10 Points for Efficient Turbocharger Operation On Ships

The turbocharger is an integral part of the ship’s marine engine as it reuses the exhaust gases in order to increase the overall efficiency of the engine. It consists of two parts – blower and turbine sides, which need equal attention while carrying out routine maintenance procedures.

As a marine engineer working on ships, you would be required to monitor the performance of turbochargers during the watch and carry out maintenance whenever required.

Mentioned below are ten points that must be considered while handling turbochargers in the ship’s engine room.

ship engine turbocharger


1. Keep a Close Catch on All Turbo Charger Parameters: This is obvious, but watch-keeping officers often forget to check important parameters while taking rounds or overlook them in haste. While monitoring the turbocharger, the following points must be checked:

  • Speed of the turbocharger
  • Exhaust gas inlet and outlet temperatures
  • Cooling water inlet and outlet temperatures
  • Turbocharger lube oil pressure and temperature
  • Differential air pressure in manometer at the compressor side

2. Keep a Track On the Sound of Turbo Charger– Sound is one of the best ways to identify any machinery problem. Any kind of abnormal scratching sound indicates a problem in the rotating parts of the turbocharger. Moreover, the howling sound indicates a choked inlet or air passage, which leads to surging of turbocharger.

3. Check Vibration: Turbochargers are high speed rotating machines. In fact, some of them achieve speed higher than any other machinery onboard ship. Hence, they have a natural vibration frequency.
Engine bracing is done near the turbocharger to transfer such vibrations to the ship’s structure. If the vibration increases abnormally, stop the engine as it may be due to worn out bearings, abnormal “K” value or lose foundation bolts.

4. Check For Exhaust Leakage: Turbocharge handles extremely high-temperature gases. The inlet is from the engine and the outlet connects exhaust pipes to the funnel. These two points are flange-connected with a distance piece in between. It is important to ensure that there is no exhaust leakage from these joints as it may lead to fire or a smoky atmosphere inside the engine room.

5. Check leakage of Sump Oil: In turbochargers with separate oil sumps, keep constant checks on the oil level and temperature. In some ships, it has been reported that, due to leakage in the turbine side casing, the oil comes in contact in hot spots on the engine body and with the exhaust gas. Such incidents have lead to a fire in the engine room.


6. Intake Filters: Marine turbochargers come with mesh filters to avoid any particles, moist oily air mixture etc. from going inside and fouling/damaging the compressor turbine. It is recommended to put an extra felt filter over the turbocharger compressor to absorb oily air mixture as such filters can be changed frequently. The fitted mesh filter must be chemically cleaned bi-monthly or as per the running hours described by the manual.

7. Turbocharger Washing: The Turbocharger turbine and compressor sides must be cleaned regularly as per the maker’s recommendations. The cleaning of the turbine and blower sides is carried out to remove carbon, soot, and other exhaust deposits.

8. Soot Blow: The turbocharger performance will get affected if the exhaust passage after the turbocharger is in foul condition (exhaust trunk and economizer). It may lead to surging or even breakage of turbine blades. Therefore it is recommended to soot blow the exhaust gas boiler tubes on daily basis.

9. Power Distribution: The turbocharger is driven by the exhaust gases produced by the combustion process inside the engine cylinders. As the engine comprises multiple cylinders, it is important that there is a power balance among all the cylinders. If one cylinder is producing more power due to malfunctioning of fuel valve, it will lead to surging of turbocharger’s turbine side. Proper care must be taken to ensure even power distribution in the ship’s engine.

10. Check Clearances: When the turbocharger is opened up for overhauling, all-important clearances like casing and blade tip clearances, “K” value of the shaft, which determine the correct alignment of the shaft, and proper operation of the labyrinth seal which is fitted between the impeller and exhaust shield must be taken. turbocharger

The above mentioned are some of the important points that must be considered while handling turbochargers in the ship’s engine room.

Have we missed any important points? Let’s know in the comments below.

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.

The article or images cannot be reproduced, copied, shared or used in any form without the permission of the author and Marine Insight.

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About Author

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.


  1. Read my insight to the new 1st.Asst. Engineer..as just a tip on how do this Major Job on board on the ocean going vessel as shown on this picture provided by the staff engineer on Marine Insight….

  2. Good info and appreciated for your sincere efforts.

    I am mentioning here some points where accidents have taken place due to over sighting.

    1. TC lube should not be changed during engine running.

    2. turbocharger drains must be clear and the sealing air supply for drain line should be in operation.

    3. At ports the drains must be kept opened, for old vessels with chocked drains and leaked EGE flooded with water in exhaust manifolds caused serious problems.

    4. Check the protection grid at exhaust manifold TC inlet whenever unit overhauled. Many times the protection screen chocked or damaged allowing the broken metal pieces damaged the turbine rotor blades. Some times the grid screen securing bolts shear off and enter in turbocharger.

    5. present days on bigger engines turbocharger cutting off is exercised for fuel consumption reduction, the idle turbocharger is damaging the rotor bearings due to false brinneling effect.

  3. I really like your article. It’s evident that you have a lot of knowledge on this topic. Your points are well made and relatable. Thanks for writing engaging and interesting material.

  4. If a cargo ship’s turbocharger fails, it is possible to run the main engine at slow speed by bypassing the turbocharger and providing air directly to the engine. This is known as “running the engine in open loop” or “running the engine in bypass mode”.

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