Engine Room. What to Check During The Watch?

Though there is no specific list as to what should be checked during the watch, there are a certain number of things that must be considered by the engine room officer irrespective of the type and size of the ship.

  • The watch keeping personnel should take complete round of the engine room without skipping any space
  • He should ensure that the internal communication equipment are properly working for smooth communication with other crew members
  • He should check that the alarm systems are working properly
  • He must attend all machinery not working properly and note down all important points
  • He should be able to operate propulsion systems if there is any need to change direction or speed
  • He must know the location of fire fighting equipment and damage control gears in the machinery spaces and their use and safety precautions
  • In UMS ships, the watchkeeping engineer should be available if there is a call and should be able to execute all bridge orders
  • He should know how to isolate and by pass any machine
  • During watch he should solely focus on watchkeeping with adequate rounds without taking up other maintenance job
  • He should take frequent rounds of steering gear compartment for checking proper functioning of the same

  • He should record all events related to main and auxiliary machinery before handing over the watch
  • He should immediately inform others in case of any malfunction of machinery, loss of steering or in the event of fire
  • Chief engineer must be informed immediately in case of engine damage or malfunction, break down of propulsion machinery, monitoring and governing system, or during any emergency
  • He should make sure air or steam pressure is available for sound signals
  • In coastal or congested waters he should make sure that adequate reserve of power for steering and maneuvering equipment is available
  • He must keep emergency steering and other auxiliary equipment ready for immediate operation
  • He should take action to contain the effects of damages resulting from break down, fire, flooding, rupture and collision
  • He should not leave the machinery space un-supervised at any time during the watch
  • He must frequently check the level of bilges by taking rounds
  • When taking rounds, if he determines possible equipment malfunction or failure, he must take immediate action to ensure the safety of the ship, cargo operations, port and the environment
  • He must stay aware of the deck officer’s needs related to the equipment required in the loading and unloading of the cargo and additional requirements of the ballast and other ship stability control systems
  • He must ensure that the ship is able to be controlled from bridge under all sailing conditions and the bridge is able to control the pitch propeller
  • He must ensure that necessary precautions are taken to prevent accident or damage to various electrical, electronic, hydraulic, pneumatic and mechanical systems of the ship
  • He should know the techniques, methods and procedures necessary to prevent violations of the pollution regulations of the local authorities

For UMS Class Ships

There are special requirements for any unattended machinery space (UMS) ship to able to sail at sea. These are enumerated in the SOLAS 1974 Chapter II-1, regulations 46 to regulation 53. A watchkeeping engineer must ensure that all these requirements are satisfied.

Fire Precaution

A) Arrangement should be provided on UMS ship to detect and give alarm in case of fire. These alarms systems should work at all times:

  • 1) In the boiler air supply casing and uptake.
  • 2) In scavenge space of propulsion machinery.

B) In engines of power 2250 Kw and above or cylinders having bore more than 300mm should be provided with oil mist detector for crankcase or bearing temperature monitor or either of two

Protection Against Flooding

Bilge well in UMS ship should be located and provided in such a manner that the accumulation of liquid is detected at normal angle of heel and trim and should also have enough space to accommodate the drainage of liquid during unattended period.

In case of automatic starting of bilge pump, the alarm should be provided to indicate that the flow of liquid pumped is more than the capacity of the pump.

How to Identify Faulty Machinery?

One of the most important qualities that a engine room officer must have is to know and understand his machinery extremely well. Before breaking down completely, each machinery will show a variety of signs and symptoms indicating the type and severity of fault.

Along with knowing the right procedures to operate ship's machinery, mariners must also know how to identify and troubleshoot any problem in the engine room.

Following are ways in which a mariner can identify and rectify a faulty machinery:

1. Abnormal Sound: As mentioned earlier, sound is by far the most prominent factor which draws seafarer’s attention towards a troubled part or machinery.

If you are a good watch keeper, it will be easy to figure out the difference between normal running sound and problematic sound even when you are not near the machinery.

