Engine Room Flooding: Troubleshooting and Immediate Actions

Engine room flooding as the name indicates, means filling up of the engine room space with water. Engine room flooding can affect the water tight integrity of ship. In this article we will find out what are the main reasons for engine room flooding what has to be done in case of engine room flooding.

The engine room flooding can take place due to mainly three reasons:

1) Leakage from Equipment and system

Engine room flooding can take place due to leakage in the engine room space from machinery or sea or fresh water system. Leakages can generally be from big sea water pump, from sea water or fresh water cooler, leakage from boiler feed water system etc.

engine room
Representation Image

The leak can also take place from any of the fresh or sea water pipeline due to which a lot of water can enter the engine room space. Leakage of any ballast water tank in the double bottom of the engine room, leakage from manhole, or crack in the water tank can also lead to engine room flooding.

Sea water or fresh water piping and system of the engine room are huge in size and thus hold large possibility for leakages.

Action to be taken in such situations

  • Call for maximum man power to tackle the situation.
  • The sooner you find the fault the better.
  • Start the other circulating system and isolate the leaking pump, pipe, cooler etc.
  • Close inlet and outlet valves of the affected system to stop the leak.
  • Inform chief engineer regarding the leak and follow the instruction from him.
  • Put a notice or placard regarding leaking equipment or system and trip the breaker until repairs has been done.
  • In case of any tank leakage, start transferring the excess content from that tank to another tank and try to minimise it as much as possible.
  • Tank should not be used until cement box or welding has taken place or a repair has been done.

2) In case of leakage from Overboard Valve

  • If the Leakage is after the valve and if the valve is holding shut the valve if the system involved for that valve permits normal operation of the ship with the valve closed.
  • If the valve is not holding then identify the leak.  It may be from the valve stem gland or flange joint; try to repair the leak.
  • If system for that valve can be isolated without disturbing the normal operation of the ship, put a blank in the valve.
  • If the repair is temporary then when ship reaches the port, call the divers to blank the valve opening from outside and carry out permanent repair.

3) Flooding due to crack in the hull or small hole in the hull

  • In this case, as soon as you find the leak, call for help from nearest coastal state because if the leakage is more, the ship’s stability will be affected.
  • By all means, the leakage has to be minimised and finally stopped.
  • If the leak is not big enough, then cement box is to be put in place of the leak and repairs are to be done accordingly.
  • In case of leakage due to damage from any accident like collision or grounding, there is nothing much that can be done as the opening in the bulkhead is large and there is no chance of stopping the leak. In such cases, the captain has to decide whether the ship is safe place to stay or not and decision for abandoning the ship has to be made.
  • In case of abandon ship signal being announced, the crew should muster to their respective lifeboat and abandon ship operation should be carried out.

For any of the above reasons, if the water level ingress in the engine room is very high, then open the emergency bilge ejector valve with consent of the chief engineer and pump out the water overboard. Entry of the same is to be made in Oil record book (ORB) with date, time, and position of the ship and reason of direct discharge with signature of officer involved in operation, chief engineer, and master should be registered.

Chief engineer has to be reported immediately in such condition without any delay.


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  1. I had to built a cement box over an IG deck seal overboard pipe line which was badly corroded and which penetrated thru the bottom hull plating inside the pump room.

    The office is planning the use of an underwater cofferdam which shall be placed over the IG outboard bottom plate and sealed tight. The cement box shall be removed and the bad pipe be cut-off from the inside and new pipe welded in.

    My question, when we break the cement box using pneumatic hammer , will this action cause any damage to the area of the bottom hull plating in way of the cement box??

  2. @Shiv: Isolate the different section of the bilge pipe and check for vacuum in the gauge to track the troubled pipe section.

  3. @Rahul: If the crack or hole is below the water line, you will receive bilge alarm of the nearest well. If the crack is big enough, you can see the water ingress.

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