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The position of ship’s Engineering Officer is a responsible one, from the most junior engineer through the senior engineers to the Chief Engineer, who has the ultimate overall responsibility for the efficient, safe, operation of the engine room, main engine, and auxiliary plant.
The following sections give an insight to the watch keeper’s duties, with the first section giving an overview of the equipment contained within the engine room, propeller tunnel, and steering gear.
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Overview of a Ship's Engine Room
The watch keeping engineer should be familiar with the layout of the engine room, from the top plates that contain the cylinder heads to the stern gland at the end of the propeller shaft. We start outside the engine room, right aft at the steering gear that is accessible from a dogged, rubber sealed door.
Here the large horizontal hydraulic rams can be seen operating the rudder by small-bore copper pipes and a telemotor, sending signals from the bridge wheel to the ram servo-motors.
Entering the engine room and down to the top plates we find the cylinder heads, where the exhaust gas outlet along with the fuel injector cooling water temperatures should be noted.
The air-start valve supply pipes should feel relatively cool. Any sign of excess temperature could signify a leaking air start valve; requiring immediate investigation.
Same thing goes for the relief valve outlet piping, any excessive temperature signifying a leaking relief valve or the relief valve feathering (just lifting and shutting) and again requires investigation.
Next level down is the turbo-blowers being located at the back of the engine; they are supplied from the exhaust gas manifold; various temperatures and pressures to check.
Next or same level at the front of the engine we find the fuel pump (if not common rail), scavenge doors and scavenge drains to the slop tank.
For’d from here is the main switchboard (if not incorporated into the control room) check generator (s) loads.
Lube and fuel oil centrifuge room, workshop, and stores usually on this level, as well as day tanks for generators.
Next level down takes us to the bottom plates, walking along these, check temperature of crankcase doors, and cylinder lube oil supply pumps operation. Walk around generators checking temperatures as well as the circulating pumps operation.
Once at the control station (if not in control room), glance at the main control board various gauges, past the thrust block and shaft bearings then through the watertight door into the tunnel. Here the shaft bearings should be checked by hand for over temperature and oil level in the glass observed. Finally, when you can go no further you are at the stern gland, a little trickle of seawater dripping into the stern well ensures the gland is being cooled and lubricated.
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The primary duties of a watch keeping engineer are to patrol the various stations noted above, and ensure the components are all working at optimum pressures and temperatures. These should then be logged at the end of each watch in the engine room log, and signed with time and date of entries. It used to be the duty of a junior watch keeper to copy these into the Chief’s logbook, being located in the engineer’s office in the accommodation. However I preferred to copy this information across myself, as I could spot any anomalies easier this way.
The steering gear should be checked at the end of each watch; after handing over the watch to the on-coming engineer.
The additional duties and responsibilities can be shared out among the senior watch keepers as follows;
- Overall responsibility for engine room.
- Does not normally keep a watch.
- Engineer in charge of 4-8 watch
- Responsible for maintenance of steering gear
- Responsible for HVAC and cold storage/fridge equipment
- Responsible for the main engine planned maintenance
- Responsible for carrying out IP checks through taking indicator cards on main engine
- Engineer on charge of 12 – 4 watch
- Responsible for power generator maintenance and overhaul
- Responsible for waste-heat boiler plant
- Engineer in charge of 8 – 12 watch
- Responsible for maintenance of fuel and lube oil centrifuges and filters
- Responsible for maintenance of air compressors
- Responsible for daily sounding / ullage of fuel oil bunkers
- Responsible for the upkeep of all electrical plant within the engine room, deck and accommodation.
- Usually one junior engineer per watch to assist the senior engineer in watch keeping and allocated duties.
- Responsible for regular checking temperatures and pressures of components in the main engine, diesel generators and auxiliary equipment and entering them into the engine room log book.
- Checking and replenished of air vessels
- Checking and pumping of bilges
As can be seen there are always extra activities going on apart from watch keeping to keep the engineers busy whilst at sea.
When in port, the Chief normally takes on the bunkers, assisted by the fourth engineer. The second engineer makes out the list of jobs to be carried out; the third engineer carryies out a crankcase inspection along with checking the main engine hold-down bolts. The electricial engineer will be checking and maintaining electrical motors, and attending to any deck or accomodation problems, with junior engineers assisting as required.
- Willie Scott - own experience