Are Rivets Still Used for Ships?

Are rivets still used for ships? Learn about the disadvantages of riveted connections and why welding and bolts have replaced them.

Are Rivets Still Used for Ships?

Riveting was once an innovative form of technology used to construct and waterproof ships, but you may be wondering whether this method is still in use for modern ships today. Today, we’re unpacking the changes in ship-building throughout the last century and why rivets have been phased out.

Hot riveting is no longer the standard method of constructing ships, and it’s been this way since the mid-20th century when WWII spurred the need for faster, cheaper, and safer methods of ship-building such as bolting and welding.

Keep reading to learn more about the disadvantages of using rivets, such as slow construction, lack of safety, and less efficiency. We’ll also discuss the changes that led to welding as the primary form of shipbuilding and answer some frequently asked questions at the end, so stay tuned.

Why Rivets Are No Longer Used

Rivets are no longer used for shipbuilding primarily due to the following:

  • They are less affordable than modern methods such as bolting and welding
  • They require very precise installation that takes much more time to complete
  • They are harder to maintain and repair than modern methods
  • They are prone to failure in certain situations
  • They require much more manpower to install

Disadvantages of Riveting

One of the main reasons that rivets have been phased out for ships is that they carry many comparative disadvantages to modern ship-building methods.

Riveting Requires Much More Skill and Manpower

First of all, riveting is a more complex connection method, requiring two workers on either side of the metal plate. One worker must push the rivet through the plate, while the other worker hammers it into place, expanding the head to fill the hole and waterproof the connection.

This requires strength, energy, and more workers overall, which is not efficient for ship-building companies. It’s simply not practical in today’s world where most manufacturing processes are automated.

Rivets Are Prone to Malfunctioning

Furthermore, rivets aren’t necessarily the better choice just because they make a strong connection. The thing is that rivet technology is sometimes prone to tension failure, bearing failure, and shearing failure within the plates of a ship.

These issues can lead to poor connections and a lack of water tightness that is essential to a functioning ship.

Riveting Is a Slower Process

Riveting has also been phased out because production takes too long to complete nowadays. In fact, one of the reasons that riveting was replaced by welding in World War II was that the military was in need of a faster way to achieve safely built ships.

Ships were in demand, and riveting was no longer fast enough to meet that need of new ships.

Riveted Ships Aren’t as Safe

Rivets are arguably less safe than other ship-building connections, even though they may seem stronger because of the effort needed to secure them. The thing is that they can fail under pressure and in extreme temperature conditions. That’s why ships like the Titanic had a worse chance of surviving impact and damage at sea.

Furthermore, with so few workers trained and skilled in the method of riveting, it’s harder to achieve safe riveting construction today.

Riveting Is More Expensive

And of course, one of the main disadvantages of using rivets for shipbuilding is that it’s too expensive to justify now. Affordable production is of utmost importance, and with fewer workers required, there are smaller payrolls to sustain.

When we compare the cost of rivets to bolts/welding, rivets themselves aren’t too expensive. It’s the sheer amount of labor and the higher amount of rivets needed to secure larger metal plates that make it less affordable in the long run.

What Replaced Rivets?

Welding is the primary replacement for riveting when it comes to ship construction nowadays. Additionally, high-strength bolts are commonly used in lieu of riveting for shipbuilding.

Further, welding is commonly used as a go-to repair method for ships that originally had their joints secured with rivets.

These changes have been in place for roughly a half-century now, and they require less manpower and money to achieve.

Final Thoughts - Are Rivets Still Used for Ships?

Those interested in the history of ships and shipbuilding may be curious to know are rivets still used for ships? For about five decades now, rivets have been phased out of the shipbuilding industry because of the speed, affordability, and increased safety of new methods such as welding and bolts.

Although hot rivets were once a secure way to make ships watertight when installed correctly, there are much more efficient ways to build ships now that take the forefront. These methods are more fool-proof and safer overall.

FAQs - Are rivets still used for ships?

How did riveted ships not leak?

When set and secured properly, a rivet is naturally watertight. The process of securing ship plates with rivets was such that the rivet heads would be hammered to expand and completely fill the holes they went into. Proper riveting also made use of “taperings” in its day, which overlapped steel plates to make secure, watertight connections.

Are rivets better than bolts?

There is much debate over whether or not rivets or bolts are superior. On the one hand, rivets aren’t as likely to come loose as bolts are. But the process of properly setting rivets is much more grueling, expensive, and time-consuming than it is to use bolted connections. Bolts are generally easier to maintain over time than rivets are, too.

When did bolts replace rivets?

At a certain point in the 20th century (the early 1960s), construction on ships started to implement bolts in place of hot rivets. For some manufacturing processes, this change didn’t begin until the late 1960s or 1970s, but it’s been a common practice since then.

Are rivets stronger than screws?

Rivets are relatively stronger when compared to screws because they aren’t likely to loosen their hold when they undergo vibration (which is common on ships). The connection that rivets form is hard to break because the rivet supports both sides of the plates.