The industry has mostly shed its focus on navigational safety or pollution prevention; however, the issues related to engine rooms and installations should not be disregarded considering that many accidents have been reported due to engine failures, loss of power or other engineering related causes.
The inadequate monitoring and maintenance of the condition of lubricating oil is one of the various causes for failures of main and auxiliary engines. In one case, a vessel during her transatlantic passage to New York suffered a turbocharger failure to her medium speed main engine. Engine had then operated for several days with a non-functional turbocharger creating very poor combustion and black exhaust smoke. Whilst in port it was recommended that lubricating samples had to be taken from main engine for analysis. It wasn’t done, and main bearings and then crankshaft failed leading to towage.
- Always follow periodical maintenance for main engine according to manufacturer’s specifications.
- A process of taking samples should be implemented to Engine PMS and further instructions for landing analysis and taking feedback should be given by technical managers.
- Records of analyses of lubricants should always be kept onboard.
- Viscosity of lubricant is the key between the co-operating surface and the bearing and should be checked regularly by using the viscosity index (V.I.).
- Improve performance of lubricant by adding chemical compounds (oil-additives) in order to enhance certain desirable properties in lubricant.
Engine Room Fires
When fuel, high temperature and oxygen exist at the same time, a fire can break out; this is why engine room fires are one of the most common fires onboard ships. In an engine room area especially there are plenty of fuel and flammable materials. Either a failure to monitor small persistent leaks which spread across machinery surfaces or larger leaks which initiated suddenly can start a fire, as the following case illustrates.
A vessel was entering port using one propeller shaft and one bow thruster. The starboard controllable pitch propeller system stand-by pump started to maintain oil circulation. Suddenly, an unshielded joint in the system’s pipework parted, spraying oil onto the hot exhaust uptakes and turbochargers. Oil ignited, causing a fire in engine room, the alarm was sounded and firefighting party deployed and eventually extinguished the fire. Loosing joints, fractured pipes and mechanically damaged pipes on both high and low pressure fuel lines, pipe unions that are over or under tightened, the use of unsuitable seals or gaskets which deteriorate due to the effects of heat are some of the reasons that trigger an oil fire.
- In order to enhance engine’s room and vessel’s safety correct maintenance it is important best practices to be followed:
- A specific risk assessment should be done in every engine room to determine the potential for, and protection from, oil pressure reaching hot surfaces.
- Frequent checks concerning the condition of all hoses, joints and fittings should be carried out, especially if an old engine is fitted.
- “Good housekeeping” of the engine room should be followed, placing combustible materials, including wooden packages, away from possible sources of ignition.
- Routine surface temperature measurements of critical parts of machinery to be performed regardless if efforts for shielding have been properly carried out.
Engine room is an area full of machinery equipment, electric instruments, turbochargers, generators etc. However, this equipment is managed by crew members onboard who are responsible for its operation; this is the reason why human error is the main cause of accidents related to engine room failures. Therefore, it is very important, relevant procedures, posters or caution signs and guidance concerning machinery equipment to be strictly followed to enhance personnel safety onboard and minimize human errors.
A very hot and risky work within engine room is the welding procedure. Many serious fatalities to welders been reported due to exposure to fumes and gases, excessive noise and electrical shock or due to the use of the ship’s hull as earth return.
In one case, a crewman came into engine room after being exposed in heavy rain on deck. He had been assigned to complete a welding work. He knew he shouldn’t stand in water while working with electrical equipment but he missed the fact that his clothes were still wet and he was unaware of a tiny lake creating on floor, between his feet. When he touched the equipment, circuit was completed and current ran through his body. He had to be taken to hospital for treatment.
To avoid electric shocks, ship’s personnel should take the following precautions:
- An appropriate risk assessment should be carried out prior the commencement of work to determine the potential hazards.
- Wet working conditions should be avoided. Wear dry, insulated protective clothing and gloves in good condition.
- The welders should be insulated from the work piece and return cable and stand on a dry insulated mat.
- Never use the ship’s hull as return conductor.