Modern cargo ships are sophisticated vessels fitted with hi-tech automation systems, which requires no or negligible supervision by the seafarers. From simple valves to main engine, almost every ship today is equipped with machinery systems that can be operated from a remote position.
However, nothing can substitute the skills and experience seafarers bring along with them on board. Therefore, even with the highest standards of automation provided on ships, it’s always wise to follow a few checks and guidelines while operating a machinery systems from remote position.
Mentioned below are ten important points that must be considered while operating machinery from remote system on ships:
1. Check Current Of Motors: The main switch board consists of remote starting and changeover switches for all important engine room pump motors. When starting the pump, keep an eye on the ammeter to check if the current drawn by the motor is within the limits.
2. Ensure Engine Load Program is Followed: When operating the ship’s main engine from the bridge, deck officer must ensure that the load program of the main engine is followed and critical RPM, if any, is passed as soon as possible. Communicate effectively with other personnel when operating remote controls of propulsion plant and engineering systems.
3. Operate Watertight Doors With Caution: Ships consist of multiple watertight doors which are kept shut when the ship is out at sea. Since these doors are normally operated from the remote position, operator must ensure no crew member is using the passage at the time of operation and the audio-visual alarm located on the door is working fine. Incidents have been recorded wherein ship staff has been injured/ killed due to accidentally closing of watertight doors.
4. Ensure Pre-Lube Oil Pump Is Running: It is always recommended to check and start the generator from local position but in situations where remote starting of the generator is performed, ensure pre lube oil pump running indication is present in the remote location.
5. Take Precautions While Operating Bow Thruster: When working on bow thruster (B.T) from bridge, officer operating the joy stick must take precaution not to give command of hard-port or hard- starboard as the current drawn by the BT motor at this position is extremely high and it may damage the motor during critical time of manoeuvring.
6. Check Bunker Hydraulic Valves: Bunkering operation involves high risk of oil pollution and hence the person incharge of bunker should ensure that before bunker operation, all remote control operated valves are closing and opening properly. During bunkering while the bunker is ready to load in a tank which has remote operated valve, constant eye to be kept on manifold pressure, which if increases abnormally, indicates problem in the remote operation of the valve.
7. Check Oil Transfer Pumps: Engine control room is equipped with oil transfer pump control system which can be set at auto “on” and “off” program or has the facility to turn off the pump from remote position.
Whatever method adopted, ensure to check and maintain the temperature of the tank, from which the pump is taking suction, to transferable limit prescribed in the fuel specification. Also, keep a check on the pump noise and vibration, which when goes high may indicate low temperature of the fuel and can lead to tripping of pump.
8. Operate Cargo Pump Carefully: When operating cargo oil pump from remote position, keep the pump at slow speed during initial starting period and during high back pressure perform internal stripping. Also ensure that the hydraulic oil return pressure is higher than the cofferdam pressure in tankers.
9. Go through Remote Operation Procedures: Every ship has specific logged remote operation procedure for all important automation system and machinery. All responsible seafarers must go through the same.
10. In Case of Problem, Change from Remote to Manual Position: If the system or machinery is experiencing trouble (specially propulsion plant) the controls must be transferred from remote to manual/ local position so that the performance of the machinery can be monitored and controlled accordingly.
Over to you..
Do you know any other important points that should be considered while operating machinery through remote systems?
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Disclaimer: The authors’ views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of Marine Insight. Data and charts, if used, in the article have been sourced from available information and have not been authenticated by any statutory authority. The author and Marine Insight do not claim it to be accurate nor accept any responsibility for the same. The views constitute only the opinions and do not constitute any guidelines or recommendation on any course of action to be followed by the reader.
An ardent sailor and a techie, Anish Wankhede has voyaged on a number of ships as a marine engineer officer. He loves multitasking, networking, and troubleshooting. He is the one behind the unique creativity and aesthetics at Marine Insight.