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The crankshaft of the marine diesel engine is a huge bulky component which should remain as
straight as possible during operation, otherwise it could lead to serious damage to the engine and
the vessel. Learn about deflection in a crankshaft and how to keep the alignment within limits.


In the previous article we studied about marine diesel engine crankshafts in terms of their
construction, materials and so on. In this article we will proceed to learn about one very important
task related to marine diesel engine crankshafts and that is learning to take their deflections. In the
succeeding paragraphs you will learn about the importance and procedure of the same.

The Need to Measure Deflection

If you remember about the construction of the crankshaft from the previous article, you will recall
that apart from other parts, it consists of crank-webs, crank-pins and journals along its length. The
weight of the crankshaft is supported by the main bearings at the journals. Over a period of time as
the engine keeps running, the wear in the bearings may not be uniform across the entire length of
the crankshaft. This means that the crankshaft will not remain in the initial straight line but will get
bent either upward or downwards to a slight degree which may not be visible with the naked eye
but could be sufficient to cause dangerous levels of fatigue in the crank-webs. Hence there is the
requirement of measuring crankshaft deflections at regular intervals to ensure that the alignment of
the shaft is within permitted limits and these deflections can be measured as described in the next

How to take Crankshaft Deflections?

The figure shown below gives an idea of which measurement is taken to find the deflections of the
crankshaft. As you can see from the picture a dial gauge is inserted between the crank-webs to
find out the distance between them. If the deflection is measured after the specified interval, it is
necessary that it is taken at the same point otherwise the reading will not give a real reflection
about the degree of deflection. Normally a center punch is used to make markings so that each
time the deflection is taken at the same point.

Apart from using the same point on the crank-web for measuring deflection there are other
factors which need to be kept in mind and these include load on the ship, trim, hog, sag
etc. Ideally the deflection needs to be taken at four points of the crank namely top, bottom
and the two sides. In actual practice however the bottom reading is not taken due to
chances of fouling by the connecting rod and instead reading is taken on both sides of the
bottom position, thereby in total 5 readings are taken from each crank-web at the positions
shown by the following figure.

Recording and Interpreting Crankshaft Deflections In Marine Diesel Engines


We learnt the need and method of taking crankshaft deflections in our previous article. But taking
the readings is one thing and it is equally important to properly record, analyze and interpret those
readings. This is exactly we are going to learn in this article in the following sections.

Tabulation of Results

The results are tabulated in a manner shown in the example table shown below which represents
the readings taken from a real engine. You will note that the numbers in the first row represent the
unit or cylinder number and the first column shows the position at which those readings are taken.
These positions had been graphically illustrated in the previous article so feel free to turn back if
you have forgotten about them. The final row shows the difference between top and bottom
readings which gives the vertical misalignment of the shaft. The values of the vertical misalignment
need to be compared to the maximum permissible limits specified by the manufacturer of the

Plotting the Deflection Curve

A majority of the people find that the graphical representation of data is more appealing and easily
understood, rather than a list of numbers hence we will see how we can use the above data to plot
the deflection curve. Take a look at the deflection curve diagram first so that you can correlate to
what you read next.

• As you can see above on the top is the crankshaft which shows the 7 units and the vertical
misalignments written on top of each unit (these values are taken from the last row of the
table above).

• A straight line is drawn beneath the crankshaft and the center lines from each unit are
drawn downwards through this line. This now acts as our basic infrastructure upon which to
start plotting the deflection curve.

• Since the first deflection is -5.2 units (remember they are normally mm unless otherwise
specified), we plot this distance downwards from the reference line on the center line of unit
2 (not unit 1) and make the line ab which is at an angle proportional to the deflection at a.
This line is further extended to intersect the center line of the next unit.

• The next step is to measure the deflection from this point of intersection (downwards for
negative value and upwards for positive value) and join the point from the previous point, in
this case which gives rise to the line bc.

• This step is repeated till the last unit

A smooth curve is drawn between these points and the position of this curve with respect to the
base line XY gives an idea about the state of various bearing. For example in this particular case
you can easily make out that bearing of units 1 and 2 are too far away from the base line and
hence need attention.

You must have realized by now that why only comparing the values of vertical misalignment
against the manufacturer’s specifications is not sufficient? This is so because even if the values
are within limits, the relative wear and tear might be sufficient to cause too much misalignment
hence this is a method to be double sure about the crankshaft being aligned properly.

In our next article we will learn about the modes of crankshaft failure and points to be kept in mind
during the maintenance of crankshafts so that they have a long life.

Diesel Pyrometers - Gauges for Monitoring Turbocharger Health

Turbochargers provide an important function on a marine two-stroke diesel engine by supplying

scavenge air. The turbocharger turbine is rotated by the exhaust gasses from the engine, driving a
compressor on the same shaft. Pyrometers are fitted at locations in the engine exhaust gas

Introduction to Diesel Pyrometers Gauges for Monitoring Turbocharger Health

Turbochargers are essential to the efficient operation of a two stroke marine diesel engine. They
supply the scavenge spaces with cooled air under pressure, enabling complete combustion of
diesel or heavy fuel oil in the engine.

This is an article in marine engineering; in particular marine diesel engine turbochargers. We shall
look at their operation and the function of pyrometers located in the turbocharger exhaust streams,
used in measuring the turbochargers' health.

We begin then with an overview of the operation of a marine engine turbocharger.

An Overview of the Operation of a Marine Engine Turbocharger

When I was serving my apprenticeship at Harland and Wolff Belfast in the sixties, I spent some
time in the engine-works department. Here the engines components were produced, assembled,
and the engines tested, before being stripped for transport to the fitting-out berth.

The engines were large marine diesel two-strokes built under license to Burmeister and Wain
engines, a Danish Shipyard, and B & W supplied the turbochargers.

Operation Overview

In a modern large two stroke diesel engine, the exhaust gases from the cylinders or exhaust
valves in the heads are directed to an exhaust gas manifold. From here they are fed into the
turbine drive end of the turbocharger, driving a compressor through a direct drive shaft.

The compressor draws air through a filter from the engineroom, and whilst compressing it, the air
is heated. For efficient combustion, the air should be as cool as possible, therefore the pressurized
air is then passed through an air cooler before being directed into the scavenge manifold.

From here the air is supplied to the individual cylinders, via the scavenge ports in the cylinder liner.

A modern turbocharger setup is shown below from Wartsila.

Locating and Fitting of Diesel Engine Exhaust Pyrometers and Gauges

Pyrometers are not only a tool of choice for monitoring engine health, they can often provide first
warning of impending operating faults in turbochargers.

The gases from the engine exhaust system are very hot, so it is here that we locate
the first pyrometer, to measure this temperature. The engine manufacturer will have stipulated the
maximum temperature, and this should not be exceeded. In my time at sea as an engineer, all the
Chief Engineers were very careful not to run the engines above this temperature except in an

So now we have our datum temperature and, as we have seen the exhaust gases pass through
the turbine. Here the heat is extracted and converted from thermal energy to mechanical energy,
rotating the turbine. The more heat we can extract from the gases, the more efficient the turbine is,
so the second pyrometer is located after the turbine, before the exhaust gases are fed to the waste
heat boiler or flue. (Please click image to enlarge.)

I have shown the location of the various pyrometers and temperature gauges required to check the
efficient operation of the turbochargers on the above sketch.

When drilling the ducting and fitting these to the unit, it is imperative that drill chippings are
prevented from entering the turbine, compressor, or air cooler.

Therefore I have drawn the relevant sections below with a few notes of explanation on the
methods employed, some of which I used over fourty years ago on older models of turbo-blowers.

Pyrometer No. 1 – Exhaust gas temperature at inlet to turbine
1. Remove expansion bellows from exhaust duct.
2. Bolt circular blank to bottom duct flange.
3. Drill hole in ductwork above top duct flange to suit pyrometer screwed fitting.
4. Insert pyrometer into hole and secure screwed section with nuts each side of duct.
5. Wire-up and fit pyrometer gauge.
6. Carefully remove all drill chippings from top of blank, then remove blank.
7. Replace exhaust gas bellows, ensuring gaskets are in good condition.

Pyrometer No. 2 – Exhaust gas temperature after turbine

1. Remove turbine examination/inspection cover.
2. Drill hole in cover to suit pyrometer screwed fitting.
3. Insert pyrometer into hole and secure screwed section with nuts each side of duct.
4. Replace inspection cover, ensuring gasket is in good condition.
5. Wire-up and fit pyrometer gauge.
A typical probe for a pyrometer is shown below from sensor connection and a gauge from Brannan

The Use of Diesel Pyrometer Gauges for Monitoring Turbocharger Health

Purposes of the Exhaust Gas Pyrometer

The exhaust gas pyrometer located before the turbocharger turbine will give the temperature of the
gases leaving the engine, with a typical large slow speed marine diesel having an exhaust
temperature of around 400°C (750°F).

A rise in this temperature will indicate a number of faults in the main engine, such faulty fuel
valves, sticking exhaust valves or scavenge fire; it can also indicate overloading the engine due to
head-on seas or strong currents.

The second pyrometer measures the exhaust temperature after the turbine has extracted its
energy. Depending on the engine design parameters and conditions, the exhaust gas temperature
can drop as much as 200°F. A large divergence in these temperatures can indicate the blades of
the turbine sooting up, or even a few blades broken. Both of these conditions lower the efficiency
of the turbine and require immediate investigation. Modern turbochargers have integral water-wash
elements that clean both the turbine and compressor blades whilst the turbochargers are running.

The manufacturer’s manual will give the turbochargers' turbine exhaust inlet and outlet
temperatures. These will be the maximum and minimum temperatures for optimum engine
performance, in terms of fuel and power efficiency.

Exhaust gas pyrometers are the main instruments in determining the health of the turbochargers,
but the air temperature is also an indication. The engineroom temperature inlet to the compressor,
along with the outlet temperature and pressure from the air cooler will also signify whether the
exhaust gas turbine is driving the compressor efficiently.


Marine engine firing order is designed to distribute the engine power on the crankshaft bearings
evenly. It should also be the optimum firing order to ensure the least engine vibration through
balancing the power output along with consideration given to torsion and axial characteristics.

Introduction to Marine Diesel Firing Order

Marine main diesel engines can be two stroke or four stroke engines running on diesel or heavy
fuel oil.

The firing order of these engines depends on the number of cylinders and the approach to
vibration and fatigue taken by the engine designer and manufacturer.

This is an article on marine diesel engines and in particular the cylinder firing order. We begin with
a recap of a typical two stroke engine operation, noting the components that have to be designed
for the least vibration.

Ships Marine Diesel Engine Operation Overview

When I was a young ships engineer over 40 years ago, the diesel engine cylinders were numbered
opposite from the normal car engine. The ships engine cylinders are numbered from the flywheel
end of the engine, whereas car engine cylinders are numbered from the free end of the engine. I
am sure the same numbering system is still in use today, but I will be corrected if not!

In this instance we shall look at the operation of a 6 cylinder Sulzer (6RD76) marine diesel engine,
producing almost 10,000hp at 120 RPM. I was an engineer on this type of engine during my time
at sea.

Sulzer has now merged with Wortsila, a Finish engineering company and have produced
the world’s largest ships diesel engine. This is a 14 cylinder engine that when operating at 102
RPM produces over 108,000 hp.

Anyway back to our 6 cylinder engine that is started on compressed air. (At least three cylinders
are required on a 2-stroke diesel for the engine to be able to start ahead or astern.) Once rotating
at sufficient revolutions, the starting air supply is cut off and fuel is injected to the cylinders in the
correct firing order.

