Procedure for Starting Emergency Steering System

An emergency steering system, as the name suggests, is a system which is used during the failure of the main steering system of the ship. The article explains as to what exactly is the steering system and what the procedure for starting the emergency steering system is.

What is Emergency steering?

A ship consists of electromechanical steering gear unit which steers the vessel from one port to other. Normally steering gear unit is 2 or 4 ram electro-hydraulically operated unit with two or more hydraulic motor for the ram movement.

Steering gear

A situation can occur in which the remote control operation may fail to work and their can be a sudden loss of steering control from the bridge. This can be due to sudden power failure, any electrical fault in the system or the control system which includes faulty tele-motor or servo motor which is used for transferring the signal from bridge to the steering unit.

To have control the steering of the ship at such emergency situation with manual measure from within the steering gear room, an emergency steering system is used.

Procedure for Emergency steering Operation

The following points should be followed for emergency steering operation.

  • The procedure and diagram for operating emergency steering should be displayed in steering gear room and bridge.
  • Even in emergency situation we cannot turn the massive rudder by hand or any other means, and that’s why a hydraulic motor is given a supply from the emergency generator directly through emergency switch board (SOLAS regulation). It should also be displayed in the steering room.
  • Ensure a clear communication for emergency operation via VHF or ships telephone system.
  • Normally a switch is given in the power supply panel of steering gear for tele motor; switch off the supply from the panel.
  • Change the mode of operation by selecting the switch for the motor which is supplied emergency power.
  • There is a safety pin at the manual operation helms wheel so that during normal operation the manual operation always remains in cut-off mode. Remove that pin.
  • A helms wheel is provided which controls the flow of oil to the rams with a rudder angle indicator. Wheel can be turned clockwise or anti clockwise for going port or starboard or vice versa.
  • If there is a power failure, through sound power telephone receive orders from the bridge for the rudder angle. As soon as you get the orders, turn the wheel and check the rudder angle indicator.

A routine check should always be done for proper working of manual emergency system and steering gear system. An emergency steering drill should be carried out every month (prescribed duration – 3 months) in the steering gear room with proper communication with bridge to train all the ship’s staff for proper operation of the system so that in emergency situation ships control can be regained as soon as possible, avoiding collision or grounding.

Do you have info to share with us ? Suggest a correction

Subscribe To Our Newsletters

By subscribing, you agree to our Privacy Policy and may receive occasional deal communications; you can unsubscribe anytime.

Web Stories

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. In my career at sea (30+ years and 20 oil tankers of different size and build) I never came across a manual operation helms wheel in the steering gear room. Maybe it is just my luck… Usually it is some kind of lever or push buttons to direct the hydraulic flow with.

  2. @ Stefan: First I want to congratulate you for having a 30 + years of sea experience on your back. Yes it’s a switch for controlling the pump flow to the rams or vanes from the steering room only.

  3. @Vijeet:

    It depends on the design and manufacturer. Both helm and lever are used for emergency steering.

  4. Hello. I’m a student in Korea Maritime University, majoring in Navigation of Ships.
    I’m currently on board T/S HANBANA. When studying in emergency steering gear, that materials are very useful to learn .

    Thank you very much. I appreciate your kindness.

  5. Please I want a comprehensive procedure how to operate steering gear manually if there is a powe failure

  6. pls give a comprehensive diagram of manual steering required, this question repeatedly asked in( oow ) exams

  7. good sir,
    pls can you send the comprehensive procedure for emergency steering failure system in ship, am about to rewrite for my oow.

  8. @Spiridon:
    Steering gear failure can happen due to several causes such as:
    Low oil level in the tank, Leakage in the pipeline, Hydraulic Ram seal break etc.

  9. what will happen if i switch off steering gear while vessel underway?
    Ir by mistake i switch off the running motor instead of switch on the other ?
    Is there any automatic switch to switch on automatically ?
    Or is there any requirement mentioned or covered this human mistake like this?

  10. @Spiridon:
    Remote control operation may fail to work and there can be sudden loss of streering control from bridge.
    This can be due to sudden power failure, any electrical fault in the system which includes faulty tele motor which is use for transferring the signal from bridge to the starting unit.
    To have control the steering of the ship at such emergency situation with manual measure from within the steering gear room, an emergency system is used.

  11. Hello Sir,

    Can you explain various methods of emergency steering available on ships.

    Thank you.


  12. @Deepinder: The emergency steering is operated locally from the steering room by a lever, switch or helm.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *