Engine Control Room
Checking on the cooling water temperatures
Plummer block bearings sometimes overheat
Oil purifiers can overflow
Exhaust trunk soot may catch fire
Checking on diesel generator condition
Taking over the Watch
The following essay describes a typical routine a Marine Engineer on watch usually does when he takes over the watch from his colleague:
Because ships come in different designs, and people have different preferences, it is impossible to be correct to the finest details. However, by following the route an engineer take, the reader may be able to imagine the locations, duties, and some aspect of the life of a Marine Engineer on board ship.
Imagine that you are a Third Engineer Officer on board an old bulk carrier.
It was about 3.30 a.m. The telephone on the table rang. You picked up the phone, and heard a voice telling you that it was time to wake up.
In your cabin you became aware of the movement of the ship as you dragged yourself up from your bed. Being a Third Engineer Officer, your time of work was from 4.00 a.m. to 8.00 a.m. After freshening up a bit, you put on your overalls, came out from your cabin, and opened the door to the engine room. It was now about 3. 45 a.m. local ship's time.
Immediately, you noticed the heat and noise. The door was heavily padded to absorb all the noise from the engine room. As a 3rd Engineer Officer, your cabin was quite high up in the accommodation block. When you were doing watch in the afternoon, you normally stepped outdoors to see the funnel of the ship before you entered into the engine room. You wanted to see the color of the smoke coming out from the funnel. When the engines are running in good condition, the smoke is colorless. Black smoke, blue smoke, or white smoke indicates that something is not working right. But at this time in the morning, the outside was dark, and you would not be able to see the smoke, so you just proceeded into the engine room.
The economizer stood just in front of you. With just a quick glance around you verified that there were no steam leaks.
You went down the staircase. There was a boiler there, but it was not running. The heat from the exhaust gas of the main diesel engines was sufficient to generate the steam in the economizer. You stopped by to inspected one header tank for the fuel valve cooling system and had a quick walk around the boiler for any fuel leaks.
Going down some more, you found a passage leading to the steering gear room. The steering gears were working fine. Every now and then, you noticed the steering gear rams moving the rudder stock to one side and then return back. The steering gear was on autopilot on the Bridge. It adjusted the rudder angle whenever the ship drifted away from the required course. The waves were huge outside. Even at the steering room, you could hear the noise of waves slamming on the hull. It was cold here, a sharp contrast to the heat near the boilers. You knew that you were now near to the level of the seawater.
Coming out from the steering gear room, you checked at the workshop for a while. The personnel working on the normal shift had kept away all their tools, but you could see some bits of welding and machining waste metal inside the rubbish bin. They must had been doing some repairs and fabrication work during the daytime. You checked the oxygen and acetylene cylinders valves were shut and that the cylinders were securely tied up. One cannot be too careful with regards to safety.
Moving down another flight of stairs, you came to the level of the main engine cylinder heads. On each cylinder head, you checked on the fuel injector, the air starting valve, and the relief valve. You also checked on the high-pressure fuel pipes for leaks. This could give rise to fire if the fuel oil were to leak oil onto the exhaust manifold nearby. You felt the air pipes leading to the starting valves. They were not hot, which is good. Any leak in the valve can develop into an explosion. You also checked on the temperatures of the jacket cooling water temperatures at the thermometers. They were at 68 deg C, not too high nor too low. The temperature controllers were working fine.
Further up, you walked towards the diesel generators. Only one set out of three was running. It was sufficient to power the whole ship. These engines were very noisy. With a quick check on the pressures, temperatures, you decided to move towards the main switchboards. Checking on the power output and earth indication lamps, you knew that it was working in good condition. On the same level, you had a quick check on the fresh water generator, the coolers, the oil purifiers, the stern tube header tanks, the fuel oil tanks.
Next you checked the turbochargers, opening the doors to check on the lubricating oil levels. It was very noisy here with the high pitched sound of the high-speed turbochargers, so you quickly moved on.
Going down another flight of stairs, you came to the level of the fuel injection pumps. The camshaft of the main engine drove these pumps. The pipes were highly pressurized and heated with trace steam tubes. Along the camshaft you could also see several units of cylinder lubricators which pumped small quantities of oil into the cylinders for lubrication.
Another flight of stairs took you to the lowest level in the engine room. Here you could see the maneuvering handles, engine telegraph, air starting valve handle, and all the important pressure and temperature instruments.
You walked around the main engine, inspected some of the pumps, the lubricating oil purifier, and checked on the level of the bilges. Having satisfied yourself that all machinery were running well, you made your way to the control stand, checked on the entries in the engine log book, had a few hand over conversation with the outgoing engineer, and the watch was directly under your charge.
From then onwards, whatever happens during during the 4 to 8 watch is yours to handle.