ships I sailed were mostly large and this Cylinder head was about  4 Tons weight. This Engine had 3 Fuel Injectors in each cylinder head and to improve the combustion, a specially shaped pocket had been provided where the injectors were inserted – on an experimental basis. The provision of this pocket had reduced the thickness of the cylinder head casting near the injector’s nozzle. The Cylinder Head was water cooled while the Fuel Injector was hot as furnace oil (we call it heavy oil on ships) at 130 deg. C. flows through it. The high temperature gradient near the nozzle space made the shoulder where the injector was resting, weak. This resulted in a crack and eventually a hole through which very hot exhaust gas started leaking in the engine room under high pressure. We were sailing around Sydney and had to go to Hawaii, which means crossing the Pacific, a voyage of approx. 20 days. In all these engines, we can cut the fuel out, to an unit causing problems and it would not produce any power, anymore. But that reduces speed thus increasing the voyage duration and gives poor combustion as well as poor balancing of load across the engine. As the Cylinder Head was a huge casting , we could not take a chance by welding and filling up the hole by Cast Iron Electrodes. The hole was around 10 mm dia. but at an angle to the shoulder where the injector was seating. We made a copper washer of about 3 mm width, annealed it and put that before fitting back the Fuel Injector. The washer created an obstruction, in the flow of exhaust gas. As we increased the load gradually, the complete hole got filled up due to carbon as the result of poor combustion, due to part load. No Welding was required but the hole was sealed effectively by the Carbon soot with Copper washer as the support. We could complete the voyage in time. So at times simple ingenious solutions are required for what appears as a large problem. The cylinder head was taken to the engine maker’s workshop from Hawaii.
Any challenging project? How did you manage to cope up with the same?
At another time, we found cracks in welding near the top of the A Brackets of the Crankcase of a Large Slow Speed Diesel Engine of a Large Oil Tanker. In these engines, the crankcase structure is fabricated. The cracks were hairline, but across the Weld of horizontal and inclined members. This was a serious issue, but one that cannot be handled by ships staff during sailing. We identified, measured and arrested the cracks at the ends. We kept regular watch on them, regarding the increase in their length and number. Luckily the increase was very slow. After some 4 months, the Drydocking of the vessel was due. Once in Drydock, the crankcase was thoroughly cleaned of Lub Oil, well ventilated, and after taking all precautions, the cracks were ground across their length, creating a good “V” and welded slowly, without any quick rise in the temperature. Later on DPT was carried out satisfactorily. In subsequent sailings, we did not find any cracks.
You have a vast Shipyard Experience in Ship repairs (in Drydocks and Ashore) in Mazagaon Docks Ltd & Scindia Workshops. What type of welding processes are required for ship repair / Ship building?
I worked in Shipyard before 1978. In those days SMAW was prevalent and was almost an exclusive process used. But today all processes are being used, for increased productivity. So we have MIG/MAG, FCAW and SAW processes being used. Robotic welding has started becoming a norm especially, for repetitive welds, in Structures. Welding of Stainless Steel tanks etc. has also brought in GTAW process. We can thus say, all the processes, which are standard in Heavy Engineering are also used in Ship Repair / Ship Building.
What types of corrosion usually occurs in ship stern?
Corrosion, especially near ship’s stern is due to the presence of Bronze or similar Copper alloy Propeller, which forms a galvanic couple. This together with presence of seawater and dissolved oxygen in seawater is a strong source of corrosion. The motion of waves at all times and cavitation due to turning of propeller can be additional causes. The attachment/ growth of Calcium bearing barnacles (especially in warm tropical waters when the ship is at stand still) is another major worry. The first problem is largely tackled through Impressed Current / Cathodic Protection system, together with welding of large Sacrificial Zinc Anodes to the ship’s surface. Barnacles is tackled through special paints. Marine paints is a highly debated subject, as it can not only reduce corrosion but also help in reducing the frictional resistance to ship’s movement in seawater.
Could you brief us on an important ship repair project you worked upon? What has been your learning?
