Control Room Layout
Having taken a virtual tour of the engine room and knowing in brief about control room design, it is now time to know about the equipments that can be found in the ECR of a typical ship.
There are normally three generators on an average sized ship but course this number could vary either side depending on the size and type of ship. There are generator panels which show the parameters such as voltage, load and so on, which helps the duty engineer to decide how many generators should be running at time.
The normal practice is to keep one generator running and others on standby during sailing. At port, there might be several deck operations going on such as cranes, winches etc so normally two generators are running while rest are standby.
There is also provision to synchronize the generators from the control room and this article explains the process of generator synchronization in detail.
Usually there is a panel which monitors all kinds of parameters such as level, temperature, pressure of machineries and tanks. Any abnormal shift of the parameter from the permitted range is immediately logged and alarm is sounded. The duty engineer then needs to take appropriate action after that.
For example suppose a fuel oil tank is being filled by transferring from the storage tank to the service tank and the engineer forgets to stop the pump. The high level alarm will sound in the engine room. In case of automated systems, the pump might be programmed to stop immediately or could be done manually depending on the situation.
As we studied in the previous article, in case of UMS ships there is a provision to transfer alarm to the cabin of the duty engineer so that in case some emergency arises at night, it can be notified and taken care of on time.
Main Engine Controls
The main marine engine is the obviously the main machinery which runs the ship and hence there are controls for main engine as well. This includes controls such as fuel control, speed setting, emergency stop, load indicator, direction indicator and so forth. Normally these controls are only operated by the senior engineers or junior engineers under observation of their seniors.
In modern ships, computers are an integral part of the system. Infact there is a network of computers which are located at important points such as bridge, control room, Captain’s office, Chief Engineer’s office and so on. These systems can be connected to the Internet via satellite links and are used to communicate messages with the company and personal messages too.
Computers in control room also record, monitor and log all activities such as trips and alarms. Normally PMS software is also loaded in these computers which keep record of engine room maintenance activities, stock of spare parts etc.
The switchboards contain the various switches which are used to control power supply to the various machineries in the engine room. They also come in handy when something has to be stopped in emergency from the control room itself. Of course care should be taken not to depend too much on them. Normally engineers prefer to shut down machinery locally wherever possible rather than remote stopping.
There also a voltmeter and ammeter for all major equipment which shows the voltage and current flowing to that equipment and is useful to detect any fault. For example of a pump is drawing abnormal current, it can be sensed from the panel and the reasons for the same explored by going down in the engine room.
It is a well known fact that things do not go always as per ideal conditions or theories all the time. This is also true of the ship and whereas the control room is concerned, in most cases the junior engineers are discouraged from being in the control room except when resting or doing some work related to the control room itself. Most of the times, the junior engineers are expected to remain down in the engine room so that they learn from experience rather than becoming lazy by sitting in the control room most of the times.
The above description should give you a brief idea about the control room of the ship. Nowadays there is a practice to combine the control room and the bridge room and many modern vessels have dual purpose control rooms from where the engine and navigation functions can be carried out more conveniently.