This combusts under compression and powers the piston downwards, the piston being connected
to the piston rod. The piston rod is bolted to the top section of the crosshead bearing, the
connecting rod being attached to the bottom section, rotates the crankshaft that is fully supported
on white-metal main bearings.

On the upward stroke, the exhaust gasses are expelled through a rotating valve into the turbo
blower exhaust turbine that drives a compressor/blower supplying combustion air to the scavenge
ports and into the cylinder. The piston then returns to the top of its stroke and with the new charge
of air, and combustion takes place again. A drawing from Wartsila-Sulzer is shown below depicting
the main components that contribute to torsional vibration and can be minimized by balancing and
selection of the correct firing order at the design stage.

So from above, the main components that add to torsional vibration are;

• The piston.
• Piston rod.
• Crosshead bearing.
• Connecting rod.
• Crankshaft and bearings.

The Importance of Correct Firing Order to a Marine Diesel Engine

A ships diesel engine such as MAN, B & W, and Sulzer are all designed to have a firing order to
meet the following requirements;

1. Engine Vibration

Torsional Vibration – caused by the reciprocating components, this is a highly undesirable

condition in a marine engine. Not only for the comfort of passenger and crew, but also for the
durability of the engine through undue fatigue.

2. Engine Balance

Imbalance of components is once again the cause of fatigue of the rotating components, especially
the crankshaft. It is imperative that the firing order compliments not only the balancing of the
components, but balances the power output from the cylinders spreading the load over the length
of the crankshaft.

3. Gas Forces

Enormous gas forces are produced in the cylinders on the compression/firing stroke. These create
individual cylinder torque characteristics that are transmitted downwards into the engine block, and
bedplate via the main crankshaft bearings.

So these are the main reasons for the correct firing order in a marine diesel engine. Going back to
the 6 cylinder Sulzer diesel engine I sailed on for a few years, I recollect the firing order to be

Looking at some of the marine diesels on the web, the main engine manufacturers use various
different firing orders that, as noted above, are crucial to the design of the ships marine diesel

I have noted some marine engine firing orders below.

• MAN-B&W 6S60MC 6 cylinder, 2 stroke, reversible, slow speed marine diesel engine -
firing order 1,5,3,4,2,6.
• Sulzer 6AL20/24 6 cylinder marine diesel engine – firing order 1, 4, 2, 6, 3, 5.
• MITSUI MAN B&W 8K98MC (MARK VI) 8 cylinder marine diesel engine- firing order 1, 8,
3, 4,7, 2, 5,6.

The marine diesel engine design and power output has changed with the new technology since I
was an engineer at sea. However, one thing has remained unaltered: the firing order of the engine
is paramount to the design of the engine, ensuring a long vibration and fatigue-free service.

Breakdown and Repair of Ships Main Diesel Engine at Sea

When the ship’s main diesel marine engine breaks down at sea, it is imperative that the
Engineering Officers affect repairs as quickly as possible in order to restore power and steerage.
This means that sufficient spares and tools must be carried to repair the marine power diesel

Introduction: Breakdown and Repair of Ships Main Engine at Sea

Part of a ships engineer’s responsibility is to repair the main engine when it breaks down at sea.
This can be a simple repair such as changing a defective fuel valve to a more time-consuming job
such as changing a piston or cylinder liner.

Whatever the nature of the repair required, it must be carried out as expediently as possible, as
the ship is in a dangerous situation especially if in a busy shipping lane.

This is an article about repairing the ship’s main engine on a general cargo vessel whilst at sea.
We begin with a brief description of the ship’s Sulzer main engine, then move onto the diagnosis
and repairs carried out on it.

General Description of a Sulzer Marine Diesel Engine and Key Component Locations

I have sailed as watch keeping engineer on many marine engines, both steam and motor, and
although I served my apprenticeship at Harland & Wolff Belfast who built B & W engines, I prefer
the Sulzer RD engine to any other. They are turbocharged, two-stroke crosshead engines, running
on diesel oil when maneuvering and on heavy oil when at sea.

The top platform of the engine contains the cylinder heads; the next platform down is the turbo
blowers operated by the in-line rotating exhaust valve.

The scavenge doors and fuel pumps are located at the other side of the engine at this level, which
drops down to the bottom plates and the control station.

Scavenge Fire

I was awakened by the sound of the main engine slowing down accompanied by the battering on
my cabin door, the greaser popping his head around the door announcing to half the alleyway,
“Scavenge fire No. 1, again.”

On reaching the control station, I met up with the Chief and Fourth engineer who were slowing the
engine down further. The Chief sent me up to the fuel pumps where I lifted No. 1 supply pump off
its cam, effectively shutting the fuel off the cylinder, and I could see the Fourth below me pumping
lube-oil by hand into No. 1 Cylinder to increase the oil flow and prevent piston seizure.

The Chief eventually stopped the engine and the Fourth and I slotted in the turning gear, whilst the
Chief was on the phone to the bridge.

He called us over for a confab, and explained that the Captain and he had decided since this was
the third scavenge fire in four days, and in the same cylinder, we would have to investigate the

The Captain had advised the Chief that now was an ideal time to do this as we were well away
from the coast and the weather was good, with just a little swell.

Scavenge fires are quite dangerous, if not acted upon quickly and correctly. They are usually
caused by a build-up of oil in the scavenge space, which is ignited by a spark passing the piston
rings, and the Chief suspected the piston rings were worn or broken.

Removal of Piston for Ring Inspection

We had to do quite a bit of stripping to examine the piston rings and confirm the Chief's suspicions
of broken rings, so we started by opening the main engine door on No.1 unit and the scavenge
doors letting the engine cool down whilst we gathered together the gear for lifting out the piston.
We were soon ready to start stripping the cylinder head and insert. This was accomplished by
removing all the pipe-work from the cylinder head components; we used to remove the fuel valve,
relief valve, indicator cock and air-start valve as well. However, the Chief had made up a metal
frame which held a spare cylinder head, complete with all the overhauled components. This was
then ready to replace the old one, and saved a lot of time, the old cylinder head being overhauled
at our leisure.

The cylinder head is fitted to the insert by nuts on studs and once the nuts were removed, lifted off
using the overhead crane. The insert was then lifted clear after removing the nuts from the long
studs screwed into the cylinder jacket.

Meanwhile I was in the crankcase, having clambered up to the crosshead bearing, and was
disconnecting the piston rod nut, using hydraulic tensioning gear. The piston cooling pipes were
then disconnected leaving the piston ready for removal and inspection.

The greasers had also been busy cleaning out the scavenge space and the carbon deposits
around the exhaust ports.

Back on the top-plates the boys had the piston ready for removal having scraped away the carbon
ring deposit left around the top of the liner by combustion; this would otherwise impede the
removal of the piston.

An eyebolt was screwed into the top of the piston and slings attached to this and the overhead

I went back to the crankcase and as the piston was removed, guided the piston rod through the
crosshead bearing watching for possible thread damage before going to the scavenge to guide the
rod through the piston rod gland.

Once clear of the engine the piston was landed in the maintenance support frame, a section of
plate being lifted to allow it to pass through the top plates, giving us access to the rings.

Inspection and Replacement of Piston Rings

Well, it was easy to see why the combustion sparks were setting fire to the scavenge oil: a small
piece of one of the bottom rings was missing and the rest of the rings were “sticky” in their grooves
and showed little sign of lubrication.

This indicated poor fitting between the rings and the grooves in the piston allowing “blow by.”

Sulzer engines piston rings are machined slightly oval, so when running at normal temperatures
would transform to a circular form, pressing firmly against the cylinder walls. To reduce wear, the
piston ring grooves are chrome plated on their lower landings.

The new rings were fitted using a special ring expander and the ring clearances were checked
between the piston grooves and the rings and the liner checked for wear and ovality, and all were
within the Sulzer recommended tolerances. The piston was then rigged for refitting and lifted off
the maintenance stand.

A tapered conical ring-piece is set into the top of the liner and this compresses the rings as the
piston is lowered into the liner, preventing any rings from catching on the entrance to the liner edge
and breaking.

I was in the crosshead bearing again after guiding the piston rod through the scavenge gland, I
now guided it through the crosshead bearing, screwed on the nut and hydraulically tensioned it,
witnessed by the Chief Engineer.

The piston cooling pipes and couplings were reconnected and as the rest of the engineers fitted
the insert and overhauled cylinder head, whilst I renewed the scraper rings in the piston rod gland.
These were in sections, held together with springs and consisted of a set of top rings preventing
scavenge oil/air from entering the sump and a bottom set of rings preventing lube-oil splashing up
from the sump area, entering the scavenge space.

The scavenge space was given a final inspection and I refitted the door and opened up the drain
valves to the dirty-oil tank.

Up top, the rest of the boys had refitted the cylinder head and piping so we opened and bled the
fuel valve tidied away the tools whilst the Chief and Second went down below to start the engine,
leaving me up top to ensure all was well with the repaired components.

I heard the engine room telegraph ringing, then the Chief gave her a good blow through on air and
I shut the indicator cocks.

The next blast of air was accompanied by a safety valve lifting, then the engine settled down to a
comfortable half speed, the Chief gradually increasing the revs and the Fourth and I watching
exhaust and cylinder head cooling temperatures.

After about half an hour, everything had settled down and the Second and I went up for a breather
and a shower, before I went down to take over from the Chief.

We completed the voyage without any further scavenge fires, and had a telegram form head office
congratulating us on one of the fastest piston-ring changes and recommending we check the rest
of the pistons whilst in ports up in the Great Lakes, and the Captain sent down a case of beer
between us.

Sketches of Diesel Marine Engine Components Following Breakdown and Repair at Sea.



The exhaust valve consists of a valve housing and a valve spindle. The valve housing is of cast
iron and arranged for water cooling. The housing is provided with a bottom piece of steel with
stellite welded onto the seat. The spindle or valve stem is made of heat resistant steel with stellite
welded on to the seat. The housing is provided with spindle guide or valve guide. The exhaust
valve housing is connected to the cover with studs and nuts tightened by a hydraulic jack. The
exhaust valve is opened hydraulically and closed by a set of helical springs. The hydraulic system
consists of a piston pump mounted on the roller guide housing, a high pressure pipe, and a
working cylinder on the exhaust valve. The piston pump is activated by the cam on the shaft.
The exhaust valve is subjected to hot gases, and the temperature resistance of its seat and body
is therefore crucial. In new designs, Nimonic valves combined with proper seat cooling have
yielded excellent service behavior and long life times. When exhaust valves are not centered in the
combustion chamber, heating will not be symmetrical on the valve lid. For this reason, an
automatic rotating device may be fitted causing the valve to rotate slowly, thereby avoiding
localized heating.

Material Properties:

• High tensile strength and creep resistance properties.

• Resistance at high temperature properties.
• Resistance to high temperature corrosion.

Exhaust Valve Improved Design
1. Bore cooling for efficient cooling systems (as low as 327oC at full load).
2. Valve rotational mechanism.
3. Heat and corrosion resistance material used.
4. Hydraulic push rod with controlled valve landing speed.
5. Air spring (or increasing number of springs with improved material) to reduce valve
6. Guide bush is sealed by pressurized air.
7. For less obstruction of gases, use valve seat angle 30o instead of 45o.
Cause of Exhaust Valve Burning
1. Continuous overloading of engine or particular unit causing high exhaust temperature.
2. Poor combustion (or after burning) of fuel due to dirty fuel injectors, incorrect fuel injection
pressure, incorrect fuel temperature, late fuel injection timing, air starvation, water or
impurities in fuel.
3. Valve not closing properly due to incorrect tappet clearance or starvation of closing air
4. Insufficient cooling water supply may cause the valve to overheat.
5. Hot corrosion due to bad quality fuel, which contains high vanadium sodium etc.
6. Unstable material used.

