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Letter of the month

Dear Editor, I enjoyed reading the article by Chris Hansford outlining the pros and cons of the vibrations sensors and how good they are at preventing a catastrophe

with engine room machinery. As rather an old man now, I can still remember the days of watchkeeping, and also sailing as the builder’s representative on several of the UMS [unmanned machinery space]-classed vessels – as well as those that only had bridge control. I also remember working as a consultant on low crew vessels. In

those days, however, there were few vessels that operated com- pletely unattended. A small number of vessels had various gauges in the chief engineer’s cabin so that when unattended, he/she could also see what was going on. There were microphones at all the main areas of concern, such as turbo chargers, lubricating oil, cooling water and a at the generators, as well a number of temperature gauges. Even when in UMS condition, most chief engineers would send

the junior engineer down below to feel, smell and touch the various items to put their minds at rest, but I’ll bet they didn’t sleep too well, possibly with one eye on the instruments. It makes me wonder if the cost of automation and condition monitoring, plus the maintenance of this sophisticated equipment, can replace a junior engineer in a cost-effective way. There has so far been no satisfactory equipment to replace human input entirely and the number of false alarms caused by sensors used to be a great concern. Even the chore of periodically testing if all sensors were working ate up the engineer’s time – which he could ill afford if crew levels had been reduced. I remember that in nearly every port the vessels visited, there were

either representatives or parcels delivering new circuit boards as well as various components for the monitoring equipment. I hope this has improved – but watching ‘mighty ships’ on TV, it appears that very little has changed. I think it has already been said in your magazine that on very low

crew level vessels the staff feel lonely, which generally leads to them leaving the sea. John W Jordan

Dear Editor, The writer of the editorial

in the August edition of

the Marine Professional, when degrading the work of both ‘seasoned veterans’ of the industry and current ship ‘operators’ would do well to look at the history and see that less than 20 years ago marine engines were still being designed, built and operated to use 600 centistoke residual bunker fuel. This was because no other industry was capable of getting rid of what was considered the waste product that the oil refineries produced. The same marine engineers who

designed them, those sea-going engineers who operated them, and ship owners who installed them, were being lauded as contributing positively to the environment by getting rid of waste product of the oil industry. The fact that the same marine

engineers and ship operators are now able to adjust to changing perceptions and carry on their business, sometimes still using those same engines built 20 years ago, without wholesale disruption to shipping and, therefore, world trade, is a testament to their expertise, adaptability and professionalism, which should be praised, not denigrated.

Nigel E Smith

Dear Editor, In his October column ‘Designing out disaster’,

Michael Grey states that ‘poverty remains the principal contributor to lost lives’. I challenge this as I believe that

poverty is neither the principal nor the primary contributor. Rather, these contributors are institutionalised fraud and deplorable standards of maintenance/ management by the local political powers that be. These forces intervene to

facilitate over-invoicing during the purchasing and supply processes; buying second-hand vessels at inflated prices (including essential spares); misappropriating revenues;

paying fraudulent invoices, and also several other mismanagement and administrative anomalies. Honest indigenous staff who will

not co-operate tend to “disappear” and so must leave the country. I know this because of personal experiences in Sierra Leone, Liberia, Ghana and Nigeria.

Selton During, CEng, MIMarEST

Dear Editor, I always enjoy reading

Keith Ray’s articles, but in

‘Powering Ahead’ in the May’ issue, I was surprised not to see a reference to Royal Navy (RN) Commander Geoffrey Penn’s excellent book on the story of the naval engineer published in 1955. Up Funnel & Down Screw details the early stages of steam engineer- ing in the RN and the early struggles for recognition by the new class of naval officer. The early operational experi-

ences recorded in the Post Office steam fleets proved valuable especially the comparison of operational readiness of ships operating in the Baltic and those in other seas which initiated the requirement for proper boiler feed water quality control (i.e. little descaling if fresh water versus a great deal if salt water!). Later a requirement for two

safety valves per boiler was added following an incident on one of the mail/dispatch packets: the engineer in charge retired to the boiler tops to ‘sweat it out’ after a ‘bender’ chose the safety valve lever as a resting point. This caused consternation among the crew and passengers as the boiler pressure increased, and he was only dislodged from his perch by the marlin spikes thrown at him. The book makes fascinating

reading and is a worthy reference for Keith’s article. It does shine a searchlight on the early steps our predecessors had to take to get us where we are today.

James M Cruikshank FMIREST


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