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WBS for Ship Repair Projects

A WBS or Work Breakdown Structure is a powerful project management tool for project planning and control. This tool can be used in Ship Repair projects and get advantages from it. This tool is the backbone for a project and every ship repair project MUST have it.

This article will explain what a WBS is, its benefits, a practical approach on how to create the WBS for a real ship repair project and how to integrate this tool with the project schedule. The scope of this article is not to explain the quality aspects for a WBS or how to schedule; the intention is to demonstrate the value of this Project Management tool for ship repair projects.

What’s a Work Breakdown Structure (WBS)?

According to the PMBOK guide – fifth edition (2013): “a WBS is a hierarchical decomposition of the total scope of work to be carried out by the project team to accomplish the project objectives and create the required deliverables. The WBS organizes and defines the total scope of the project, and represents the work specified in the current approved project scope statement”. (p. 126).[1].

Another very practical definition of the WBS from the author of the book Secrets to mastering the WBS in real world projects, Liliana Buchtik (2010): “The WBS is what to deliver. It’s not the how or when you will deliver it. It isn’t what to do. It isn’t the list of activities or the schedule that tells you how to execute the work and what tasks you need to deliver the project’s end result. It’s a fundamental tool to properly manage the project scope”.(p. 2).[2].

Below you will find a sample in a simple way on how a WBS looks like.

WBS sample

WBS – Top 20 Benefits

The WBS is a fundamental tool for any project regardless the size or complexity. In this section you will realized all the benefits that this tool can bring to your projects:

  1. Understand the work at early stages
  2. Avoid uncontrolled changes (ship repair nature is to have changes in scope)
  3. Deliver what is expected
  4. Understand areas with limited understanding (work in house / contactors)
  5. Visualize internal and external work
  6. Visualize project boundaries and manage complexities
  7. Provide a baseline for scope change control
  8. Assign and explain work better
  9. Enhance project planning
  10. Avoid re-planning and detect early warnings
  11. Build strong foundations for acquisitions
  12. Improve communications
  13. Achieve a common understanding of project work
  14. Improve project Reporting
  15. Gain stakeholder’s buy in
  16. Monitor, measure and control work better
  17. Inspire confidence and gain credibility
  18. Improve future projects (templates, documentation)
  19. Compare scope among projects
  20. Integrate scope with time and cost

This Top 20 WBS benefits are described by the author of the book Secrets to mastering the WBS in real world projects[3].

For ship repair projects the most of these benefits can be reflected if you start to use the tool as mandatory for project planning.

Practical approach to create a WBS for ship repair projects

This approach to create a WBS for Ship Repair projects is based on my experience. For WBS construction you need to follow this 4 steps:

  1. Collect Input documents
  2. Divide the ship per locations and systems
  3. Define the software to be used
  4. Create the WBS.

Collect Input documents

There are some important documents that you need to collect before to start the WBS creation, those documents are:


The Tender is the initial quotation that is given to the Project Manager from the commercial department to start to analyze the jobs and assign cost numbers ID, this Tender is the input to the requirement list.

Requirement List

The Requirement List is created from the TENDER. Once the Project Manager has reviewed the jobs and assigned the costs ID, he can start to create the requirement list. This list contains a summary and easy way to control the jobs stated in the TENDER. The requirement list has but is not limited to the following information:

  • Item: just for numbering identification
  • Requirement or Task: the job stated in the tender (e.g. Steel renewal in Cargo Tank #6 Stb – 2Ton, Hull washing, Docking, etc.)
  • Location: related to the place in the vessel where the job will be executed (see Figure 3. Ships division per location and system)
  • Job Type: related to the nature of the job itself (i.e. piping, testing, blasting and painting, steel, miscellaneous, mechanical, etc.)
  • Cost ID or Job number: the shipyard number defined for cost control
  • Responsible or Trade: Production department or contractor responsible of the deliverable
  • Status: Not started, pending, in progress, finished, cancel.

Requirement listOnce you create the list you can add a filter and organize your list per criteria as needed. This list is not only for WBS creation, for project control as well.

Divide Ship per Location and systems

This step is very important because it let you organize the WBS in such way you can have a better view & control of the project, also for scheduling process you can plan better.

If you divide the vessel per locations and systems you can start to think in subprojects e.g. Engine Room, Main deck, Hull, etc (see figure 3. Ship division per location and system). One of the Sub Projects can be the Engine Room where you can have many type of jobs (i.e. cleaning, piping, valves, main engine, generators, etc.) that need to be scheduled and coordinated in order to avoid interferences and extra costs. For example, the sub project ENGINE ROOM could have jobs or deliverables such as, Sea Water pump overhauling, Sea water pipe section renewal, Sea valves overhauling, Main Engine overhauling, etc, on this example you organize the WBS according to sub projects (see figure 3) and its deliverables (see figure 2), so you will have a global view of the sub project – deliverables and then you can plan and decide if all of them can start right away or if there are predecessors between them. Sometimes this is very valuable for small vessels like tugs where the space is not enough to plan all the trades at the same time.

Dividing the ship per location or system can be done at your own convenience, also depends on the jobs requested and the type of vessel. The WBS for ship repair projects is a combination between areas and systems. It is not wise to create the WBS only per system because normally in ship repair environments you repair sections or defined items of a ship system it is not usual to repair or renew the whole system, so that’s why it’s better to define the approach as a combination of both.