Indication of Exhaust Leaking

• Indicates high exhaust temperature in that unit.
• Indicates low compression pressure and low peak pressure in the indicator diagram. Low
compression pressure and low peak pressure can be caused of shortage of air supply also,
but in that case scavenge air or turbocharger air pressure will increase abnormally.
Exhaust Valve Failure

Exhaust Valve Failure

Stress on Exhaust Valve

1. Thermal stress 3 times greater than mechanical stress.
2. Thermal stress in radial direction greater than axial direction.
3. Largest mechanical stress at the flame face center.
4. Highest thermal hoop stress in lid.
5. Largest mechanical stress in the radial direction along the bend radius circumferentially.
6. Maximum combined stress at the valve neck points.

Stress Failures
1. Circumferential and radial cracks around head radius.
2. Breaking at the neck.
3. Radial crack at the seat.
4. Dishing in the head.
5. Cracking at the frame face.

Exhaust Valve Problems

1. Burning due to high temperature use bore cooling.

• Use valve rotational mechanism.
• Use Nimonic material.
2. Seat trumping and wear.
3. Valve bouncing
• Use air and hydraulic actuator.
• Or increase number of spring with improved material.
4. Hot corrosion and erosion at the valve seat and its underside.
5. Possibility of scaling due to poor water treatment.
6. Thermal stress due to heating and cooling.
7. Cracking at the seat and center of the flame face.
8. Breaking at the valve neck.
Reasons for Failure and Replacement of Piston Rings

As the piston rings are vital component of a marine diesel engine, we should maintain the
clearances at the minimum that will serve the purpose of sealing the gases at the top of the piston.
Excessive clearance will lead to operational faults.


In order to seal the gases in the top of the cylinder and prevent their leaking down the side of the
piston, piston rings installed in the grooves turned in the piston crown are used. It is desirable that
the ring gap should be as small as possible, and it is equally important that it should never close

In modern designs, we make use of the piston cleaning ring which is incorporated in the top of the
cylinder liner. The piston cleaning ring has a slightly smaller inner diameter than the liner and
hence scrapes off ash and carbon deposits built up on the piston top land.

Without such a ring, contact between the top-land and liner wall could wipe off the injected cylinder
lubrication oil, preventing the lubricant from performing its optimized role. In some cases, deposits
formation on the top land could cause bore polishing of the liner wall, contributing to deterioration
of the cylinder condition. Introducing the piston cleaning ring eliminates contact between deposits
on the top land and the liner, promoting an enhanced cylinder condition and lube oil performance.

Reasons for Piston Ring Replacement

1. If piston rings wear rate is such that it will be unsafe up to the next maintenance schedule.
2. Is a piston ring is found struck in the ring groove and if it wears more on one side than
3. If the axial height of the ring is reduced so that a large clearance is found.
4. If performance piston rings have pressure variations around their circumference that are
fitted in any groove and micrometer measurements show variation in the radial thickness of
the ring.
5. If the chrome layer on chromium plated piston ring is worn through or worn very thin.

Reason for Piston Ring Failure

1. Insufficient piston ring and groove clearance, which causes the ring to jam in the groove at
working temperatures, as a result blow-by occurs and the ring may break.
2. Insufficient cylinder lubrication.
3. Large amount of wear in cylinder liner.
4. Excessive diametrical clearance between the piston and cylinder liner.
5. Excessive wear on piston ring lading face in the piston ring groove.
6. Ring gap too small, this usually leads to ring breakage, but could ultimately lead to
disastrous consequences.
7. Incorrect preparation of ends of piston ring adjusting gap.
8. Radius at top and bottom of exhaust and scavenge ports in the cylinder liner inadequate,
the ring then receiving a shock when sliding past the port edges.
9. Wear on the port bars relative to cylinder liner working surface is such that surface of the
bar is below the surface of the liner.

Piston Rings



We have been studying about marine diesel engine components and have also taken a look at
the piston, which is one of the most important parts of any internal combustion engine. We know
from our previous study that a piston can be cooled using various media - water being one of
them. In this article we will take a look at the Sulzer engine piston and learn how it is cooled
efficiently through the use of water.

Let me first clarify that cooling of the piston basically means cooling of the piston crown, and hence
the engines where water is used to cool the piston crown are known as water cooled pistons. Such
pistons can be found in a variety of marine engines and one good example of such a piston is that
fitted in SULZER RTA SERIES -1 type of engines.

Cooling of a piston is very necessary irrespective of the media used for cooling, since this helps to
prevent thermal stresses and keeps the engine in good working condition

Sketch of water cooled piston

Construction and working

The mechanism of cooling of a water cooled piston has been stated as follows. Take a close look
at the above sketch in order to understand the description in a better manner.

A piston is cast in chrome molybdenum alloy steel and machined on all its surface. Fresh water
cooling has the advantage of a higher thermal capacity than oil and higher outlet temperature upto
70o c may be sustained.

Piston crown is cast in alloy steel and has internal bore holes which extend close to the working
surface including the outer edge and behind the piston rings and grooves.

Water pressure together with the shaker action ensure circulation with these bore.

Water enters and leaves through the telescopic pipes attached to the piston,sealing glands and
stand pipe for these pass through the telescopic bore to a casing with completely isolates them
fron the crankcase to avoid the possibility of contamination in the event of leakage of water from
the telescopic pipes causes the lube oil contamination.

Drawbacks of water cooling

There are number of disadvantages in using water as the cooling fluid in marine engine pistons,
which have been listed as follows.

• Telescopic gland must be carefully maintained and aligned, no water leakage can be
allowed to contaminate the crankcase. If any water leakage occurs, the whole crankcase
lube oil has to be changed because water in lube oil is counted as a major contamination of
lube oil.
• Inhibitors are necessary to prevent corrosion in the system and adequate venting must be
• A separate piston cooling water system including pumps and heat exchanger will be
needed unlike the case of oil cooled pistons which use the same lube oil system.
• Pressure and rate of flow must be sufficient to over come the gravitational or cocktail
shaker effect due to the reciprocating motion of the piston.
• Piston cooling water & jacket cooling water temperature must be maintained for a period
after engine is stopped in the port. This is necessary in order to allow a gradual reduction
on temperature on piston and consequent thermal stress built up on the piston crown.



The piston is one of the most important components of a marine diesel engine as we have studied
in a previous article. We have also seen the piston replacement process as well as the importance
of piston rings. Since the combustion takes place right in the vicinity of the piston, it is obvious that
unless the piston is cooled using some means, it would be subjected to extreme thermal stresses
and fail very soon. Cooling also limits the thermal expansion to maintain correct clearance
between piston and liner, and between ring grooves and rings. Cooling is achieved either by oil or
water. We have studied about water cooled pistons in a previous article, but now we will take a
look at another important and increasingly popular method of cooling - namely oil cooled pistons.

Definition: As the name itself suggests, when the Lube Oil is used to cool the piston then it is
called as oil cooled piston.

In oil cooled pistons, cooling is carried out by circulating oil/coolant in the internal passages of
piston .

OIL cooled pistons are used in most of the engines currently in production. It is used in the engines
of MAN-B&W and LATEST SERIES OF SULZER (RTA), (RT -flex) etc

Sketch of oil cooled piston
Overhaul of the oil cooled piston in progress

Overhaul of the oil cooled piston in progress

Oil cooled piston cross section view

Construction of oil cooled piston

Pistons are cast in chrome-molybdenum alloy steel. Cooling oil is supplied under pressure to the
CROSSHEAD via either telescopic pipe or swinging links with glands.

From there, some of the lube oil goes for crosshead lubrication and rest of the oil from crosshead
passes through the holes bored in the piston rod to the cooling spaces in the piston.

Cooling oil enters from the central tube within the piston rod and flows under the center of the
crown before passing through the bore cooling holes in the radial direction to piston edges.The oil
comes swirling down behind the piston rings, grooves before returning to the crosshead by
concentric spaces outside the tube in the piston rod.

It returns via the crosshead to a collector where its flow and temperature are monitored before it
drains to the bottom of the crankcase for recirculation and get collected in the lube oil sump of
main engine.

Advantage of oil cooled piston

1. No contamination of water with lube oil in the crankcase

2. No need for a seperate heat exchanger system and pumps to handle the piston cooling
3. Inhibitors are not necessary to be added in the lube oil to prevent corrosion in the system
because they are already present

Drawbacks of oil cooled pistons

The following are the drawbacks of using oil instead of water for piston cooling

1. Oil has a slightly low thermal capacity than water, therefore an adequate supply is

2. It also has a lower maximum safe temperature of 56o c to prevent formation of carbon and
lacquer on hot internal surfaces with consequent reduction in heat transfer (or) choking of
small oil passage
3. Piston cooling oil forms a part of the ENGINE CRANKCASE LUBRICATION SYSTEM and
this will require to increase the capacity of sump to accommodate it
4. There may be a slight increase in the oil deterioration due to increased thermal cycling of
the lube oil

In the end it can be stated that the advantages offered by oil cooling over water cooling certainly
outweigh the drawbacks, hence the reason for rising popularity of oil cooled pistons in current
diesel marine engines



The actual Bunkering operation is carried out with bunker checklists. In this article, emphasis is
made on the checklists, safety precautions, SOPEP locker & SOPEP equipments, temperature &
density correction to calculate the quantity of oil bunkered. Formula for calculation has been

Bunkering Oil

Earlier we learnt about the bunkering and what is means. Now we will study the process of actual
bunkering operations and the practical details of the process of bunkering oil. All types of
ships needs fuel oil, lub oil etc and hence it is important for everyone to understand the actual
process of bunkering so here we go.

Pre-bunkering preparations.

The most important aspect of bunkering operation is the "checklists", which forms a part of
company's safety management system (SMS) and I.S.M.,eliminating the possibility and negligence
of human and other operational errors. The pre-bunkering checklist must be followed in-
consultation with the Chief Engineer (C/E), as he is the person-in-charge for the bunkering
operation. Before bunkering, ususally it is 4th engineering officer, taking "soundings" of bunker
tanks and calculates the volume of fuel oil available in every fuel oil tank of the ship. Then a
Bunker-plan is made to plan the distribution of total quantity of bunker fuel oil.

Bunker Procurement

Ordering of Bunker oil:

The ship Managers (superintendents) monitor the performance of a fleet of ships. For eg. On
owning a car, we tend to keep a check on its fuel consumption widely called as "mileage". It is the
distance travelled by the vehicle for a unit volume of fuel used. In the same way, as the ship
consumes humungous quantity of fuel, whose costs are forming the major part of ship's operation,
The Managers tend to keep a check on it. This is measured in terms of specific fuel oil
consumption of the main propulsion engine.

On knowing the fuel oil consumption for a day & next voyage plan, the quantity of fuel oil required
is calculated and compared with the available bunker tank capacity. A requisition is placed through
the C/E & Master of the vessel to the Managers. The requisition is processed and evaluated for the
quality & quantity of fuel to be supplied for the particular ship. Planning is done for the delivery of
bunker at a particular port where the oil is available at a comparitive lesser cost. On taking all
these aspects into consideration, the Managers, deliver bunker to the vessel. Upon receiving the
bunker, a sample collected during bunkering operation is sent for lab analysis to confirm the
delivered oil meets the required standard for the safe & efficient operation of the auxiliary
engines & main propulsion engine.

