Safety of the ship is the prime concern for seafarers onboard and for governing authorities like IMO. There have been many ship accidents in the past which includes collision, grounding, stranding etc. due to failure of one critical system- the steering gear. Hence crew must be careful in maintaining and testing all the aspects of steering gear present onboard.
Specifications and guidelines are laid down by the authorities and in the safety management system or SMS of the ship to continuously monitor the operation and safety system of the steering gear to avoid any accidents due to its failure.
The guidelines for tests and drills are provided in chapter V regulation 26 of SOLAS 74. Following tests and drills to be carried out within given period of time as stated in chapter V.
Steering Gear – Testing and Drills:
Within twelve hours before departure of the ship from port, following systems to be checked and tested:
- Main steering gear and system
- Auxiliary steering gear and system
- The remote control systems of steering gear
- The steering position indicator on the navigation bridge
- The emergency power supply to one of the steering unit
- The rudder angle indicators showing actual position of the rudder
- Power failure alarms for the remote steering gear control system
- Power unit failure alarms for the steering gear unit
- Automatic isolating arrangements and other automatic equipment
Following listed procedure must be included along with the check and tests described above:
1. The full movement of the rudder as per the required capabilities of the steering gear system present onboard
2. A visual inspection of all the linkages and connection in the steering gear
3. The means of communication between the steering gear room and navigational bridge must always be operational
Other Important requirements related to steering gear are:
- A block diagram displaying the steering system, the changeover procedure from remote to local steering and steering gear power unit indicating the emergency supply unit must be clearly mentioned.
- This diagram must be pasted in Navigation Bridge and steering gear compartment
- All officers and crew concerned with the operation and maintenance of steering gear system must be familiar with changeover procedure from one to other system
- Emergency steering drills to be carried out inn not more than three months period.
- Date and time for the tests, checks and drills carried out in steering gear system must be recorded.