Chief Engineer Dan Slobodzian Introduces the Engine Control Room and Engine Room
The Engine Control Room (ECR) is located aft and on the main deck level of the ship, directly above The JR’s main machinery spaces. The ECR has a console that houses operator stations for our DMS system, which is the centralized system used to monitor and control the ship’s machinery throughout the vessel. It also houses the main switchboard and the ship’s service switchboard for control and distribution of the electrical power we make and use onboard. The ECR also serves as an office for Engine Department personnel where technical manuals, drawings and files are kept, as well as PCs for our maintenance management and inventory control software programs. Those on duty use the ECR as a base of operations, and for work, planning, and safety meetings.
The Engine Room is one of about six major machinery spaces located throughout the ship. The Engine Room contains five main diesel generator sets. Each set produces electrical power at 4160 volts, and each is capable of providing 2100 kilowatts of power. These five main sets plus two smaller ones can combine to provide up to 13.5 megawatts of electrical power. A diesel generator set consists of a diesel engine driving an AC generator and includes auxiliary equipment like cooling pumps, lube oil pumps, fuel oil pumps, coolers and more.
Other equipment in this space includes the fuel oil purifier (used to clean the fuel oil before it goes to the engines), lube oil transfer pump (to put lubricating oil into the engines) and some pumps and filters to transfer fuel to other parts of the vessel like the cranes, emergency generator, and incinerator.
The engine room is a very noisy and very hot place that most people want to flee as soon as they enter, but the marine engineers routinely work in these spaces to operate and maintain this equipment.
The Engine Department is made up of licensed and unlicensed personnel who have a broad background in marine engineering knowledge and skills. The Chief Engineer heads up the department and there is a First Assistant Engineer, Second Assistant Engineer, Third Assistant Engineer, a Motorman, and two Oilers. The staff work on 12-hour watches (or tours, pronounced towers—don’t ask—in the oil drilling industry).
The watchstanding engineers and oilers on duty monitor the power generating plant and all auxiliary machinery and “hotel” systems like Heating Ventilation Air Conditioning (HVAC) Systems and Potable Water Systems (fresh water for sinks, showers, cooking, etc). There is a sewage treatment plant aboard known as a Marine Sanitation Device (MSD)—a vacuum collection system for toilets and many other systems. All these systems need be monitored for alarms, started, stopped, serviced, and repaired. Some of these are compressed air, main and auxiliary seawater cooling systems, the propulsion cooling water system, fuel oil, lube oil, domestic refrigeration, watermakers to make the potable water, bilge holding tanks, oily water separators and filters, thrusters, and propulsion systems.
In addition to the monitoring and operation of operating machinery and systems, the engineers respond to all manner of house calls. Repairs to plumbing and HVAC in the cabins and labs are often needed. Marine engineers also work closely with the Electrical Department onboard, often troubleshooting and working on the same equipment together.
What kind of marine engineering knowledge and skills do the engineers posses? A marine engineer’s formal education is very similar to that for mechanical engineering, but with emphasis on operation and maintenance of machinery and whole systems as well as pure design aspects. It also includes electrical power and control systems theory, operation and maintenance, not to mention many practical aspects of the mechanical arts including welding and machining. Whatever formal education marine engineers receive is supplemented by years at sea as they progress up the ranks and hone the most important skills of all—troubleshooting and problem solving!