Pre-Bunker Checklist:

Pre-Bunkering Procedure:
1. State of adjacent waters noticed
2. Vessel properly secured to dock
3. Check suppliers product corresponds to ordered product
4. Agree quantity to be supplied
5. Check valves open
6. Day tanks full and supply valves closed
7. Warning signs in position e.g. No Smoking
8. SOPEP plan available
9. Clean up material in place
10. Oil Boom in place
11. Foam fire extinguisher placed at bunker station
12. Alfa Laval and transfer pumps off
13. Fuel tank supply valves open
14. Agree stop/start signals between vessel and barge/truck
15. Bravo flag flying/red light showing
16. Agree pumping/transfer rate
17. Agree emergency shut down procedure
18. Specification sheet received
19. Check hose and couplings are secure and in good order
20. Fuel nozzle and hose secured to vessel
21. Check barge/truck meters Reading:
22. Check on board meters Reading:
23. Bunker Valve open
24. Unused manifold connections blanked off
25. Master informed
26. Signal pumping to commence

Functions of Ships Main Engine Thrust Block, Prop Shaft, and Stern Tube

In a marine main engine the drive from the crankshaft is directed through a thrust block,
propeller shaft, and the stern tube. These components are essential to the efficient
transmission of the engine’s power to the propeller by ensuring control of torque, propeller
shaft alignment, and support.

Introduction to Thrust Blocks, Propeller Shafts and Stern Tubes

These three components all serve different purposes, but complement each other.

The thrust block is situated just aft of the main engine, and its purpose is to transmit the torque
produced by the rotating propeller and shaft down into the ship’s structure.

The propeller shaft runs between the thrust block and the stern tube being supported by a number
of shaft bearings fitted along the length of the shaft. The stern tube contains supports and seals for
the propeller shaft as it passes through the ship’s stern before connecting to the propeller.

This is another article in my series on marine engines and auxiliary equipment. Here we will
examine the purposes of the thrust block, propeller shaft, and stern tube, and we begin with the
purpose of the thrust block.

Thrust Block Purpose and Operation

When I was at sea as a first tripper Junior Engineer, I well remember asking an old chief engineer
the purpose of a thrust block. He thought for a few moments then told me that if there was no
thrust block the propeller and shaft would try to push the engine into the foc’s’le head. That was
over forty years ago, and it is not a bad analogy.

The purpose of a thrust block on a large marine engine is to transmit the torque produced by the
rotating propeller through the housing hold-down bolts into the ship’s structure. The structure
under the thrust block is reinforced with steel plates and I beams above and inside the double
bottom tanks or cofferdams.

The thrust block consists of a housing which contains a number of wedge-shaped white metalled
pads with generous helical oil grooves cut into them. The pads are arranged and fixed around a
steel support, holding them against a machined collar on the drive shaft.

The pads are prevented from overheating and premature wear by a fluid film of oil between them
and the collar, the oil supply being hydrodynamic - self pressurized due to the rotation of the drive

There is an oil reservoir in the bottom of the housing which may contain an oil cooling coil through
which seawater is circulated.

I have included a sketch of a Mitchell type thrust block of the type used when I was a boy at sea.
However, it will not have changed much except perhaps the pads may now be PTFE lined.

Purpose and Operation of the Propeller Drive Shaft

The propeller shaft runs from the main engine drive shaft, through the thrust block down through
bearings in the shaft tunnel before passing through the stern tube to drive the ship's propeller.

It is manufactured from forged steel complete with couplings and machined leaving a larger
diameter at the location of the shaft bearings.

The shaft flange faces are accurately machined and the bolt holes reamed to accept fitted bolts.
They are bolted together using high tension bolting being tightened using hydraulic tensioning

The supporting bearings are cast in two halves which are usually white metal lined, being
lubricated by splash lubrication. Nowadays ball bearing shaft supports are being used, but I
believe they are quite noisy and run hot.

Purpose and Operation of Stern Tube

The stern tube is used to support and seal the propeller shaft as it passes through the aft hull. It
consists of a cast iron tube welded into the stern frame. In the old days, the shaft inside the tube

was bronze coated and run against a longitudinal bearing ,which, when I was serving my time in
Harland & Wolff Belfast, was made of narrow strips of a very hard wearing wood known as lignum

However nowadays, the propeller shaft has a cuni (Copper Nickel Alloy) liner shrunk onto it.
Babbitt metal is applied over this then machined, providing the bearing surface between the cast
iron stern tube and the propeller shaft. This is lubricated and cooled by lube oil supplied from a
gravity tank located under the aft peak. The propeller shaft has mechanical and/or adjustable
gland seals fore and aft to prevent the ingress of oil to the sea and aft bilge well.


There are several different arrangements of stern tube bearings, similar to the one described and
some having additional water-cooled strut bearings fixed to the outside hull of the vessel,
supporting the shaft right up to the propeller. (Notably on RN & US Warships.)

Sketches of Typical Thrust Block, Propeller Shaft and Stern Tube

Mitchell Type Thrust Block

Propeller Shaft

Stern Tube


Do you know how diesel engines are started in ships? Equivalent in size to a four-story building,
the main propulsion engine is started with the help of compressed air at a pressure of 30 bar.
Learn more about how a ship gets its compressed air supply from.

Why compressed air?

We discussed diesel engine starting problems in our previous article and saw how various
methods are used to overcome this problem. We also saw how a marine engine is different due to
its size and location, and that compressed air is the solution to starting the diesel engine.

As you know that a ship is a mobile power plant or a moving mini-city. It has all facilities,
sometimes better than what we find ashore. These moving giants have a pre-designed and
erected compressed air system, which facilitates many activities onboard a ship. There are mostly
4 to 8 and sometimes 10 air compressors found onboard. These Air compressors take suction
from the engine room atmosphere which is already under a slight positive pressure. These air
compressors compress the air in stages and fill up the huge air bottles, which acts as accumulator.
The air compressors compress usually upto 30 bar and keep the air bottles filled up all the time.
The number of air bottles and its volume(capacity) depends on the power (size) of the main
propulsionengine. These Air compressors are of varying capacity and used as per the requirement

Role of compressed air on a ship

control air from reducer and de-humidifier

The role of compressed air onboard is of a very vast nature. Every Ship will be having a "DEAD-
START" or "The FIRST START" arrangement. This is nothing but when the ship is totally "Dead"
i.e, with out any power and no machineries running and no compressed air in the air bottle to start
the generator engine(auxiliary diesel engine), then a provision is given for every ship to get the air
bottle filled up to bring back the ship to safe, normal, working condition. This is provided either by a
"Emergency Air Compressor" driven by a small diesel engine or electric motor getting its power
supply from "Emergency Generator". The various uses of compressed air onboard ship are listed
1. To start main propulsion engine
2. To start Auxiliary diesel engine(power generation)
3. To blow ship's whistle
4. For Engine Room general service and cleaning.
5. For the operation of pneumatic tools
6. For deck services, to carry out chipping.
7. For Automation & Instrumentation of various machineries,
8. For fresh & sea water hydrophores,
9. Fire alarms & operation of Quick closing Valves,
10. For Soot Blowing Exhaust Gas Economizer etc and many more...!!

components of air starting system

Compressed Air System Layout

The compressed air system onboard typically has a set of 4 to 6 compressors, out of which 3 will
be main are compressors, 2 service air compressors & one topping up air compressor. The
Emergency air compressor is not to be counted as a normally used machinery.

general layout

Main air compressors: These are used only when a ship enters or leaves a port, mostly during
maneuvering only. They are of higher capacity of all. During maneuvering, these compressors
when put in use, fills up the air bottle faster than other compressors, thus enabling the ship to berth
herself in the port.

Topping-Up air compressors: These are comparatively of lesser capacity than the main air
compressors. They are just used when the ship is sailing in the mid-seas where the consumption
of air is very less (only for engine & deck services).

Service Air compressors: These are general service air compressors, which are used either for
engine or deck service. They are of lesser capacity and their are designed for their pure strict oil
free air quality. These compressors are used for pressing up the control air bottle and thus the
control air of high purity is used for various automation purposes in the engine room and the pump
room for oil tankers.

There may be set of main air bottles, service air bottle and a control air bottle for their respective
purposes. The system also incorporates many pressure reducing valves and driers(de-humidifiers)
to get rid of the moisture present in the compressed air.

Starting of an Auxiliary Diesel Engine

The auxiliary diesel engine is mostly started with the help of compressed air,depending upon the
size of the engine. Other means of starting includes Electric start(battery) and air motor(engaged
in the flywheel). The most common method is the use of compressed air. The lay out for starting
the auxiliary engine is given below.

auxiliary engine starting diagram

Before starting the auxiliary engine, the following safety checks must be carried out:

1. Turning gear disengaged(if available).

2. Lubricating oil sump level normal
3. Turbocharger oil level( both turbine & blower)side normal
4. Lubricating oil priming pump running.
5. Fuel oil/diesel oil booster pump running.
6. lube oil, cooling fresh water, fuel oil pressure normal.
7. Rocker arm tank level normal.
8. All valves in compressed air line open to the engine.

Referring to the above starting diagram of an auxiliary engine, the" main air" from the main air
bottle arrives at the air starting valve. There is a tapping from the main air starting line, "pilot air"
going to the starting air distributor. When the engine rotates, the camshaft also rotates which in
turn rotates "the starting air distributor cam". This cam is designed as per the firing order of the
engine such that, the distributor rotates and lets the pilot air to the particular unit. The pilot air
reaches on top of the air starting valve, opening it, in turn making the long awaited main air to let
inside the combustion chamber. The main air which is at 30 bar, pushes the piston down making
the crankshaft to rotate. This leads to continuous rotation of the crankshaft making the engine to
achieve the minimum r.p.m at which firing of the injected fuel takes place. When the engine picks
up on fuel, the air is cut off and drained. Thus the auxiliary diesel engine is started with the help of
compressed air.
In the next article, we will take up the study of the various valves mentioned in the starting air
systems namely master air starting valve, cylinder valves and so forth.

air starting system


Do you know about one of the world's oldest professions? Read here to learn about the
challenging sea-going career on ships. Also learn about the pay scales/wages earned by
Marine Engineers and Navigating Officers onboard a merchant ship and the difference in
wages between a gas tanker and dry ship.


We all live in a very modern world, where everything and every job is performed with the use of
computers and automation. There are new jobs and opportunities emerging as the result of rapid
improvement in science and technology. People cling to these new opportunities and keep
improving the technology in turn. We people serve different companies and organizations for
different wages and perks, which vary depending upon every individual’s role and nature of work.
Now it’s time to throw some light on one of the world’s oldest professions. Guess what?
Yes. It’s the profession on high seas and deep blue oceans. It was through seas and oceans that
trade first started. Navigators and explorers found new countries and continents by traveling many
miles in high seas and oceans. This tradition developed so tremendously that today ships are so
huge that they can transport 500,000 tons of crude oil from one port to another all over the globe.
But until now almost 90% of the world’s population is not aware of the sea-going jobs and other
opportunities now available. Most of my friends and relatives keep enquiring about the adventures
at sea and of course the wages earned by the professionals at sea. In this article, you will find the
answer for your long lasting question, “How much do marine engineers earn?”

Ranks onboard Merchant ships:
A Merchant ship is one that carries cargoes of different types from one port to another. As the
global population keeps increasing, the trade and thus the number of ships for transporting the
cargoes too, increase. Thus there will be always a huge demand for professionals to work onboard
a ship. As discussed previously in some of the articles, there are various ranks and grades of
officers serving onboard a merchant ship. A quick glimpse of these ranks is as follows:

Navigation Department ---------------------------------------Engineering Department

Master/Captain ---------------------------------------------------Chief Engineer
Chief Officer ------------------------------------------------------Second Engineer
Second Officer ---------------------------------------------------Third Engineer
Third Officer ------------------------------------------------------Fourth Engineer
Deck Cadet -------------------------------------------------------Junior Engineer

Ship Types and Wages:

The more the risk, the more the wages. This principle can be applied to the sea-going profession,
too. There are different types of ships, and the most common are listed below:

1. Crude Oil Tankers

2. Product/Chemical Tankers
3. Gas Tankers (L.N.G/L.P.G)
4. Dry Bulk Carriers
5. Car Carriers (RO-RO)
6. Containerships

The navigation and engineering department for all the above merchant ships are mostly common,
except when the size of the vessel is huge and special operating conditions demand one or more
additional officer, subject to lifeboat capacity. Currently, the officers serving on gas tankers are
paid more than other types of ships. The reason is the hazardous nature of gas cargo and special
operational requirement for loading and discharging them. The wages for officers on crude oil and
chemical tankers are almost same, but may vary few hundred dollars within them.
The dry vessels which include containerships, car carriers, and dry bulk carriers require no or very
less cargo operation when compared to the tankers. Thus the dry ship wages are comparatively
less than that of tanker wages.

