Manned Vs Unmanned Ship
Most of the modern big ships come under the category of UMS which actually means unmanned machinery spaces, but is also denoted by the misnomer unmanned ship in routine language. Well don’t be under the impression that an unmanned ship does not have any man (or personnel) because the technology of ships have not reached that of spacecrafts as yet (good for marine engineers, navigating officers and crew who would all lose their jobs if this happens).
Basically UMS refers to an arrangement where the ship engine room people are not present 24 hours of the day, but only do their work during normal office type hours say from 8 am to 5 pm. Of course this rule is not followed during emergency breakdowns, maneuvering, restricted water navigation and so forth.
You might question the necessity to remain 24 hours in the engine room. The answer is that since there are so many machines, you never know which one might fail or break down. If the fault is not noticed and rectified on time, it could result in serious breakdown or accident in the middle of the ocean and you can imagine the consequences. So in the earlier days the only option was to remain continuously in the engine room (turn by turn of course) and keep monitoring the parameters.
With the advent of modern technology, marine engineers do have some respite since now instead of running up and down the engine room; you can get an indication of the fault from the control room panels. Still this does not eliminate the need to engine room rounds, but only lessens it a bit.
In the next article we will learn about some of the typical controls and instrumentation which is present inside the engine room of a big ship.