Engine control room design and arrangement on ships

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We have studied about the ship’s engine room in a previous article. You must have seen over there that apart from the machineries which form the core of the machinery space; there is another place which looks quite different from the rest, namely the Engine Control Room or ECR. The previous article described the ECR in a very short part but in this article we will take a look at the engine control room design in more detail.

Engine Control Room Design

The ECR is just like a heaven which is very clean, literally dust free and most importantly air conditioned room. This description may not seem very attractive for someone who has not seen the engine room. Of course I don’t mean to say that the engine room is dirty; infact it is kept spic-n-span at all times by the assigned staff. Yet due to the very nature of the machineries which are present and are running almost continuously, there is normally lot of noise and heat inside the engine room. The temperature of the engine room also depends on the area in which the ship is sailing.

But the engine control room is kept at a cool temperature at all times, mainly because of the sensitive equipment, instrumentation and controls which are present inside. On a modern ship literally every parameter of the machineries running anywhere on the ship can be monitored from the control room

There is a provision for alarms for all sensitive parameters on board the ship. There is also arrangement to shut down and start several machineries from the control room itself. It would be very lengthy if I start describing each and every single control and panel in the ECR of a typical ship, so will stick to broad outlines.

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.