Also the wages for Master/Captain and Chief Engineer are same. It also applies to Chief Officer
and Second Engineer and continues for all ranks below them. The following figures are the wages
for Indian Officers on a Gas Tanker, USD/month.
Gas Tanker Wages:

Master/Captain--- 12000 USD to 15000 USD

Chief Officer----- 8000 USD to 10000 USD
Second Officer--- 4500 USD to 6000 USD
Third Officer----- 3200 USD to 4200 USD
Deck Cadet------- 500 USD to 700 USD
Chief Engineer---- 12000 USD to 15000 USD
Second Engineer—8000 USD to 10000 USD
Third Engineer ---- 4500 USD to 6000 USD
Fourth Engineer --- 3200 USD to 4200 USD
Junior Engineer --- 600 USD to 1000 USD
For European and American officers it may vary depending upon the cost of living of the particular
country. The majority of the seafaring officers are from India, Croatia, Britain, with a few from
Germany, Russia, and America. Most of the Koreans, Chinese, Filipinas, and Americans work for
their own Government-based shipping companies instead of the International Companies.

Wages in Dry ships:

Master/Captain--- 8000 USD to 9000 USD

Chief Officer----- 6000 USD to 7000 USD
Second Officer--- 4000 USD to 5000 USD
Third Officer----- 2800 USD to 3200 USD
Deck Cadet------- 500 USD to 700 USD
Chief Engineer---- 8000 USD to 9000 USD
Second Engineer—6000 USD to 7000 USD
Third Engineer ---- 4000 USD to 5000 USD
Fourth Engineer --- 2800 USD to 3200 USD
Junior Engineer --- 600 USD to 1000 USD


Ships boilers are the heart of a steamship, when they are not operating efficiently the ship begins
to lose speed. To keep the boilers running at optimum efficiency the testing of the feed water for
impurities before they can cause problems to boiler water pipes and internal fittings is imperative.

Introduction to Boiler Feed Water Tests

Boiler feed water and condensate systems are regularly tested for impurities, which must be
eradicated before doing damage to the boiler internals. These impurities which include gasses and
undissolved solids, combine with water properties such as hardness and alkalinity to deposit scale
and cause corrosion of water tubes and internal fittings. Any negative results of the tests can be
rectified by the addition of chemicals to the feed water and diluting the impurities by blowing down
the boiler and adding make up feed.

This is another article on ships engines and boilers, here we will examine the purpose and
equipment used in boiler feed water and condensate testing, an essential part of ships boiler
maintenance. We shall begin with an overview of the feed system and move on to the tests carried
out and their purpose.

Boiler Feed Water System.

Superheated steam from the boiler is fed into the steam turbine where it expands through the
different stages before exiting into the main condenser. This converts any remaining steam to
condensate which is fed through the deaerator, and several heaters before being pumped under
high pressure back into to the boiler via the main boiler feed valve. The feed water must be
regularly monitored for impurities by taking water samples from the different stages in the feed
water system which comprises of the make-up water and condensate returns.

Make-up feed being initially supplied by the evaporators, which produce distilled water from

Tests Carried out on a Boiler Feed Water System

Samples taken from the boiler water feed system are cooled usually to 25οC and tested for the
following properties and impurities,

• Dissolved gasses- Oxygen, Carbon Dioxide and ammonia.

• Acidity or Alkalinity-Carbonates and bicarbonates Hydroxides content.
• Hardness – Calcium and magnesium salts content
• Undissolved solids – impurities built up in the boiler water over time.
• Chlorine content – usually originates from seawater ingress to feed water system.
The Treatment of Boiler Water Impurities

• Dissolved gasses of oxygen, and CO2

It is one of the jobs of the deaerator to get shot of the dissolved gasses in the returning
condensate. So if there are consistently high quantities of these in the system it is best to check
that the DA is operating correctly.

If however the gasses continue to form, the best method of reducing them is by using a blowdown
valve. Some Chief Engineers prefer to leave the boiler on constant blowdown, and I have used this
method myself with the provisos,

1. The DA is operating satisfactory

2. The amount of make-up feed is monitored

3. Tests for O2 and CO2 are carried out every watch

4. The steam from the blowdown valve can be used in a feedwater heater.

• Alkalinity

Acid and alkalinity are used to describe properties of fluids, their levels being measured in units of
pH from o to 14, a pH of 7 being neutral.

Feed water in Ships boilers are best maintained at an alkalinity around 8.5pH, as we go below this
figure, the acidic water will cause corrosion of the watertubes and internals whereas a reading
above will cause excessive coating of scale on these components.

Sodium Phosphate of Soda (NaPo4) can be used to adjust the alkalinity of boiler water.

• Hardness

This is caused by high calcium and magnesium content in the feedwater system. Hardness will
cause scaling on the watertubes and internal fittings. It can be controlled by using carbonates,
phosphates and certain types of polymers. Carbonates should be used sparingly as they can
promote the formation of CO2 with the attendant risk of corrosion.

• Total Dissolved Solids (TDS)

Dissolved solids build up gradually being left behind in the boiler water as impurities.

Strict control of the TDS is imperative as a build-up can cause carry-over of water from the steam
drum. This is not only detrimental to the turbines but the sensitive auxiliary equipment and
instrumentation and should be avoided at all costs.

• Chlorine Content

This falls into the TDS category but it is worthwhile having a closer look is causes and reduction. A
rapid rise in salt PPM indicates a leak of seawater into the feed system, usually from the
condenser or process coolers.

Control is achieved again by using the constant blowdown valve and regular topping up of the feed
system with make-up feed water.
Boiler Water Testing Procedures

• Testing for Dissolved Oxygen

Indigo Carmine Method

This testing equipment comes in the form of a kit containing all the necessary components to test
for dissolved oxygen content.

A phial is provided containing the correct amount of carmine and measured sample of boiler water
is added to this, which changes the colour of the mixture. This colour is compared to a colour strip
and the corresponding dissolved oxygen content read off.

• Testing for Alkalinity

Years ago we used litmus papers of different pH ranges which were dipped into a filtered solution
of feed water. The resultant colour change in the paper, determined whether the sample was acid
or alkaline. Not a very accurate method but gave a quick ball-park indication of the condition of the
feedwater. Litmus strips are still used but give a more accurate result.

Alkalinity tests are also carried out using an electronic instrument, which consists of a glass probe
attached to a meter. The instrument should be calibrated before every test using buffer liquids of
known pH.

It operates by immersing the bulbous tip of the glass probe into the feedwater sample, the probe
sending a minute voltage through the solution which is measured and displayed on the meter as

Test for Total Dissolved Solids (TDS)

There are several methods to determine the TDS of boiler feedwater, we shall examine one of the
more modern methods using a TDS meter.

This instrument works on the principle that dissolved minerals and salts affect the conductivity of a
liquid such as boiler feedwater. The instrument measures the waters conductivity and converts the
reading to PPM.


Marine pollution is a familiar problem to most, but the lasting effects it will create is something to
definitely consider. Very few know that the world is at the 11th hour and understanding the effects
and causes is the perfect starting point to solve the problem.

Marine Pollution and its Harmful Effects

Marine pollution is a diversified term. Several factors have created the present dilapidated
condition of the sea. Sources are many but the solutions are few. Because oceans are part of the
food chain, marine pollution affects a wide spectra of species, including humans. Ocean and
human life is so inextricably interwoven that the effects of marine pollution are drastically visible on
human life.

The effects that have been making headlines across the world include global warming, the melting
of polar ice caps, the extinction of endangered marine species, etc. What are these effects caused
by? How do the endangered marine species become extinct? How does marine pollution affect the
food chain? Let's explore the major sources of human pollution and how the oceans are affected
by it.

Addition Of Nutrients & Pathogens

When organic matter is disposed of into the sea, the matter absorbs dissolved oxygen which
reduces the level of oxygen in the ocean that marine organisms require. This organic matter also
feeds algae blooms that are already present in the water, stimulating their growth. This
decomposing algae not only depletes the oxygen content but also releases toxic substances that
are harmful to marine organisms. The toxins can even enter food chain through fish or other sea
organisms, which in turn, can poison humans. The main sources of organic matter pollution are
sewage plants, forestry, farming, and also airborne nitrogen oxides from automobiles and power
plants. Algae blooms that feed on human sewage also causes discoloration of water due to the
decomposition of matter. Algae blooms can choke fish gills and even poison them with the
chemicals created from the decomposition process.

Human sewage also contain bacteria and pathogens that contaminate the coastal areas by
accumulating on shores and beaches. This might even enter the food chain or spread diseases
like cholera, typhoid, or other dangerous diseases. One more source of pathogens is the water
used to wash livestock that is disposed into the sea. This water contains high level of germs and

Also, ocean organisms like mussels, oysters and clams that are consumed as food have a
tendency of concentrating pathogens in their gut. Consumption of these foods will increase the
possibility of food poisoining, creating possible health risks to many people around the world.

Oil Pollution

Oil is the most dangerous form of marine pollutant. Its effects are not only the most harmful but are
also permanent. The oil spills that we hear about are not the only source of oil pollution. Oil finds
its way into the sea through many ways such as automobiles, waste discharge of heavy industries,
and also from offshore structures. Even the slightest type of contamination can kill the larvae of
marine animals and also spread diseases. The chemical ingredients of oil causes physicological
changes in the organisms leading to changes in behavior.

Larger oil spills are the worst type of marine pollution.The thick oil sticks to the body of marine
organisms making them incapable of performing some necessary functions. Sea birds are the
ones most affected by oil spills as the oil sticks to their wings, rendering them flightless. As the
density of oil is less that water, it floats on the top, forming a thick impermissible membrane. This
thick layer prevents marine organisms to come to the surface for sunlight and oxygen, and
eventually will kill them. As the layer is black and opaque,the sunlight cannot pass through the
surface. This prevents the marine plants to photosynthesize sunlight into energy.

Tar balls formed due to the coagulation of oil, water, and other debris is washed onto the shore,
causing harm to human and coastal life that relies on the water and beaches for food.

Sediments, Plastics, and Foreign Species

Sediments from dredging and mining makes the sea water cloudy, preventing sunlight to reach the
marine plants on the sea bed (much like oil spills). When heavy sediments settle on the ocean
floor can bury fish and other delicate species such as coral reefs. These sediments can also clog
fish gills and smother a large part of the marine ecosystem.
Sources of plastics include landfills, waste disposal from plastic industries, plastic garbage from
ships, and litter on beaches. Plastics can stick to marine life and affect their breathing or
swimming. When settled on the sea bed, the plastics can also smother any life that calls the sea
floor home. Discarded fishing nets can continue to catch huge numbers of fish. Small plastic
fragments can be mistaken as food by fish or other sea life which can kill them by filling up or
damaging their stomach or other digestive organs. Another common piece of plastic that holds
together 6 packs of soda cans are infamous for getting stuck around the necks of birds, sea turtles,
and other marine life.

Different parts of the oceans have different inhabitats. Thousands of gallons of water, along with
any local species in the water, is transported by ships in their ballast tanks. When the water is
released in a different area, the foreign species in the transported water can kill off native species.

Chemical, Radioactive, and Thermal Pollution

Discarded radioactive materials from nuclear submarines and military waste have been a major
source of radioactivity in the oceans, which causes fatal harm to marine life. They can also enter
the food chain as some organisms like shell fish concentrate radioactivity in their bodies which are
later consumed by humans.

Pesticides like DDT, PCBs etc can enter the oceans through city waste water and industrial
discharges from farms and forests. Pesticides are easily absorbed by marine organisms causing
numerous defects and reproductivity problems. Pesticides that enter the food chain pose great
risks to humans who consume fish and sea food.

Thermal pollution is when high or low temperature water is discharged from an industrial source.
The difference in temperatures can kill corals and other sensitive marine organisms that are not
developed to handle the different temperatures.


This article discusses the different types of compressors used on board, the uses of compressed
air on board, unloading of compressors, safety features of compressors, operating procedure of
compressor, routine maintenance of reciprocating compressor, valves overhaul procedure, trouble
shooting, etc.

Different Types of Compressors on Board

Compressors are used for compression of gases by decreasing the volume and imparting a
corresponding increase in pressure. There are a different types of compressors used for different
uses onboard. We have refrigeration compressors used in air conditioning and refrigeration. We
have air compressors for supplying compressed air; we have compressors on the engine
turbochargers supplying compressed air to the engines for combustion. There are different types
of compressors like centrifugal compressors, rotary vanes compressors, rotary screw compressor,
reciprocating air compressors, etc. In this article we shall be discussing the reciprocating air

Onboard we have different types of air compressors in use. There are main air compressors used
for supplying high pressure air for starting of the main engine and auxiliary engines, control air
compressor for supplying control air, topping air compressors for topping up and taking account of
the leakages, and on some ships we have deck air compressors to give air for the use on decks. In
addition we have a special oil free compressor for filling up the breathing air bottles known as the
breathing air compressors.

Generally two pressures of air are used: 30 bars high pressure air used generally for starting of the
engines and 7 bars low pressure air used for control and general service air. In the choice of an air
compressors for applications requiring air above 7 bars, we generally use reciprocating air
compressors as it has a more positive sealing in comparison to the other types of compressors like
rotary vane, centrifugal, rotary screw etc. In reciprocating compressors the compression ratio of
1:7 is the limit due to the rise in temperature, thus to get 35 bars pressure the machine has to be a
double stage compressor with inter-cooling. Most of the marine compressors used are two staged
reciprocating compressors with inter-cooling and after cooling.

Marine Reciprocating Engine

Use of Compressed air on Merchant Ships

On merchant ships compressed air is used for a variety of uses some of which have been
mentioned below:

• For automation and control of main engines, auxiliary engines, etc.

• For starting of the main engines, auxiliary engines, emergency generators, emergency fire
pumps, etc.
• For heaving the life boat up by the use of an air motor.
• For pressurizing the hydrophores for domestic fresh water and sanitary water used in
• For use in the sewage plant for conducting aerobic sewage breakdowns.
• For use in fog horns and ships whistles.
• For use in pneumatic tools like pneumatic grinder, pneumatic chisels, pneumatic drills,
pneumatic spanners, etc.
• For use in painting operations.
• For general cleaning.
• For soot blowing of the boilers.
• Used in pneumatic pumps for oil transfer.
• And used as general service air

Unloading of the Compressors

All compressors need to be unloaded during starting, stopping, and at regular intervals. It is for the
following reasons:

1. During the starting of a motor the starting current is very high, so to avoid further overloading of
the motor the compressor is started unloaded. When the current comes down to the running value,
the unloader is closed and the compressor comes on load.

2. As the air is compressed in volume it releases a large amount of moisture. This oily water
mixture is incompressible and if it is present inside the compression chamber it can damage the
piston and the valves. For this reason also the compressor is started unloaded so that all the
moisture present inside is drained.

3. At stopping the same is done so as to drain all the moisture inside and in preparation for the
next starting.

4. Intermittently the compressor is unloaded to remove the condensed water inside which could go
outside with the air.

For the purpose of unloading there are different types of unloaders some of them are pneumatic
and some are solenoid operated. They all have a timer in the circuit which energizes the solenoid
at the starting, stopping, and intermittently.

Safety Features of Marine Compressors

Marine compressors have various safety features and cutouts installed so that they will trip when
running in an unsafe mode. The compressors are reliable machines, but have to be maintained
properly and in the proper intervals. There have been cases of the cylinder heads bursting and
often resulting in fatalities. The various safety devices put in a marine compressor are as follows:

1. Lubricating oil low pressure trip

2. Cooling water high temperature trip

3. Motor overload trip and Motor overheating trip

Operating Procedure of a Reciprocating Compressor

The operating manual of the particular machine would give the specific items to be checked and
the same must be read by the marine engineer upon joining the ship. However a rough guideline
has been presented below:

1. Lubrication: check the oil level in the sump and in the lubricator tank.

2. Unloading: the valves in the unloading lines must be open.

3. Pressure gauge cocks: the cocks must be slightly open to avoid excessive pressure fluctuations
which can damage the pressure gauges.

4. Air filter: check that the air intake filter is clean.

5. Cooling: check that the cooling water pressure is correct and in the case of attached pumps a
visual check of the pump and all the valves in the line must be open.

6. Relief valves: some relief valves have hand testing levers given for testing, the same can be

7. Air line piping: check that all the valves in the discharge piping are open and correctly lined up.

8. Final check: the compressor can be turned a few revolutions with a turning bar to check for the
free movement.

After the above checks have been made a compressor may be started with the unloaders open.

Routine Maintenance of Reciprocating Compressors

Though the maintenance done on the compressors onboard would depend on the manufacturers
advice and the planned maintenance program set up by the company, the below is a rough
guideline about what is to be done for a new joining marine engineer.

1. Clean air filter at 250 running hours. Though neglected and often thought as ordinary, this filter
is in fact very important as it is filtering the contaminants from coming inside the compression
space and reducing abrasions on the liner surface. Also a dirty air inlet filter can raise the delivery
temperature of the air to a dangerous level which can be well above the lubricating oil flash point
and near the auto ignition point. Thus a badly maintained air inlet filter can cause an explosion.

2. Clean and inspect valves at 250 running hours. The valve is the heart of the compressor, and it
operates once every revolution. The valves can be damaged due to impact forces or due to the
ingress of foreign particles. Excessive lubrication also has been known to damage the valves. The
valves should be removed, inspected, and overhauled at regular intervals. A broken valve can fall
onto the piston and cause extensive damages, thus for this reason the valve maintenance is of
vital importance.

3. Change crankcase oil at 500 running hours. Lubricating oil can lose its property over a period of
time due to the onerous operating conditions. However the synthetic lubricating oils can be used
for a longer period.

4. Check drive belts at 250 running hours. A v-belt is generally used to drive the cooling water
pump. The tightness of the belt should be checked and adjusted to the correct value at proper
intervals. In addition a belt dressing spray would protect the belts as well as increase the
transmission of the power and reduce the slippage.

5. Check unloader operation at 250 running hours. At a regular interval the operation of the
unloaders should be checked and if not satisfactory should be investigated and corrected.

The above is an example of the routine maintenance of the air compressors. In addition to the
above at routine intervals the piston would have to be pulled out and the piston rings changed,
bumping clearances checked, bearings changed. All this would be done on the basis of the
planned maintenance program based on the manufacturer’s advice.

Valves Overhaul Procedure

The compressor must first be electrically isolated with the fuses removed and an electrical isolation
and work permit granted by the chief engineer. Thereafter the first stage and the second stage
suction and discharge valves should be removed and brought to the workshop for overhauling.

Marine compressors use the HOERBIGER automatic valves. The suction and the discharge valves
look similar; however the direction of the operation and the spring stiffness differs. The suction
valve springs are of lower spring stiffness than the discharge ones and they must never be mixed
up. Also when using new spare parts the part number must be carefully checked from the
operation and maintenance manual to avoid mixing them up.

When opened up the suction valves are found to be in clean condition while the discharge valves
would have some degree of carbonization. In case a valve is opened up and some parts are found
to be broken, all the broken parts must be located to avoid any further damage to the machine. An
exploded view of the compressor valve has been shown and the overhaul procedure is as follows:

1. Remove the split pin and open the castle nut.

2. Dismantle all the parts and soak in kerosene or clean diesel oil.

3. Clean all the parts with a soft brush. In case of a hard deposit a copper plate of washer can be
used for the scraping action.

4. Check the valve plates and the valve seats for any damage and cracks. If any signs of fatigue
cracks on the valve plates are present, then the valve plate must be replaced with new ones. The
valve plate must never be turned over and used as it can lead to fatigue failure.

5. The valve plate and the valve seat must be separately lapped on a surface plate using fine and
extra fine grinding paste.

6. Thereafter all the parts must be washed with diesel and cleaned with compressed air.

7. The valve should then be assembled, with the lapped surface of the valve plate and the valve
seat facing each other.

8. After the assembly of the valve the operation of the valve should be checked by a soft wooden

After the overhaul the valves have to be checked for leakage. The space above the valve plate
should be filled up with water or light oil like kerosene. If after a few minutes no drop in level or
leakage is there then the valve is satisfactory for the use. While installing care should be taken to
avoid the interchange of the suction and the discharge valves, as it could lead to an explosion due
to over pressurization of the compression chamber.

Compressor Automatic Valve

Troubleshooting Marine Compressors

Though the problems encountered onboard differ from ship to ship, a brief guideline is given
regarding the causes of the different symptoms.

1. Lube oil pressure low: causes can be leakage in pipes, suction strainer choked, oil grade wrong,
gear pump faulty, faulty pressure gauge, increased clearances of the bearings, and oil level low.

2. Cooling water high temperature: causes can be cooling water valves closed, cooling water
piping blocked, cooling water pump belt lose or broken, cooling water pump faulty, no flow of
cooling water, and low level of cooling water in the expansion tank.

3. Compressor noisy: causes can be bearings worn, crankshaft end play high, discharge pressure
high, poor foundation, small bumping clearance, piston rings worn, liner worn out causing piston
slap, valves not properly seated, and valves broken or faulty.

4. First stage discharge pressure low: causes can be that the first stage suction valve is not closing
fully and allowing the air to leak during the compression or it is not opening fully allowing less air to
come in the chamber or the discharge valve is faulty and opening prematurely or incorrect springs
have been fitted which are compressing on little pressure, intake filter fouled, leakage from piston

5. First stage discharge pressure high: causes can be that the second stage suction valve is not
holding and while compression high pressure air is coming to the inter-cooler and showing an
increase in the pressure, inter-cooler tubes choked.

6. Second stage discharge pressure low: causes can be leakage from the piston rings, second
stage suction valve faulty and allowing the air to escape, second stage discharge valve leaking or
opening prematurely due to wrong springs fitted.

7. Second stage discharge pressure high: causes can be obstruction in the after cooler,
obstruction in the discharge valve, air bottle pressure high, second stage discharge valve springs
very stiff.

The above is just a brief exposure to the problems encountered onboard and how it must be
investigated. An experienced marine engineer keeps an eye on the parameters and knows when
maintenance is expected.


A compressed air system used onboard is very important to the marine engineer and without any
air the ship would soon become a dead ship. The various parts of the compressed air system, be it
the compressors, the pipe lines, or the air bottles have to be maintained in good condition. In this
article a brief guideline has been given about the compressors used onboard, use of compressed
air onboard, the safety devices fitted, the importance of unloading during starting, the operating
procedure, the basic maintenance, the valves overhaul procedure and the trouble shooting have
all been discussed.

