Concluding; Engine Room Watchkeeping

NL 44


By Mahendra Singh
Chief Engineer

Continued from Newsletter Issue 43

Editor’s note: This installment concludes Mahendra’s engine room watchkeeping notes. The notes have been very comprehensive and will be a useful tool for engineer officers and those who may be required to stand watches in the engine room. It is also very useful for other crew members to understand some critical engineering functions and roles to proact on board. Readers will need to prioritise in accordance with their work place procedures and processes.

Fire Fighting Equipment

Ensure Fire Fighting Equipment are sufficient, and situated in accordance with the Emergency Plan. Ensure all equipment are well maintained, and in date, paying attention to at least the following:

 Check quick closing valves at some suitable anchorage. Check quick closing valve for Emergency generator fuel tank.

 Familiarize with the operation of the fixed extinguishing system.  Check location of power cut off switch for Galley.

 Keep life boat engine tanks reasonably full. Keep batteries well charged.

 Know and be proficient with the use of breathing apparatus and recharging process for the air bottles with the compressor.

 Read the Safety booklet provided in smoke room because it is very useful and ship specific. Know the location of all fire extinguishers in Engine room and EEBDs.

 Keep Emergency exits clear and lighted.  Try blower and funnel flaps. Do not forget engine room blower rooms and the filters especially on bulk carriers.

 Check navigation light alarm, emergency lights, embarkation lights and batteries.

Deck Machinery
Familiarise with all deck machineries, cooling systems and operability. While on watch you may get a call that the windlass is not working. So you should know how to respond.

 If you are maneuvering, don’t leave the engine room but ask another engineer to have a look or keep another engineer in engine room and then go for it. For such things it is better to have mutual discussion with the deck Department, from time to time regarding operation of such machinery e.g. pumping up the header tank and opening and shutting off cooling water valve which can be done by the bosun. You should instruct him properly by showing him how it is done.

 In these matters the attending superintendent should instruct and encourage the deck officers to work closely with the engine room personnel. Good reports for such officers should be made to encourage greater participation.

 It is also important in cases of Deck cranes, Grabs and hatch cover operation. In cold climates, run the power pack for at least one hour before opening hatches.

 Keep deck hydraulic lines in good condition. While working on cranes, be careful of doors. Keep them well secured.

 Don’t allow oil to fall on brake linings. Clean the brake drums periodically using electro cleaner. Keep hydraulic oil filters clean.

 On Grab cable drum coupling, do not fill up too much lube oil. Only do so according to measure. Keep deck crane Lube Oil coolers clean especially in hot areas. Enlist co-operation of deck dept.

 Keep crane house doors weathertight otherwise micro switches may corrode, and cause jamming, resulting in malfunction.

 Remove air from hydraulic system by operating purge cocks. Keep some purge plugs as spare and grab cable coupling plug as spare (nothing easily fits here).

 At times, crane may not lift to capacity. Check for oil condition and renew as required. Keep windlass and mooring winch brakes in good condition. On older ships pay attention to condition of brake drums and brake levers (operating mechanism).

General Remarks

It is important to be alert and respond to situations quickly. Ask for assistance when in doubt. Do not do anything of which you are not sure or have not done before, supervised by your senior.  Communications and discussions between engineers and oilers (motormen) is a very desirable practice.

These days Maintenance CDs are available. These are to be viewed jointly with the crew and discussed. During long voyages, study the manuals and discuss with your engineering team. You will be able to do all this if you keep an open mind and discuss things sincerely. Do not judge people quickly simply by their looks or countenance. Many personal conflicts arise due only to this reason. Take time to observe and avoid having a false ego. The best thing to do is to give up any ego and cultivate humility. Exercise patience with your shipmates.

Enjoy working hard. This is necessary to be happy and cheerful and for this it is necessary to maintain good health. Keeping good health and mental peace is important. Inhale lot of fresh air and drink 2 to 3 litres of water daily (depending on ambient temperature) and take one multivitamin tablet (of your choice) daily after meals. An example of a preventive medicine is “Triphala” in tablet form. When you are affected by cold, the best treatment is steam inhalation by adding few drops of eucalyptus oil, in more severe cases. During leave period, pay attention to your health by joining some Yoga classes, for example and try to do some professional courses. There are not many people who can give the right advice to seamen regarding keeping good health.

Editor’s note Consult your doctor or health specialist first before attempting to follow any tips or advice on health matters and use of medications or medicines.

If you have an Electrical/Electro-technology Officer onboard, try to learn from him about fuses, relays, timers, checking insulation and reading electrical circuits. Be familiar with methods of testing various alarms. Consult the booklet showing method of testing various alarms as done during trials.

On old ships, periodically blow through pressure gauge lines because they may get clogged. Periodically tighten up various wiring connections because they may get loose due to vibration.

Again, on repeating the importance of knowing pipe lines and valves; Start from Port side bottom forward and go to aft and turn to Starboard and mark valves on the shell and find out what lines are connected to these valves (and Scuppers).

The deck officers should also study the drainage plan e.g. if a basin line gets blocked, how to clear it and how the line is leading from the basin outwards. Identify fresh water and hot water valves to various decks. Understand the functioning of hydrophore tanks and how to charge them. See that the pumps do not cut-in and off too frequently. Periodically clean the pressure switch pipe line.

Above all, do not forget to pray regularly, of course, in your own way. It helps to keep us balanced.

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