What Does "Fitting-Out" Mean?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Fitting-out is a stage in the construction of a boat where technicians install all the fittings, like furnishings, machines, the power plant, and some elements of the superstructure. This occurs after the hull has been launched and towed to a docking facility for work, but before the sea trials, when the fully fitted boat needs to be put to the test to determine its technical specifications and performance parameters. The shipbuilder may handle the fitting-out or could contract it to another firm, and the process can be extended with large craft.

Traditionally, ships were launched without any superstructure or deck equipment when they were floated out or sent along the slipways.
Traditionally, ships were launched without any superstructure or deck equipment when they were floated out or sent along the slipways.

In fitting out, one important aspect is the installation of systems and equipment, including the power plant, heating and cooling systems, laundry equipment, and so forth. Members of the fitting-out team also plumb and wire the ship to provide services to cabins and other areas. For things like cruise liners, this can require a great deal of work to supply each guest cabin with the necessary amenities. The fitting-out also involves installing painting, flooring, decorative molding, rails, and other features on the inside and outside of the ship.

Larger ships, including those, such as the US Navy's Zumwalt class destroyers, that represent new technologies are usually only fitted-out after their hulls have been launched.
Larger ships, including those, such as the US Navy's Zumwalt class destroyers, that represent new technologies are usually only fitted-out after their hulls have been launched.

Parts of the superstructure and other components are built during the fitting out, and personnel also install davits and lifeboats. Communications and navigation equipment need to be installed at this phase. The crew also fits lighting and plumbing fixtures from light switches to taps. Furniture, bedding, curtains, and similar goods are supplied in the fitting-out phase, usually under the direction of interior designers who decide on the look and feel of different areas of the ship.

Some tasks completed during this phase are not critical, and may occur during sea trials or even afterward as the crew prepares the ship to get ready for a maiden voyage. In some cases, parts of the ship may still be under construction on the first official trip, because the owner may be in a hurry to start generating profits from the ship. Construction crews can work on these details unobtrusively while the ship is underway.

Ship outfitters near ports supply many of the things needed for a fitting-out, and work with the shipbuilder and designers to make sure the fitting-out crew have what it needs when it needs it. This can include custom orders of items unique to the ship as well as generic supplies like wiring and plumbing equipment that the team will need. Delays in this process can be costly, and shipowners may expect regular reports on the progress so they can estimate when the ship will be ready for use.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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