The shipping sector has already entered in to the “electronic era”. From remote controlled operations to advanced pollution control methods, almost every marine machinery today is incorporated with electronic and automation systems. The “electronic advancements” has been seen to a great extent in the two stroke main engines of the ships.
In electronic marine engines, the basic principal for producing power remains the same. The electronic system works towards improving the efficiency and performance of the main engine. As several ships are today fitted with electronic marine engines, it is important for marine engineers to understand them throughly before handling them.
1. Maintain the Mechanical Components: No matter how much technologically advanced the ships become, marine engines will always consist of mechanical moving parts. Ensure that proper routine maintenance of all mechanical components of marine engines is carried out at regular intervals of time.
2. Maintain the Mechanical and Electronic Interface: The electronic engine receives all its signals from the sensors, which are connected to a mechanical moving or static component. For e.g. in the fuel injection system, the main electronically control unit will be the Injection control unit, which receives its signal from the ‘ Injection quantity piston’. Ensure that this mechanical part is well maintained and free to move. Any hinderance in the movement or stuck motion will send an error or wrong signal to the control unit.
3. Maintain the Sensors: Several types of sensors are fitted in the engine – from pressure, temperature to crank angle and rpm sensors. All these sensors must be checked regularly for dust/deposits or misalignment and calibrated at prescribed intervals. Also, checking the clearance between the sensor tip and the object is also an important factor which must be noted regularly.
4. Check the Cables and Connections: The readings taken by the sensors are transferred to the control units by cables, which are connected to both the sensors and the control units. A regular check of the connections and the continuity of these cables must be done and any abnormality must immediately be rectified.
5. Ensure Enough PLC’s and Electronic Spares Are Provided: Troubleshooting an electronic engine may become very complicated. Sometimes you have to “blind-shoot” the procedure by changing various PLCs and sensors as problem in the PLC is better detected by shore specialized professionals. Thus, ensure to have enough number of these important spares onboard at all times.
6. Read Manuals: Manuals on board ships are the bible for troubleshooting problems. Having a good knowledge and understanding of reading circuit diagrams and electronic systems is a must. Whenever you get some spare time, ensure to read all control manuals of the main engine provided to the engine room and know how to operate the system.
7. Keep a Track of Hard Disk Space: The hard-disks of modern electronic engines are meant to store historical data of several GBs in size. Eventually, it will fill-up one day and then there will be an “no-space” message. Keep a regular check on the hard disk space and inform the office well in advance once the disk is near its limit.
8. Control Surrounding Areas: All electronic systems are temperature sensitive. The controls which are set up inside the engine control room are kept at a suitable temperature by using an air conditioning unit. Many control units are installed near the engine. Ensure good ventilation is provided near the control units. Also, make sure that the units are properly secured as vibration may lead to erratic readings and may damage the electronic parts.
9. Avoid Electric-Arc Welding: If there arises a situation which requires welding near or on the electronically controlled main engine, always avoid using electric-arc welding as it may damage the electronic circuits installed in the engine. Also, the earthing cable should be close to the actual welding point to avoid the effect of sneaking current.
10. Electro-Magnetic Field: The engine electronic circuit must be installed in such a way that its component cable is not in the vicinity of 440 V high tension cable. The 440 v cable produces electromagnetic field which will interact with the signal from the electronic circuit and lead to wrong input or output.
These are some of the important tips for smooth operation of electronic marine engines. Do you know any other important points that must be added to this list? Let us know in the comments below.
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.