It is hoped it would guide junior engineers and marine engineers about the various facets of marine


Different components of Steering Gear on ships explained with their functions.


A Steering Gear is the equipment provided on ships to turn the ship to left (Port side) or to right
(Starboard side) while in motion during sailing. The Steering Gear works only when the ship is in
motion and, does not work when the ship is stationary. All the ships are to be provided with, an
efficient main steering gear, an auxiliary steering gear and, except for very small ships, the main
steering gear should be power operated.

Manually operated, mechanical Steering Gears were in use during sailing ship days. Sailors with
strong body were required to operate the Steering Gears. Later on, after the onset of steam
engines, mechanized gears were used. Modern ships use all very sophisticated Steering Gear
systems which could fall in either of the categories

• Fully hydraulic type

• Electro-hydraulic type
• Fully electric type

We also saw a general overview about these Steering Gears in a previous article. In this article we
will proceed to know more about their constructional details and components.
Before studying further, just take a close look at the sketch of the Steering Gear arrangement
which shows the various parts and components of a dual type system i.e. electro-hydraulic type
gear arrangement.

Working of the Steering Gear

When the ship is required to be turned on receiving an order (say by 10° to port) from the Master
or, the Duty Officer, the helmsman turns the steering wheel towards port until the rudder has
reached 10° to port as read on rudder indicator. The mechanism of the Steering Gear works as

Complete Steering Gear system consists of three main parts namely

1. Telemotor
2. Control Unit
3. Power Unit.

A brief description about the construction and working of these components is as follows

Telemotor unit comprises of two parts namely, Transmitter and Receiver. The Transmitter is
located on the navigation bridge in the form of a wheel, which transmits the given order to the
Receiver located in the steering gear compartment, by turning the steering wheel. The Receiver
conveys this order to the Control Unit, also located in the steering gear compartment, via linear

The Telemotor is generally hydraulic type, electric type or, as is the case with modern steering
systems, it could be electro-hydraulic type. In olden days, Telemotors were purely mechanical type
consisting of linkages and chains with sprockets. As they were operated manually, they required
very healthy sailors to operate them.

Control Unit is the link between the Telemotor and the Power Unit. I receives signal from the
Telemotor and operates the Power Unit until it receives another signal, this time from the Rudder
through the Hunting Gear, to stop the operation of Power Unit.

Power Unit can be any prime mover like steam engine, diesel engine or, an electric motor, directly
coupled to the Rudder; it can be an electro-hydraulic unit or, an all- electric unit complete with the


This article discusses the marine engine room fire protection system, fire hazards in an engine
room, frequent causes of fire, fire detection and firefighting systems, different types of fire
extinguishers available and their locations, emergency fire escapes, and the firefighting team.

Fire hazards in the engine room

The engine room of a seagoing ship is a very fire prone area. It houses about 130 different types
of machinery with their associated risks. It also houses numerous tanks of heated fuel oils,
lubricating oils, diesel oil, greases, and chemicals, etc. An average size ship consumes about 40
tons of fuel oil in a day; the same amount is pumped from the double bottom tanks, and is heated,
filtered, allowed to sediment, purified, clarified, conditioned, reheated, and sent to the main engine
for combustion. Heated fuel oils range in temperature as high as 120 to 150 degrees Celsius. It
runs in kilometers of piping and often at a pressure as high as 1200 bars (in high pressure pipes
during injection for a short length).

The engine room houses machines like steam boilers used for the production of steam for heating
fuel oil, accommodation, and cargoes, where fuel is burnt inside in a furnace in controlled
combustion. Incinerator wastes like oily rags, sludge, and other operational wastes are burnt at a
temperature of 850 degrees C and above. Thus all these types of machines with their devices and
piping can cause a fire hazard if not properly maintained, or if there is an automation failure,
fatigue of material, or vibration failure. A fire in the engine room, unless restricted in the initial
stages often goes out of control, causing many times the loss of the ship and life. Thus it is
imperative that the machineries and the fire detection and firefighting systems are maintained in
efficient condition.

Fire Triangle

The causes of fire in engine room

Fire results from the combining of three factors:

1. A combustible substance.

2. A source of ignition.

3. A supply of air.

These three factors are said to be the three sides of the fire triangle. Removing any one or more of
these sides will break the triangle and result in the fire being put out. The complete absence of any
one of the three will ensure that a fire never starts.

The first side of the triangle, the substance that can burn, is in abundance in engine room- tanks of
oil, pipes full of oil, oily rags, etc. This side can be removed by good housekeeping in the engine
room, efficient garbage management, good maintenance of pipes, flanges, gaskets, and
machines, etc.

The second side of the triangle, air, is also in abundance as huge engine room blowers pump air
into the engine room for ventilation, cooling, and for combustion in the main and auxiliary engines,
boilers, and incinerators.

The third side of the fire triangle is the ignition source, which can also be present sometimes due
to failure of material or insulation, or due to human error. Lots of hot work is done in the engine
room, like gas-cutting and electric arc welding. Hot work done without a valid hot work permit and
without the attendance of a senior engineer is inviting trouble. The engineers must make sure that
high temperature area like exhaust manifolds are insulated and that the insulation is in good
condition. Frequent fires have been caused by fuel spilling from a leaking pipeline on to a hot
surface and catching fire. Naked flames like butane lighters and cigarettes should be avoided in
the engine room because of the presence of oil vapors. Smoking should only be done in
designated areas like the engine control room, which is the certified smoking area. Also ill-
maintained machines can cause hot spots and lead to subsequent fires. A badly maintained main
engine can have a crankcase explosion and scavenge fire which can lead to a total engine room

Fire detection systems

The engine room employs fire detection systems which have a master control panel on the bridge
with auxiliary panels in the engine control room and the fire control station. The system consists of
different types of fire detectors located at various places as per the risk of the type of fire. There
are three phenomena associated with a fire: smoke, flames, and heat. These are employed for the
detection purposes. There are three type of detectors used in engine room, which are infrared
flame detectors, smoke detectors, and heat detectors. We cannot go into the details of the different
types of the fire detectors as it is outside the scope of this article, however, the placement of the
fire detectors is as follows:

• In work shop where there is always welding works going on and smoke and naked flame
are always present, a heat detector would be placed or none at all as it is a certified hot
work area.
• In engine control room smoke detectors are used.
• Near boilers and incinerators where abnormal conditions can produce a naked flame, an
infrared flame and an ionization type smoke detector is used.
• Generally smoke detectors are used throughout the engine room. The flame detectors are
used near fuel handling units like purifiers, hot filters, refiners, conditioners.

Upon the detection of a fire, an audible alarm is sounded throughout the ship, with the control
panel and alarm systems showing the location of the fire. If two types of fire detectors, i.e. flame
and smoke, are simultaneously triggered they would activate the Hyper-Mist system in that zone

Fire Detectors

Fire extinguishing systems in the engine room

Due to the inherent fire risks the engine room employs a wide variety of firefighting equipment and
systems. We shall discuss them one by one.

Fire main: Water is the chief firefighting medium on a ship. A fixed pipeline running throughout the
ship with hydrants at suitable points to cover all the areas is known as the fire main. The fire main
is fed by big fire pumps sized by regulations. There must be at least two fire pumps and an
emergency fire pump in a cargo ship. The emergency fire pump must be at a remote location from
the engine room on the ship. Isolating valves to isolate sections of the pipe line in the event of pipe
failure are located in accessible places and clearly marked. Fire hoses and nozzles are kept coiled
and ready near the hydrants. Monthly checking of these is done by the fire safety officer.

Fire extinguishers: Different types of fire extinguishers, located as per the requirement, are kept
in the engine room. Commonly used are carbon dioxide, DCP or dry chemical powder, and foam
extinguishers. In engine control room where there are electrical and electronic components carbon
dioxide is located. Near fuel handling appliances DCP or foam is generally kept. The extinguishers
are to be regularly inspected and maintained by the fire safety officer.


Fire extinguishing systems in engine room (continued)

Portable foam applicator: This too is located near the boiler flat. It consists of a jerry can
containing foam compound called AFFF or aqueous film-forming foam compound, a foam
applicator nozzle, and a hose for connecting to the fire main.

Sand: It is kept near the boiler in a sand box and is a basic medium for fighting minor fires. It is
also useful in fighting metal fires.

Hyper-Mist systems: These are very high pressure water mist systems. On operation it creates a
water fog which effectively puts out the fire while also providing a quenching or cooling effect. It is
also automatically activated when two different types of fire detectors are triggered in the same fire
zone. It can also be operated remotely. All new ships have this, and the systems are very effective.

Fixed flooding firefighting systems: Outside the engine room there is a dedicated CO2 room
where carbon dioxide is stored under high pressure in bottles or under refrigeration in liquefied
state in bulk. The number of bottles required is divided into banks for each space covered, like
engine room and different cargo holds. The amount of CO2 required for each space is pre-
calculated on the basis of the volume of the compartment, and a bulk CO2 bottle may contain
about 20 tons of liquefied CO2. The CO2 is released in the emergency situation of a fire out of
control, after evacuation of the engine room, by Chief Engineer on the order of the Master of the
ship. CO2 under high pressure travels through fixed pipe lines into the engine room and displaces
oxygen quickly extinguishing the fire. However before CO2 is released it must be ensured that all
doors, fire dampers, and openings are shut down to prevent the gas from escaping. CO2 is a once-
through system that, if not correctly used, could lead to re-ignition and the loss of the ship.

Fire Extinguisher

Fire controlling systems

Large quantities of oil are circulated in the engine room, and a number of oil tanks are also located
there. In the event of a fire, the fuel to the fire is to be cut off. This is achieved by operating the
quick closing valves and the emergency stops. The emergency stop is a “break glass and push”
button located outside the engine room. It is to be operated in the event of a fire and it will shut
down all blowers, fuel transfer pumps, purifiers, incinerators, and boilers.

The quick closing valves are remotely operated hydraulically or pneumatically actuated valves in
the outlet pipes of the fuel storage tanks. When operated it stops the flow of oil from the tanks and,
in many cases, drains the oil from the storage tanks to the double bottom tanks.

Next: Emergency preparedness, Saturday fire draining drills, firefighting gear, and emergency

Emergency preparedness

The shipping company must ensure that the ships personnel are well prepared for a forthcoming
emergency. This is called emergency preparedness as per ISM code element 8. The International
Safety Management Code is the marine counterpart of ISO series used on land for quality
management. All seagoing ships have to abide by the rules. The fire training drills are carried out
every Saturday on all ships around the globe. The Saturday routines are also done which involve
the routine inspection and testing of all firefighting and other safety equipment. The entire
complement is divided into the following groups:

Command squad: It consists of the Captain and third officer. They are overall in charge and
coordinate and communicate with the shore authorities and guide the firefighting team.

Roving squad: It consists of the Chief Engineer, electrical officer, and fitter. They are in charge of
releasing the carbon dioxide and isolating electrical connections, etc.

Emergency squad: There are two emergency squads. The Emergency squad 1 consists of the
Chief Officer and his team. The Emergency squad 2 consists of the Second Engineer and his
team. In case of an engine room fire, the emergency squad 2 fights the fire and the emergency
squad 1 acts as the backup team. In the case of a deck fire it is vice versa.

