There are multiple equipment operated regularly onboard, small care always helps reliable operation and long trouble free life of it. We frequently face breakdown of equipment, likely or unlikely during critical operation. Analysis of machinery damage report usually reveals the reason as human error or mishandling in more than 70% cases. Equipment can be categorised in two, first type are those operated in engine room and the other type which are operated on deck/ bridge. Below are some important facts collected from the experience of several seafarers and office staff.
Engine room operation;
- Main engine – Diligent performance analysis, routine inspection and daily rounds are the best tool for trouble free engine operation. Any operational parameter, sound or visual abnormality should not be ignored. Some post breakdown analysis has indicated that the parameters were not maintained and engine has given early warning of failure, however it was unnoticed or overlooked. Crankcase inspection, uniderpiston inspection, regular analysis of lubricating oil and PMS based component inspections or overhaul should be completed without fail.
- Auxiliary engine – This too needs similar supervision as main engine, additionally it is observed that engine are run at low load to be on the safer side. Low load operation with HFO running causes engine component like turbo charger and cylinder unit to foul rapidly and performance deteriorates. Later engine would not be able to take usual best load without overhauling the components.
- Aux boiler – Many accidents and loss of life were reported due to back fire of boiler, never restart the boiler if it failed to ignite 2-3 times. It is always prudent to inspect the furnace before attempting after few failed start. Boiler water need to be maintained at recommended quality as per maker’s recommendation for long life of boiler tube and shell. Poor quality leads to reduced boiler life and reduced efficiency of boiler. Here in this picture we can see tubes are clogged due to poor water quality. Another major care about boiler is blow down of boiler regularly. It doesn’t give immediate impact but in a long run it is very useful tool for boiler condition.
- Compressors–The performance test of compressor should be carried out on monthly basis to ensure good working condition of compressor. Filling up air bottle with bottle outlet valves closed and recording the time taken for pressure rise for individual compressors should be carried out. Coolers should be kept clean; crankcase seal leak is very risky for air cooled compressors. Compressors in auto operations should also be checked for unloader operation. Failure of maintaining the proper operation and good watch keeping resulted in severe breakdown of compressor.
- Purifiers – Temperature and feed rate is of paramount importance for purifier operation. All engineers knows this, however most of the time it is neglected, sometimes temperature is purposely kept low to avoid alarm during sludge discharge operation. The best feed rate for lub oil purifier is the feed rate that allows total volume of the system oil to be circulated 2.5times a day. A lub oil purifier for 24000 ltrs sump should have around 24000 ltrs*2.5/24hr = 2500 ltrs/hour feed rate. Regular bowl cleaning prevents imbalance and increases bearing life.
- Pumps – Never run a pump dry. Every time a pump runs dry the performance of the pump deteriorates further, in some cases if pump runs dry for longer then the performance deteriorates significantly and the pump cannot be used again for usual operation.
7.Routine rounds – watch keeping is a key for reliable operation of engine room. Every watch keeper knows what all things to be checked during routine round; still we face some of the problems which clearly indicate that the watch keeper did not take proper attention. The paramount importance should be given to routine testing of automation to ensure that the automation itself is working. Watch keepers usually assume that all automations are working till it gives an alarm. Below are few incidents which give a glimpse of how small ignorance during routine round can be disaster for ship’s operation. Some of the incidents like fuel oil settling/ service tank filled with tons of water, reason, tanks were not drained, and new supply of bunker had excess of water, this lead to engine stoppage and black out. Aair bottle filled with condensate due to malfunctioning or blocked air bottle drain valve, this lead to main engine manoeuvring failure owing to ingress of moisture in high precision pneumatic slide valves.
Observation is the human element which gives us advantage over machinery and we must use it all the time. With recent development of technology together with human expertise would minimise the incidents and failure significantly, only it needs to be more vigilant.
Deck equipment operation;
- Winches – winches are mostly fitted with low and high speed operation, depending upon the requirement, winches are operated in either low or high speed. Once I faced a problem where crew were unable to operate the winch at higher speed, problem was long-existing and upon investigation it was found that the hydraulic line valves were not set properly. Therefore it is a good practice to discuss such issues with ship’s deck and engine team to find the solution rather than continue to live with the problem.
- Windlass – Windlass and winches system operations are same except anchor and chain part to be handled with extra care. Before operating windlass, ensure that stoppers are disengaged and brakes are ON. Confirm brake position visually. Brake band to be regularly inspected. When securing anchor, bow stopper should be engaged without fail, in many cases anchors were reported lost at sea and reason was that the condition of bow-stopper was not proper. Condition of additional securing arrangement is of prime importance.