Ship divided per location

Sub Projects

This Sub projects are not compulsory for WBS creation, each Project Manager can divide the vessel at their own convenience and also depends on the vessel type. For this article a tanker vessel has been selected. The sub projects shown in figure 3, for me are the most commons but are not limited to:

  1. Drydock: all related to docking, undocking and general services
  2. Hull: related to Blasting and paint (top side, vertical and flat bottom), steel renewal, Sea chests, bow thruster, stern thruster, bottom plugs, thickness measurement, anodes, etc.
  3. Propulsion: all related to tail shaft, intermediate shaft, thrusters (i.e. azimuth), stern tube, seals, bearings and propellers
  4. Rudder: All related to rudder and steering systems
  5. Engine Room: all related to the equipment and jobs in the engine room (piping, valves, generators, main engine, cleaning, cranes, insulations, pumps, electro motors, etc.)
  6. Tanks or Cargo holds: all related to the internal jobs in vessel tanks (ballast tk’s, Fuel tanks, cargo tanks, sewage, fore peak, chain lockers, etc.) or cargo hold internal jobs in vessels like container ships or bulk carriers.
  7. Decks: All the jobs related to the equipment and items on decks (e.g. piping, pumps, windlass, masts, main deck cranes, sensors, bitts, railing, accommodation ladder etc.). Can be forecastle deck, poop deck, bridge deck, etc.
  8. Accommodations: All the jobs related to the accommodations internally (i.e. carpentry, steel, etc. at the Bridge, crew rooms, mess room, etc.) and externally (steel, signs, masts, navigation equipment, lights, funnel, life rafts, life boats, etc.)
  9. Anchor and Chains: all related to anchor and chains jobs, i.e. ranging, calibrations, marking, length renewal, anchor test, etc.

Define software to create the WBS

 There are some options for WBS creation software, some of them basic and at no cost, some others you have to pay a license. This step it is not necessary to follow it each time you want to create a WBS, if the company already has a software this should be used.

Open source:

  • Ms Power point or Excel: Not efficient and time consuming software for WBS creations.
  • WBS tool: A web based software.
  • Xmind: friendly software and can be installed on computers.

Licensed software:

  • WBS chart Pro: very useful and friendly software, it is integrated to MS PROJECT.
  • Ms Vizio: a Microsoft creation and works with WBS modeler that is an add-on for MS Vizio.

Create the WBS

Once all the 3 steps mentioned before are done, it is time to create the WBS for the Ship Repair project. For this article I will use not a real project just a vessel named QUEEN ANDREA with normal drydock activities.

Assuming that the tender has been received and the requirement list is done, as from here the WBS will be created as simple as I can only for article purpose but in real world projects can be more detailed. The software to be used for this WBS will be the WBS Chart Pro.

In the software you have to start adding the level 1 deliverable that is the name of the project, then add the Level 2 the sub projects (see Figure 3) defined or those that apply to the project. After level 2 you can add Level 3 and 4, the deliverables depending on the jobs to be done per location or system in the vessel, please refer to the link below to see the complete WBS for the QUEEN ANDREA ship repair.

[button color=”green” size=”medium” link=”” target=”blank” ]Download the WBS – MT QUEEN ANDREA[/button]

How to integrate the WBS with the Project Schedule

Once you have the WBS created, it will be a compulsory input for scheduling. From the deliverables defined on the WBS the Project Manager or the Planner must have to identify with the project team the activities to achieve those deliverables. If you are using WBS chart Pro software there is a button that can export the WBS information from WBS chart pro to MS PROJECT; if not, you have to insert manually the structure that means, the project name, the sub projects and the deliverables.

Find below an example of the deliverables exported from WBS chart Pro to MS PROJECT and the activities defined on each deliverable per Sub Project (see figure 3).


On the Figure 4. Sub projects and its deliverables, you can identify 4 things:

  1. The project name – Level 1 of the WBS
  2. The Sub Projects: 1.1 Drydocking and 1.2 Hull
  3. The deliverables related to the subproject 1.1. Drydocking
  4. The activities for the 1.1 Drydocking deliverables

With all of this set in place, you can start easily and in an organize manner to define as from the WBS deliverables: activities, activities duration, resources, predecessors and successors, milestones and critical path, and off course based line the project.

To go more in deeper I recommend you to open the pdf files for the WBS and the Schedule for this project.

[button color=”green” size=”medium” link=”” target=”blank” ]Download the WBS – MT QUEEN ANDREA[/button]

 [button color=”green” size=”medium” link=”” target=”blank” ]Download the Schedule – MT QUEEN ANDREA[/button]


With this article all the shipyard staff involved in project planning and execution can realize the importance of WBS for ship repair projects. This tool has a lot of benefits for project planning and controlling, but for me the most important is that WBS is integrated tool with other project management areas, it will let you organize and plan better your project and enhance your communications.

I dare you to try at least one time to work in the way I described here and you will see the results!


[1] Project Management Institute. (2013). Project Scope Management. A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK guide) – 5th Edition (p 126). Pennsylvania, USA: Project Management Institute, inc.

[2] Liliana Buchtik. (2010). What is a WBS?. Secrets to Mastering the WBS in Real World Projects(p 2). Pennsylvania, USA: Project Management Institute, Inc.

[3] Liliana Buchtik. (2010). What is a WBS?. Secrets to Mastering the WBS in Real World Projects(p 19). Pennsylvania, USA: Project Management Institute, Inc.

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