Within the environment of a marine plant there are many parameters which need to be controlled or monitored including: temperatures, pressure, level, viscosity, flow control, speed, torque control, voltage, current, machinery status (on/ off), and equipment status (open/ closed).
In olden times it was the role of the watch keeping engineers to monitor and control the machinery plant. This was achieved by periodically taking rounds around the engine room and manually inspecting the condition of the running machinery. Often the engineer was totally dependent on his natural senses, frequently supported by only the minimum of widely distributed simple monitoring devices.
The demand to reduce manning level led to the development of automatic control arrangements for the engine room plant which enabled unattended operation of machinery spaces. With vessels capable of safe operation for any period of time in this mode, those ships were qualified as UMS (Unattended Machinery Space) ships.
In these types of ships, all the control systems and monitoring facilities are grouped together in an Engine Control Room and the ship machinery can also be controlled from this station.
Initially the control room was located in the engine room, with extended monitoring and alarm systems to the bridge and in the accommodation while the ship is running in UMS. But as of recent development, ships are built with the engine control room adjacent to the bridge.
In the latest trend, the control room uses the total integrated systems for all aspects of ship operation which includes engine room operation, cargo operation, navigation, and general administration.