For e.g. A "hissing" sound will indicate leakage, a loud knocking sound will indicate loosen or broken parts, a high wobbling sound will indicate obstruction etc.

Unfortunately there is no guide to learn these sounds. Only through experience can one master such skills.

2. Smell: Another powerful indication, which can be easily detected by human senses, is that of abnormal smell coming from machinery or systems.

When you sense heavy/strong smell in the vicinity, it can be due to leakage of oil, fire, effects of high temperature etc.

A burning smell near the motor is an indication of increase in temperature of its coil. You can detect the smell of heavy oil even if you are not able to see it.

Similarly, steam leakage will leave a dampen smell. It's only while working on board ships, one is able to know and understand different smells indicating a variety of problems with the machinery.

3. High Vibration: All machinery systems with moving parts generate vibration. One of the most neglected maintenance jobs for machinery onboard ships is that of vibration analysis. Many shipping companies do not include it in its planned maintenance system.

Even the timely checks for tightening the foundation bolts for any machinery are not included in the PMS. Every machinery will have its own frequency of vibrations. It is important to keep a track of any increase in the vibration of machinery, which if ignored, can lead to severe damages in the long run. Any change is vibration of a machinery can easily be felt on board ships. This is a sign which should never be ignored

4. Leakages: Leakages are a result of faulty piping or machinery systems. They are easy to identify on board ships. Never ignore leakage from any kind of machinery as it it can lead to spills, fire, flooding and other major accidents. If you find oil water or air leak in the machinery, do try to rectify it immediately or mark it as important to check during next maintenance schedule depending on its severity.

5. Smoke: Every machinery with a combustion chamber can be judged for its performance by checking the exhaust smoke for its color and density.

Exhaust smoke of Main Engine, Auxiliary Engine, boiler etc. must be monitored for knowing the combustion process.

A black smoke indicates a problem in fuel injection system and improper combustion (lack of air etc.) whereas white smoke indicates water ingress in fuel.

56. Abnormal Parameters: Abnormal or fluctuating parameters are mainly related to machinery faults. It’s important to keep a track of all machinery parameters on board ships by comparing the readings in the log book to the data of previous dates. While taking rounds, any deviation in the parameters must be taken seriously by taking proper investigation and preventive actions.

7. Alarms: Every alarm indicates a problem, major or minor, on board ships. They have been installed for the purpose of identifying faults. Never ignore an alarm related to any kind of machinery. An oil mist detector alarm in the main or auxiliary engine, even when other parameters are normal (Crankcase temperature, scavenge temperature etc.), must be taken seriously. Many incidents has been reported for crank case explosion when OMD alarm has sounded but the crew ignored it seeing other parameters are normal.

8. Observing Problems in Connected Systems: In ship's engine room, most of the systems are connected to any other form of system or machinery. If a problem is observed in one system, do check the other machinery connected to it. For e.g. When there is a problem in the expansion tank level suddenly going down, do check any leakage in the main engine, generator, or air compressor connected to it.

A leakage in jacket water of the engine will lead to air going into the expansion tank with high pressure during compression stroke and emptying the expansion tank from vent or other openings.

9. Change in Amperage: More than 80% of the machinery on a cargo ship are electrically operated i.e. from ship's generated power. Ensure to check the current of all the electrical operated machinery and pumping systems.

A high current for a purifier indicates problem in the clutch drum or transmission gear. Similarly, high auxiliary blower current indicates the scavenge pressure inside the engine is more than that supplied by the fan.

Since in most ships, the auxiliary blower fans are operated manually, the fan must be switched off when the pressure is reached or when the current crosses the marked limit.

10. Knowing Your Machinery Inside-Out:

Last but not the least, knowing your designated machinery inside-out will help you identify the minutest change in its performance. Learning about its history, reading its maintenance reports, and keeping routine checks will give you an idea as to how your machinery acts and performs under different conditions. This would make it easy for you to recognize any fault in your machinery system when it operates different from its usual working pattern.


A Pocket Guide To Engine Room Watchkeeping on Ships - Anish Wankhede [2013]

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Метки: Engine Room

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