The difference between a shipyard contract manager and project manager

27 Apr 2023

The difference between a shipyard contract manager and project manager

Shipbuilding projects involve a whole range of individuals at various stages of the build but two people are integral to the success, the Contract Manager, and the Project Manager. We deal with busy managers from across the shipbuilding sector and all-round the UK every day. Our experience has helped us understand their needs differently so we thought we would highlight what they do and how we support them.


What is a Contract Manager?
The Contract Manager as you would expect takes responsibility for the negotiating phase of a shipbuilding project and the contracting instigated from that. Clearly, this role is a central player in the project team both in terms of the precontract stage involved in bids and tenders and the execution phase. Shipbuilding products can be complex and on a large scale and a skilled contract manager must be mindful of all relevant stakeholders. These individuals are exceptionally organised as they ensure that every deliverable and obligation laid out in the contract is tracked and monitored. Main responsibilities:

  • Building and maintaining relationships with suppliers, vendors, and customers.
  • Creating contracts that can be used both internally and externally.
  • Ensuring the company meets contractual obligations and requirements as well as fulfilling company goals.
  • Responsible for the execution of contracts that meet industry regulations and compliance with guidelines.
  • Sourcing and researching potential business partners or suppliers prior to engaging in a contract.
  • Continued monitoring of the performance and implementation of signed contracts.
  • Managing and supervising the contract team
  • Continually maintaining updating and improving contractual systems and records

The responsibilities of a Project Manager
Project Managers are also sometimes called Marine Engineers and will oversee hitting objectives and milestones as well as being responsible for performance. They will work with multiple teams and trades and closely monitor initiatives from start to finish.

  • Oversee initial drawings
  • Involved with choosing materials and suppliers.
  • Schedule testing
  • Organise maiden voyage.
  • Responsible for health and safety policy and procedures
  • Work closely with the contracts manager on labour and sub-contractor requirements
  • Manage project costs.
  • Coordinate with the Production Manager and/or Operations Director

Similarities and shared goals

Whilst there are differences between the roles, clearly, the Contracts Manager and Project Manager have similarities and shared goals. Strong communication skills, clear understanding of who is responsible for what and exceptional top-level view of the project timeline and milestones. The complex nature of shipbuilding projects and the different peaks and troughs in labour needs mean that there are lots of moving parts.

The SLR commitment to the marine sector

Whilst both functions have different tasks and responsibilities within the shipbuilding project, they are both committed to the same goal: the success of the project. The SLR team has specialised in the marine and shipbuilding industry because we share the same energy and enthusiasm to deliver shipbuilding projects on time and within budget. Our knowledge of the different individuals we deal with when sourcing labour helps us to understand their needs and deliver exactly the skilled labour that is right for that part of the shipbuilding project.

Let us help you with your labour requirements today.