Monitoring the generators
Preparing a meal during the 4 to 8 watch
Checking the instruments
Feeling the temperatures
Transferring oil to the settling tank
The machinery driving the ship is operated 24 hours (or 23 hours or 25 hours) a day. Why is there 23 or 25 hours, you might ask? This is to adjust to the different time zones as the ship travels in the East-West or West-East direction.
The equipment running conditions have to be monitored very closely, as any deviation from the norm, can lead to failure of the equipment. In modern ships, many control systems are automatic, giving rise to the so-called Unmanned Ship. Even in Unmanned Ships, some functions still need personnel to be present. In times of heavy weather, it is extremely dangerous if manning is very short.
The conventional merchant ship has a system of providing engineers on surveillance duty on shifts. On board ship the hours of duty are called Watches. The three watches are: 8 to 12 watch, 12 to 4 watch, and 4 to 8 watch. The engineer in charge of 8 to 12 watch will be on duty from 8 a.m. to 12 noon and from 8 p.m. to 12 midnight. Similarly, the engineers in charge of 12 to 4 will work four hours in the afternoon and four hours in the morning, with eight hours of free time in between. The same goes to the 4 to 8 watch.
Normally, the 8 to 12 watches are assigned to the most junior engineer on board, the 12 to 4 watch to the 3rd engineer, and the 4 to 8 watch to the 4th engineer. The 2nd engineer, being in charge of the execution of the work in the whole engine department, will normally be doing work at normal hours of 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
There is no rest day on Sundays for the Watchkeeping engineers. The 2nd engineer and the Chief engineer normally have Sundays off, and Saturdays as half working days. In times of emergency everybody on board works.
During the watchkeeping, the machinery are checked by the use of all senses, i.e. by sight, smell, touch, hearing, and taste if need be. Gauges are installed to provide information on pressures,
flow, levels, temperatures, and so on. Any hot spots can be detected by touch, or smell. Any vibration, or abnormal noise can be detected by hearing. In the engine room, the sound levels are very high. Hearing protectors serve to protect the wearer from high frequency sounds.
In the marine environment, metal parts can corrode or erode away very rapidly. The watchkeeper must always be alert to any leakage's, so that prompt action can be taken to repair as soon as possible, so that no damage to surrounding motors, or machines can occur. The floor plates and machines are wiped cleaned all the time, so that any leakage's can be detected very quickly.
During the watches, preventive maintenance is also carried out. Soot need to be blown away from boiler tubes, burners cleaned oil filters and purifiers cleaned, diesel generator injectors reconditioned, pumps serviced, and so on
Together with the engineer on watch, there will usually be another assistant on the same watch. These crewmembers are greasers. Their job is to help the engineer in all matters, especially in taking data readings for the logbook, and housekeeping.
Meanwhile at the bridge, the Navigation Officers will
perform their watches at the same time.
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