Support squad: It consists of the Second Officer, Chief cook, and their team. They lower the life
boat, prepare for abandoning the ship, support the emergency teams, and provide boundary

Other aids for firefighting and evacuation

To aid the fighting of fire on every ship, there are fireman’s gear and CABA sets. The fireman’s
outfits are heat-resistant suits worn to approach the seat of the fire to extinguish it. CABA stands
for compressed air breathing apparatus; they are worn in conjunction with the fireman’s outfit and
provide compressed air for breathing. They are also used in the evacuation of personnel from toxic
enclosed spaces. Another device is called EEBD, which means emergency escape breathing
device. It is a portable breathing device containing about 15 minutes of air supply. It is used
primarily for escape from engine room in the event of gas leak or carbon dioxide release.

Emergency fire escapes

Every engine room has one or more emergency escape to aid in the speedy evacuation of the
personnel in the case of a fire. It is an enclosed passage to shield personnel from the fire, and
opening to the main deck or other safe place. It also has EEBD kept inside for usage, as well as a
pulley and rope system to evacuate injured or unconscious personnel.

Next: Preventing re-ignition, re-entry procedures, and our conclusion

Prevent re-ignition: boundary cooling and fire patrols

During a fire and after carbon dioxide has been released in the engine room, the outside
bulkheads and the boundaries of the fire spaces must be cooled by sea water sprays. As Carbon
dioxide has little cooling effect, the water will remove the heat and prevent re-ignition. Also it would
prevent the spread of fire to adjacent compartments. Fire patrols must be continuously kept to
monitor the spread of fire, both before and after reentry.


Re-entry procedures

After the fire has been assumed to be extinguished and before removing the carbon di-oxide by
exhaust blowers, a re-entry using breathing apparatus and fireman’s outfit has to be done. Re-
entry is usually done from the lowest space in the engine room and probably from the emergency
escape. Care is to be taken not to allow the carbon dioxide to escape. The entering personnel
must enter with a fire hose and extinguish any local spots of fire. If confirmed that the fire is out
then the exhaust blowers can be run and the gases removed. However fire patrols must be kept
for a long period after the fire until the engine room is manned again.


Thus the firefighting is a separate branch of engineering. All seafarers, before coming to the sea,
have to undergo basic and advanced firefighting courses, and learn how most practically to fight
the fire. Fire is a constant risk at sea and the worst thing to happen in your sea carrier. The best
option is to fight the fire and stay on board, because if you abandon the ship then you are at the
mercy of nature. And even if you have escaped the fire, dehydration, hypothermia, or starvation
may take you. Thus all sea going personnel should always be at their heels to identify any
potential fire risk. In this article I have tried in brief to introduce the reader to the basics of fire
engineering in a marine engineer’s life at sea. I hope that this will give an idea to the people about
the risks at sea and in the engine room and they would consciously try to look after their own
safety as well as the safety of their fellow seamen.


This article is in continuation of an article that describes the characteristics of rotary pumps. In this
article we will discuss the construction and working of various types of rotary pumps.


In the previous article we learned about the various characteristics, main parts and special
features of the rotary pumps. In this article we will learn about the working of various types
of rotary pumps, i.e. screw, lobe, gear and vane pump. We will also learn how is the
working of screw pump different from that of other types of pumps.

Working of gear,vane or lobe pump

Though the construction, shape and design of gear, vane and globe pumps are a bit different ,
they fall under the same category of rotary pumps. The working of all these pumps are based on
the same principle, i.e pumping of the liquid with the help of rotating elements. The rotating
elements can be gears, screws or vanes. We will understand the basic principle of all these pumps
by taking the working system of gear pumps into consideration.

A gear pumps rotating assembly consists of two gears, a driving gear and a driven gear. Pumping
in a gear pump takes place when the driving gear meshes with the driven gear to form cavities that
moves the fluid.The cavities are the clearances between the gears or lobes and the body of the
pump. The mating surfaces of the gears' mesh provide continuous sealing between the the inlet
and outlet ports.

As the rotation of the pump continues, the movement of the cavities progresses, thus moving the
fluid along the way. After some time, a point is reached where the seal between the captured fluid
and the outlet part of the pump is broken. At this point of time the vanes, gears or lobes, forces the
volume of the captured fluid out of the pump. A continuous cycle takes place due to the
simultaneously opening of new cavities at the inlet port. This leads to a continuous flow of liquid
though the suction and discharge ports.

Working Of Screw Pump

Screw pumps also falls in the category of rotary pumps and have the same mechanism and
principle. Screw pumps are the only type of pumps which are different from other rotary
displacement pumps because of the axial flow of the fluid through their pumping elements.The
fluid in screw pumps moves between the screw threads and is displaced axially as the screws
rotate and mesh.

Due to the axial flow pattern and low internal velocities,the screw pumps have certain advantages
in applications where churning and agitation of fluid is highly objectionable or not allowed.The
inter-meshing of the screw threads on the rotors and the very fine clearances of the surrounding
housing creates a seal between the pumps inlet and outlet.

Due to the rotation of the screws and the movement of fine clearances, pockets are formed in the
helices of the screw.As the screw moves the pockets also move axially and act similar to a piston
moving in one direction, while the fluid is moved axially from inlet to outlet.

General Charateristics of Rotary Pumps

Screw pumps have self priming property and therefore do not require any special arrangements for
suction. Due to self priming property these pumps are able to pump liquid as well as gases without
any loss of suction.

All types of rotary pumps continue to force liquid into the system regardless of the opposition to the
transfer.Due to this reason, additional protection to these pumps is required or else the pump will
continue to build pressure and finally lead to rupture or damage to the pump. This happens due to
the building up of excessive pressure in the pump. To avoid this relief valves are fitted in the
pumps. These relief valves are capable of bypassing entire throughput of the pump. the relief
valves should operate only for short interval of time otherwise they would lead to increase in liquid
and pump temperature.

Rotary pumps are generally used for high viscosity oils such as lube oil and heavy fuel oil.

For smooth pumping of these high viscosity oils,they are required to be preheated. Pre-heating
can be provided within the pump by a steam coil or the oil can be heated before it enters the

Rotary pumps are highly sensitive pumps and therefore special care is needed in order to prevent
any abrasive material from entering the pump or it can damage the helices and clearances in the

Advantages of Screw Pump

• Screw pumps allow a wide range of flows and pressures

• They can also accommodate a wide range of liquids and viscosities
• Screw pumps have high speed capability and this allows the freedom of driver selection
• They have low internal velocities
• All the screw pumps are Self-priming which allows them to have good suction
• Due to the close arrangement of rotating parts, a high tolerance for entrained air and other
gases is produced.

Disadvantages of Screw Pump

Cost of manufacturing is high because of close tolerances and running clearances

Any changes in the viscosity of the fluid results in high fluctuations in the performance.

A screw pump with high pressure capability will require high pumping elements which increases
the overall size of the pump.

Lobe Pumps

Lobe pump also runs on the same principle as that of other rotary pumps. Lobe Pump is so named
because of the rounded shape of its rotors' radial surfaces which permit the rotors to remain
continuously in contact with each other when the rotation is going on. Lobe pump can be of two
types - single or multiple lobe pumps. Both these types, carry fluid between their rotor lobes in the
same way as a gear pump does.Though both gear and lobe pumps are almost similar in
construction, there are few differences.

Difference Between Gear and Lobe Pump

In gear pumps, the locus of the gear contacts always moves along the tooth surfaces but jumps
discontinuously from tooth to tooth as the gears mesh and un-mesh with each other.This helps the
gears in moving eachother.

In lobe pumps, the lobes are incapable of driving each other but the contact seal locus makes a
continious movement from one radial surface to another. This is the main difference between the
gear and lobe pumps.


Each and every pump on the ship is different in some way or the other. Pumps are classified on
the basis of mechanism, output capacity, delivery pressure and rate of flow. This article explains
different types of rotary pumps, their construction and working and also differences between them.

Rotary Pumps

Various types of pumps are used on board a ship, depending on requirement of pressure and flow.
Apart from that, there are several other factors that are taken into consideration while selecting a
pump for a specific purpose.

This article will describe three types of pumps having the same basic principle but differ in
construction an working. Screw, Vane and Gear pumps are the three pumps that come under the
category of positive displacement pumps. These pumps fall under the rotary pump type as
pumping action is done as a result of rotating motion.

General concept of Rotary Positive displacement pumps.

In all these types of pumps, except the screw pump, liquid is forced to travel circumferentially when
displaced by the movement of vane or gear.

The only difference between screw pump and other rotary pumps is that the liquid displaced in
screw pump moves axially, whereas in other rotary pumps it moves in a circumferential pattern.
The main feature of these pumps is that they continue to force liquid into the system, in spite of
any type of opposition in the transfer.

Characteristics of Rotary Pumps

1. These pumps are adaptable to very high pressure operation.

2. Variable flow rate is possible through these pumps.

3. Maximum throughput is limited due to mechanical considerations.

4. The pumps are capable of efficient performance even at low volume throughput rates.

Applications Of Rotary Pump

• The main applications where rotary pumps are used are - Refrigeration Heating and Air
• They are also used as pumps carrying out high viscosity substances transfer such as
lubricating oil.Lobe-type, flexible-vane or screw pump are generally used for high viscosity
or metering.
• Screw-type pumps are used for high density stocks such as Paper and pump.They are also
used for Chemical Transfer and metering.
• Because of their positive displacement characteristics they are specifically used in Sewage
Treatment plants for transfer of concentrated sludge and scum
• Maximum of the hydraulic pumps used for numerous applications on ship are of rotary
• Rotary pumps are also used as Water Supply and carbon slurry pump.

Main Components Of Rotary Pump

The Main Components of any type of rotary pump are:

1. Pumping chamber - Pumping chamber of the rotary pump is the area which contains the
pumped fluid when the pump is pumping. Fluid may enter the pump through one or more ports and
can leaves through one or more outlet ports.

2. Casing - It is that part of the pump which surrounds the pumping chamber. It is also referred to
as the housing,body or stator of the pump.

3. End plates - They serve to close off the ends of the body so as to form integral part of the
pumping chamber. These plates can also be referred as the end covers.

4. Rotating assembly - It refers to all the moving parts inside the pump. The moving parts
generally comprises of a driver and driving shaft. The driver shaft is turned by the motor and the
driver is turned by the driving shaft.

5. Seal chamber - The cavity through which the driving shaft comes out or protrudes is called seal
chamber and the leakage through this chamber is controlled either by a mechanical seal or by a
normal packing material.

6. Seal -The seal can either be a mechanical seal or a normal packing material.The seals used
should be leak proof when the pump is pumping any toxic substances. Cooling and lubrication of
these seals is done by the same liquid which the pump is pumping

6. Relief valves - They are given so as to control the outlet pressure of the pump. As soon as the
pressure increases above the pre-determined value, the relief valve lifts and releases the excess
pressure to the inlet port, thus controlling the pressure. The relief valve is generally set 5-10%
above the normal working condition.

What is crankshaft web deflection?

An engine/compressor crankshaft has several places where rods to the pistons are connected.
The rods are on a pin which is offset from the center of the crankshaft.
Thus, as the crankshaft rotates, the pin orbits in a circle around it.
The connecting rod is thus forced back and forth, due to the pin's motion.
The pin is connected to the crankshaft by two pieces called WEBs.

On a perfectly-aligned crankshaft, the distance between the two webs is constant, even as the
shaft rotates.
However, after months of constant use, the mounting of the engine/compressor can change:
ground settling, worn support structures, bolt tension changes, etc.

When this happens, the distance between the webs can start to vary with rotation. The amount of
variation in this distance is called WEB DEFLECTION.

That means the webs are subject to cyclic stress every rotation, and if severe enough, the
crankshaft can be destroyed.

WEB DEFLECTION is thus an indicator of the state of crankshaft alignment. Even a few mils
variation is indicative of trouble. Manufacturers recommend checking this periodically, and re-
aligning the shaft if the deflection is over a given limit.