If you’ve been involved in the boating, yachting, or shipping industry you have undoubtedly heard the acronym for B.O.A.T – Break Out Another Thousand. When you own anything on the water, you recognize that it comes with high maintenance costs. Planned maintenance often gets overlooked because the changes in performance are seemingly insignificant. However, the actions an owner takes towards a maintenance program and hiring the right crew and contractors can greatly reduce or increase these costs.
Maintenance can be broken down to two main categories: planned or unplanned maintenance. The ideal is to have all of your maintenance within the planned category. Intuitively, the more you focus on planned maintenance, the less time will be devoted to unplanned surprises. Similar to taking your car to the garage after a breakdown, unplanned maintenance means unexpected downtime and higher costs–with the vessel either tied up or brought into dry-dock. Repairs of this type take much longer than simply carrying out routine maintenance and the downtime associated with unplanned maintenance is never good for your budget.
Planned maintenance has its own two sub-categories: periodic maintenance and conditional maintenance. Periodic maintenance is done at set intervals recommended by the manufacturer on equipment or parts whose condition cannot be assessed properly while they are in service. This might include hourly maintenance, inspections, dry-dock periods, etc. Conditional maintenance, on the other hand, is based on the actual condition of parts and equipment. The condition can be visually assessed or measured (vibration, pressure, temperature, oil analysis, dimension and wear measurements, corrosion, etc.). Conditional analysis goes hand-in-hand with log-keeping. A log book or a computerized record is kept to help assess the condition of the main and auxiliary equipment. Trying to plan maintenance without this information is very difficult.
Data trending can also be used to track performance over time by monitoring parameters, such as oil pressure, exhaust gas temperature, and cooling water temperature. If your log data shows a steady or abrupt change, it is a sign of a problem. Logging data is the only way to keep track of what is normal for your engine. Catching this trending charge early is the key to preventing catastrophic failure and huge repair costs. Cleaning heat exchangers, changing oil and filters, replacing zinc anodes, and changing engine coolant are all examples of simple planned maintenance that, when not completed on schedule, can damage or even completely ruin equipment.
Below is an example of a salt water pump with a leaky mechanical seal. The seal was used longer than the manufacturer’s recommended service life. It was left leaking for months before the owner called to have the pump overhauled. The salt water corroded the bearing housing and shaft, as well as the mounting plate, so that the parts were no longer usable. This is an example of failure to perform periodic and conditional maintenance, which led to a bill that was three times more expensive.
In addition, engineers need to correctly assess the condition of rebuilt parts. Rebuilt parts that have exceeded their cyclic life or that have a measurement “out of spec,” should not be used as replacement parts. Commonly seen issues include: cylinder head studs being stretched beyond the original manufacturer specifications, injectors developing an incorrect spray pattern, springs often becoming stiffer over time, and O-rings starting to take the shape of the grove they fit in. Everything needs to be measured and checked against the manufacturer’s specifications.
Much like the maintenance tasks themselves, it is often the small details that are left out of maintenance records. Running hours and dates are vitally important to the maintenance program and it is crucial that all the engineers or contractors record this data at every maintenance interval. A service report is also extremely helpful to next engineer who does the job. It gives you a chance put in writing anything you found out of the ordinary or inform them of a repair that you had to make. A maintenance program is not nearly as useful without the maintenance history.
Sometimes it is necessary to bring in shore-side contractors to assist the crew with maintenance. These workers must understand the purpose of the vessel and the mission of the vessel. It is up to the crew to relay this information to the contractors. Owners or the vessel’s management team must work hard to find contractors that have the skill to do the work and the character to make them trustworthy and responsible.
We do not think twice about taking our cars in for an oil change or a tune up. We understand that keeping the car running optimally will be better for your wallet in the long run. We need to transfer these practices to boating, yachting, and shipping, to make being on the water more affordable and ultimately safer for everyone.
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