There are many factors which may lead to maritime accidents nowadays. It’s a fact though, that there is an increase in the number of accidents caused by main engine failure. This kind of failure may probably be costly to the operator due to delays at the vessel’s planned route, machinery damage or even if assistance is needed from towing companies. Main engine failure could also be the reason of a collision as a result of inadequate communication with nearby vessels.
Failure of vessel’s main engine can be caused by:
- Problems in the fuel system which may lead to cracks and leakages in fuel pipes in case of improper fuel treatment
- Leakages at starting air valve
- Moving parts of main engine are blocked or stuck
- Failure in the electrical system due to false alarms
- Human error due to bad handling
- Improper maintenance and monitoring
Real Life Accident
In 2014, a bulk carrier experienced main engine failure and subsequently drifted about 700 nautical miles northeast of Honolulu. The vessel departed from New Orleans (USA) and was headed to discharge her cargo at Machong, China when she began experiencing difficulty with her main engine shortly after departing the Panama Canal. Numerous attempts to repair the main engine failed. A tugboat came to the assist the bulk carrier and towed the vessel to Penguin Bank Anchorage, Honolulu. An investigation into the incident revealed that the engines piston rings were well worn and that 4 out of 5 engine units required new piston crowns.
Actions to be taken
- Inform the Master
- Check for other vessels and navigational hazards in vicinity
- Broadcast SAFETY or URGENCY message as appropriate
- Exhibit “Not under Command” shapes or lights and use sounds signals as necessary
- Prepare for anchoring if water’s depth is suitable
- Inform VTS or Port Authority and stakeholders
SQE Marine has prepared a detailed checklist aiming to provide the necessary steps required, in case of a main engine failure.