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Offshore Design

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I'm concerned for the profession how many people, including apparently you,
completely missed the point of my original post, although most I believe did
get it.  My smart-alecky comments were intentionally directed at the
blatantly ridiculous claims of Mr. Syed A. Masroor, and I intended to insult
no one but him, as he had offended me and others -- and I took offense
professionally, not personally.  I don't apologize -- most of it was obvious
sarcasm and was intended to be absurd (I did screw up by accidentally also
hitting housewives and secretaries, as one off-line respondent
good-naturedly pointed out).

I agree entirely with Bart Kemper's posted exceptions to your statement,
"For an average US Engineering firm it is not very uncommon for the
supervisor to sign the plans at first glance."  It is also obvious from the
regular comments on this list that most members would not engage in such
dangerous and deceitful practice, which is also illegal in all of the USA.

Let's get back to the point.  I haven't seen where anyone has said that an
engineer from a poorer nation is less capable than one from the United
States or another richer nation.  That would be silly.  Among the best
engineers with whom I have ever worked during my career is a Chinese, an
Armenian and a Palestinian.  So what?  It's all beside the point.

The point of the discussion is, and should stay, whether any engineer, no
matter how smart or technically qualified, can perform responsible
engineering while nearly isolated from the rest of the design participants,
the contractor, the client, and most importantly, from the project itself.
With very limited and qualified exceptions, I contend that they cannot.  The
point is, "The process of engineering is every bit as important as the
actual act of engineering."  For the vast majority of all engineering
failures, miscommunication, misunderstandings, omissions and faulty
assumptions resulting from a flawed process are at least as responsible for
the failure as any technical error in calculation.

You asked whether engineers who returned to their homeland would loose all
their ability and competence because they were no longer residing in the US.
No, of course they would not?  However, you also inferred that they would
still be just as capable of working for their employers in the US
(presumably, you meant on projects also located in the US) while they were
isolated from the project and the design process.  For the aforementioned
reasons, I don't think that they could -- at least not effectively.  For the
same reasons, nor could I perform effective engineering for a project
located on another continent while I stayed glued to my keyboard here in the
United States, isolated from the rest of the design team and totally removed
from the interaction of the design process.  Despite the hype of the media,
the Internet hasn't yet solved the necessity of human interaction in the
engineering process.  The distortions to the original issue that have been
posted in the responses on this list, including your and my responses, are
proof of the incapability of technology alone to preserve objective clarity.

To support your argument, you cite the example of the late great Dr. Fazlur
Kahn designing the Sears Tower in Chicago (FYI, he was from Bangladesh).  To
the contrary, I believe that you actually bolster mine.  The fact that Dr.
Kahn was from Bangladesh is not the reason that he was able to design the
Sears Tower.  It's because he was a great engineer -- even without the
computer.  What's most noteworthy of this example is that Dr. Kahn didn't
design the Sears Tower to be located in Chicago while he resided in
Bangladesh, nor to be located in Bangladesh while he was in Chicago.  Both
he and the project were located in Chicago.  He was deeply and personally
involved in the project and with all its participants, from the project's
inception on the drafting tables at SOM throughout the construction.  When
an unexpected issue arose, he would leave his office at SOM and be on-site
in minutes to speak with the contractor.  And, it wouldn't have been the
same if he had used the Internet (it was called ARCNet then, before Al Gore
invented it, and it required a user to actually be able to use the command
line and Unix -- a waning skill).  Thank you for the example; I rest my

And guess what -- I wasn't born in North America either (you didn't expect
that one, did you).  So what?  It's all equally irrelevant.  As engineers,
we should all live up at least to the stereotype of engineers, and be able
to stay focused on the engineering issues at hand, both professional and
technical, without letting our personal experiences and predilections sway
us to see goblins in shadows.

James H. Stamper, PE (Jim)
Senior Structural Engineer
Heery International, Inc.
Atlanta, Georgia
(E-Mail:  jstamper(--nospam--at)

P.S.  I received many off-line comments to my original response, from both
domestically and oversees.  FYI, when I tabulated them pro and con, they ran
6 to 1 in support of my comments, and none of them expressed any personal
biases.  I suppose that the respondents didn't post on the list because they
were either too shy, too afraid of appearing controversial, or too afraid of
being "politically" misinterpreted.  It's a pity, and all of ours loss.
Enlightened minds shouldn't be afraid of opinions -- that's all anyone's got

From: "sikander abulkhair" <sikander.abulkhair(--nospam--at)>
To: <seaint(--nospam--at)>
Subject: Offshore Design

The standards of engineering you talked about in your message is
stereotyping both for US and for cheaper (poor) nations.  For an average US
Engineering firm, it is not very uncommon for the supervisor to sign the
plans at first glance.  Also, there are many international projects facing
design problems, although they were engineered by high-priced American and
European firms.  Comparing Engineering standards of industrialized and
developing countries is comparing bananas and oranges.  However, offshore
design make sense more than ever due to technology advancements.  If due to
economical conditions, a country cannot afford freeways and skyscrapers as
in the States, that does not mean that there are no capable engineers to
design that.  Correct me if I am wrong, one of the designer for Sear's
Towers in Chicago was from Pakistan or Bangladesh.  There are many capable
Engineers from third world countries who are working in the States.  What if
some of them
want to go back home and still want to do work for their employers in US?
What is wrong in this?  Will they loose all their ability and competence
because they are no longer residing on US land?  I don't think so.

----- Original Message -----
From: "Stamper, James H." <JStamper(--nospam--at)>
To: "SEAINT List Server" <seaint(--nospam--at)>
Sent: Saturday, August 05, 2000 10:01 PM
Subject: Offshore Design

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