More than 20 people gathered in the meeting room of a major commercial shipping company recently to discuss the repairs needed to return one of the company’s ships to full operations.
With the ship suffering from a misaligned shaft line and facing significant losses if it was forced out of service for an extended period, the company called in Wärtsilä’s investigation team to assess the issue.
Simon Wiles, Wärtsilä’s Operations Manager for Shaft Line Repair Services (SLRS), picks up the story.
‘We had four at that meeting, and then three people in Spain representing the factory and two in Denmark representing the alignment work,’ Wiles explains.
Cost-effective and efficient operations are vital for global navies and commercial shipping companies alike.
Yet any misalignment of a ship’s shaft line can significantly diminish performance and, if left untreated, has the potential to seriously damage the shaft line equipment itself – which could mean taking the vessel out of service for repairs.
‘Often, after a ship is built there is the need to adjust things for various reasons, but also in operations – even changes in loading conditions, changes in the operating environment, temperature differences, can all have an effect because, over time, the structure changes,’ Wiles explains.
‘The dimensions of the hull, dimensions of the foundations, they might alter over time which means that we will have adjustments to the alignment. It's also worth checking these things on a regular basis to ensure that everything is as it should be because you might not notice them but then, all of a sudden, they turn into a big problem, and you've got a major breakdown of equipment.’
Aware of the cost implications inherent in any major ship repair, Wärtsilä has tailored its offerings to provide preventative as well as responsive measures to any shaft misalignment issues.
As well as organising its teams to provide the most effective response to any alignment issues, Wärtsilä has developed its Portable Condition Based Monitoring (PCBM) system has a dynamic approach to measuring tail shaft alignment.
Wiles outlines how the PCBM is able to deliver detailed root cause information on vibration levels, temperatures, shaft runout, whirling, movement, torque, stress, and on the position of the equipment itself.
‘What the PCBM does, rather than being theoretical, is actually tell you exactly what position the shaft is in during operation, and you don't need to take the vessel out of service,’ he explains.
‘Traditionally, you work to alignment calculations, which are theoretical calculations based on input you get from the equipment manufacturers. They plug that into their calculation and say, "Okay, when the vessel operates at this RPM, at this loading, then this should be the load on the bearings," and they predict it, effectively, under different operating conditions. But when we install the PCBM, it's actually measuring that – you get real-time data rather than theoretical measurements.’
As the PCBM fits inside a small carrycase, the portability of system means that it can be easily installed and removed, requiring no vessel downtime as it carries out the measurements whilst the ship is in normal operation.
‘And at one point in the meeting an insurance representative turned and said, "As long as it saves a day".
‘This was a very big ship, so anything that saves a day has huge cost savings. That’s what our concept is all about – it’s about perfect planning, to make sure we shave anything off, to help save a day,’ Wiles says.
Wärtsilä has also established a specialised team based in Denmark that is able to rapidly react to any customer issues, investigate the root causes of the problem and, in conjunction with Wärtsilä’s international support centres, project manage any repair work.
‘For example, if the customer has a failed bearing, a leaking seal, noise and vibration, whatever it might be, or if they have a major issue such as a collision or a grounding, they will need to have an investigation carried out,’ Wiles explains.
‘So, we have that specialised project management team. You've got to remember that there is a very high skill level within our investigatory team. What we provide are expert investigations through to project managed repair services. It doesn't matter what's gone wrong on the shaft line and which components need to be replaced, we can manage it for you – whether we supply the product from within [Wärtsilä’s] Seals and Bearings, or whether we work with the wider Wärtsilä network group, or whether we work with selected partners.
‘The idea is to prioritise availability in the investigations and project managed repair services, and then to combine it all – anything that saves a day.’