- Enclosed space entry or tank inspection – If in doubt – do not enter -no inspection is worth risking life or health for (quote from IACS tank entry guide). There is no hurry to inspect the tanks, proper planning, all checks and formalities to be completed before entering any tank. As per Marine Accident Investigation Branch, there are many incidents which took place while inspecting tanks, it is not only due to lack of oxygen inside but due to fall in the tank too. UK P&I says “Despite the wealth of information available, many deaths have been caused by seafarers being unaware of, or ignoring the correct procedures prior to entering an enclosed space”.
- Cranes – Bypassing the limits and poor maintenance is common reason of crane failure. While cleaning the filter of electrohydraulic crane it is prudent to look for any metal particle in the filter, it is clear indication and pre-warning of crane failure. Rocking test should be carried out to ascertain the condition of slew bearing. Spare set of hydraulic hoses can save off-hire on tankers. ‘Emergency Stop’ and ‘Emergency Stop Reset Lever’ should be operated and lubricated regularly to keep them in working condition.
- Hold fans – Hold fans should run only when required. Donot run it if not necessary, in modern vessels frequency controlled hold fans are installed, which must be used as per cargo in the hold. These fans are always isolated and less frequently visited; during cargo hold rounds one must listen to any abnormal noise of these fans, any abnormality to be immediately attended. These fans are one of the most difficult for maintenance due to its location.
- Maintenance equipment –a) Chipping machine – Wear proper protective gear while using the machine. Most of the time user gets foreign particle into eyes while using equipment. b) Hydroblaster – In one case, crew was handing over the H.P. gun to his co-worker and the gun operated inadvertently, tearing the safety shoe apart and injuring the foot of the crew. There are several cases of injury and even death has been reported due to mishandling or failure of high pressure equipment. Never transfer machine or hand over high pressure gun while in operation. Pressure of 500bars needs proper handling, so never adjust the set pressure to get more pressure. Small leakage in pipe line or in the system causes large drop in pressure, so instead of adjusting the pressure, always ensure there is no leak. c) Paint spray machine – User or nearby worker should always protect their lung, eye and skin. Obscure fumes can damage the lung, eye and skin permanently. Always clean the spray machine and paint spray hose after use, if it is not cleaned after use the hose gets choked and cannot be reused.
- Bow thruster – Thrusters draw very high current when started, therefore,
when starting a thruster it must be ensured that pitch is at zero, which is always as per design, moving the knob or joystick needs proper attention, few seconds of breather should be given at each step up or step down pitch commands. As main engine and auxiliary engines are designed for 100% load and operated at 80-90% maximum load, likewise thrusters also should be operated at 80-90% load maximum. Full port or stbd operation i.e. 100% pitch should be avoided. Auxiliary engines, with large moving parts and controlled by governors, need some seconds to stabilise. If there is sudden change in load of thruster, auxiliary engine may overspeed or trip causing unwarranted blackout incidents during arrival or departure.
- Ballast operation – Ballast pumps are centrifugal pumps and should never run dry. There is no means to check if ballast pumps are running dry, except the operator observes the noise. Pump running at 1700 rotation per minutes, if not monitored and runs dry for even single minute may suffer permanent damage to its running parts. Ballast systems with ejectors are designed to avoid this dry running of the pump and hence pump performance are good even in long run. If ballast system is without ejector, care must be taken while operation to avoid dry running.
- Hold bilge operation – Operator’s main focus should be to avoid the dry running of the pump and safeguard of it. Most of the times pumps are fitted with priming unit or sea water suction to keep the pump chamber filed up with liquid. If it loses suction, should be immediately stopped and reason of loss of suction should be investigated. Hold bilges should be always kept cleaned to prevent mechanical damage to pump due to foreign particles. The system valves should always be kept shut after use to prevent water ingress into hold. Many incident of water ingress into hold take place due to mishandling of hold bilge system.
- Lifeboat and raft launching gear – Most of the time crew assumes that lifeboat release gears are similar on all the vessels and operates it without prior knowledge. Proper operation, locking and released system should be understood before launching operation or drill to avoid accidents. Onload release hooks were major contributor of onboard lifeboat accidents, thanks to SOLAS regulation III/1 amendment, which has set new standard for onload release hooks, and all non compliant need to be replaced.
- Bunker and Cargo pipelines– Bunker and cargo pipelines should be pressure-tested at regular intervals, dresser couplings should be maintained in good condition and deck scupper gaskets should be monitored to avoid pollution incidents during cargo and bunker operations. Never leave bunker or cargo station unattended during operation.
- Any failure should be analysed in details, please read how to do failure analysis on ships.