Computer applications in sailing ships - Modern Technology on board ships

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Since the days of the yore marine life was considered to be hard work requiring physical and mental endurance levels of the highest degree with very little place for sophistication. This may have been true for the times when Columbus was hunting the oceans in search of America or perhaps even earlier. But in the modern times it would be utterly wrong to say so. Modern ships may not be having as much sophistication as aeroplanes or satellites; still they use different kinds of technology which has helped to make life on board much easier and more comfortable then before. Since computers are one of the greatest inventions of mankind in the current era, we will devote this article to the study of applications of computers on board ships.

Computers & Ships

I wont talk about warships here (possibly later on) but as far as commercial ships of various types such as cargo carriers or passenger carriers are concerned their main objective is to transport goods or people from point A to Point B using the optimum route taking other considerations into account. For example in case of cargo ship the intention would be to follow the shortest possible route subject to area restrictions etc, whilst passenger ships would try to take the most picturesque route available. So what could be the possible applications of computers on ships? Let me tell you a few common applications where computers are used.

Common Applications

  • Ships contain a wide variety of machinery and equipment which are running literally round the clock. Since it is critical that these machineries keep running smoothly, it is utterly necessary to keep a close check on the various parameters which could blow the whistle if anything seems to be going wrong. There are hundreds of such parameters such as range of temperatures, pressures, flow rates, level changes and so forth. Earlier such records used to be recorded manually in books and it is still the practice in most cases. Over a period of time computers would take over and it would be much easier to store, retrieve, transmit, analyze and interpret this data for later purposes with the use of computers and related paraphernalia. This would increase reliability and efficiency of record keeping and in turn would improve performance.

  • Similarly non-technical data exists in abundance such as inventory of spares, spares used, spares changed, consumables purchased, lubricating oil inventory and usage, fuel oil usage and inventory. This data can also be stored with ease and can be visualized graphically in the form of graphs and charts which would give the trends in utilization over a period of time. Likewise spares parts inventory control can be done much more effectively when computer power is utilized for the purpose.

  • PMS stands for planned maintenance system and refers to the process of carrying out routine maintenance operations on various machineries based on different parameters such as manufacturer’s instructions, running hours, timeframe and past experience. Since the list of small parts which need to be serviced can easily run into thousands, it would be very difficult if not impossible to remember each and every part. In a computer based PMS application, the system itself generates a list of items that are due for maintenance and any other reminders. Apart from that the parts which have been serviced are documented in the PMS with any relevant comments/suggestions which could be of immense use when the next opportunity arises and new staff is on board.

We will continue with the discussion of applications of computers on ships in our next article as well.