When the new generation Diesel engines, called super long stroke slow speed engines with better materials and higher operating parameters were introduced around 1987-88, there were Exhaust Gas Boilers (Economisers) having  three stages with finned  tubes (and water / steam mixture inside) were introduced. These were High, Medium and Low Steam pressure stages. As the exhaust gas was led to funnel, it would heat up H.P., M.P. and lastly L.P. stage (7 bar pr.).  But by the time the exhaust gas reached to L.P. stage, its own pressure & temperature used to be quite less. Thus to extract more heat, the fins spacing was much reduced on L. P. section. This resulted in high accumulation of Carbon, resulting in Fires due to incandescent accumulated carbon, in ports, when the exhaust gas (which does not support combustion) would stop flowing (Engines on Stop) and the natural draft will still be there. I joined a Very Large Oil & Ore Carrier vessel where such a fire had taken place, but luckily it was noticed in time and extent of damage was avoided. This entire L. P. section was replaced with a new one, in Japan over a period of two days. The new section was prefabricated as the vessel was new and all the drawings were available. Shipside Bulkhead Plate was cut and removed. Old L. P. section, was physically removed, new section put, installed, pressure tested and Bulkhead also put back and welded. Boiler was recertified. One of my learning was – putting better maintenance practices in place, so that such fires do not take place. These were – the sootblowing frequency for the section was increased, Regular high pressure water washing of section started at every opportunity, visual inspection windows were provided for detection of fire and high temperature alarms were put inside the boiler casing. Another of my learning was the homework and sustained follow up – detailed planning, organising and getting the repair completed in the stipulated time, in association with the Vendors. The vendors were Japanese Shipyard and they are very meticulous.
You are also a qualified International Welding Engineer (IWE) from International Institute of Welding. Thus, what is you say on the current welding market scenario in India?
As far as the Shipping companies are concerned, the current job market for Welders to join as Seamen, is good. The documentation rules for seamen have been simplified and relaxed. Thus many welders are coming to shipping for repair teams. As far as the general employment scenario in India is concerned, good welders (especially for S. Steel / Aluminium) with GMAW, FCAW & GTAW skills are still getting jobs, may not be in cities but definitely in industrial areas. Even in gulf and few other countries, there is a demand for welders with these skills. We all believe the recession is a temporary phenomenon. If Indian economy really starts growing, the way we are being told, there will be a continuously growing welding market. I don’t think Industry 4.0 will affect India in immediate future. But after 10 years, it may be a different scenario.
Do you believe that availability of skilled and trained welder’s manpower in one among the major challenge. Your  say.
Skilled & trained welder is definitely an essential resource. In India, even getting a Welder’s Qualification Certificate has become “Manageable”, without actually having the skills. When put to test, these welders can’t deliver. In many places substandard welding is accepted. This may go untreated for India market, but will definitely not be acceptable in international market. And as the economy grows, this is going to be a challenge for all of us.
 ‘Safety at work’ is one of the key considerations. What is Don Bosco MaritimeAcademy’s effort towards ‘health and safety’?
Welding is a “Dangerous” vocation at all times. Not only PPE but all essential leather and similar material protection for safety, from burning metal/ sparks, High intensity and flickering arc light, Grinding and cutting wheels, flying metal particles is provided at DBMA and its usage  is compulsory. We have an accident insurance in place for all, but right from the time that we started buying this on annual basis, we have not had a single claim so far.
‘Women in Welding’ is a growing trend. How does the institute motive this initiative?
It is a welcome trend. So far Mahindra have sent at least 10-12 girls to us for training and they were from different plants. Two of them were strong competitors at IIW Best Welder competitions at National level and one of them even went to China to take part in ARC CUP competition. We are trainers and we cannot employ the trained women welders – employment is the biggest initiative. But we do give some concession in the Basic Training course.
What are your future plans for the upliftment of the institute?
We recently got one of the Latest Lincoln Machine, which is a Multiprocess machine as is used for WorldSkills Competition. This is an expensive machine with “Output Waveform Control”, and was Sponsored by “MAHINDRAS” through their CSR activity. We are Grateful to “MAHINDRAS”, who have always been our strong support.
While we are known for our Welding Training, we also have excellent facilities for training in Machine shop, Structural/ Pipe & Pressure Vessel Fabrication, Scaffolding, Hydroblasting, Electro technology, PLC/ Hydraulics/ Pneumatics. For marine training for Engine Room & Deck Department we have large amount of Marine Equipment and a Steering Simulator. We have good air conditioned dormitories for 50 persons. Our Workshops and Training Yard are large. We are located in heart of Mumbai, with easy access by road and train.
In the coming days, we want to put our academy on Social Media. We are always checking out the new developments in Welding and Marine fields. Our focus is on “Hands On Workshop Skills Training” and we will try and take whatever such opportunities.
Closing Message
We will turn 22 years old in April, 2020. We look forward to new avenues in training areas. We have been trusted by the industry as a Training Academy, which delivers what is agreed upon, with all the dedication, passion for excellence with No Compromise at any time. We turn out Highly Skilled Technicians at all levels. But we can’t survive and grow without industry’s support. Let Us Join Hands, to raise the Standard of Indian Technicians Skills to the International level and even Beyond!