When you experience technical problems and you are unable to fix the problem yourself, what do you do? If you are the Chief Engineer on board a ship, you have your Engineer Superintendent or Fleet Manager in the office to turn to for help. They may advise you how to fix the problem or they may arrange for repairers or specialists to attend the ship to help fix the problem, or order spare parts for you.
If it is a fuel-related machinery problem, they may seek help from Viswalab, which provides free technical advice to its clients and even to non-clients on how to fix or mitigate, or establish the root cause of, the problem.
When repairers or specialists that come on board are unable to fix the problem, you would be surprised to find that help can sometimes come from unexpected humble people.
The moral of this true case below is to be humble and respect people who might appear to be very simple. They might be able to help you solve your technical problem when experts cannot. This was the humbling experience of one of Viswalab’s staff.
Here is a Real Story:
This was a case of a second-hand motor ship that had a problem with one of its main engine turbochargers and the rotor had to be changed in order for the ship to regain full speed, although the ship could still be operated at reduced speed. The ship had an unused spare rotor so the Chief Engineer thought his problem would be solved by replacing the old rotor with the unused spare on board.
After installing the spare rotor, it did not turn. It was found to be out of alignment. The shaft could not be used until straightened.
The Chief Engineer surmised that the misalignment of the rotor was because it was stored for over 10 years supported at its extreme bearing ends, which were of small diameter. The heavy weight of the central part of the rotor caused it to sag permanently over time.
All the repairers that were engaged at that port were not competent to straighten the rotor. A new rotor was ordered but its delivery would take three months.
The ship being on a liner sailed out at reduced speed with the old rotor refitted. It was hoped that at the next ports of call, which were more advanced in ship repairs, the rotor could be straightened.
At the first port of call, Calcutta (Kolkata), all kinds of repairers and specialists came on board but none could help. The same thing happened at Hong Kong, where even the Hong Kong Aircraft repair company was called besides local repair yards and repairers, but none could help. So the ship continued at slow speed to the next port, Yokohama.
Likewise at Yokohama, none of the repairers and other specialists, some even from repairers of turbochargers, could help. An electrical repair contractor was on board and he asked the Chief Engineer why he was looking so dejected and refusing to be entertained ashore. Although the Chief Engineer did not think that the electrical contractor could help, told him the problem and was surprised to hear that he might be able to give it a try, but with no guarantee of success. The Chief Engineer being desperate agreed since none of the so-called experts could help.
The rotor was taken to a small workshop that had a large lathe machine.
The old Japanese technician, who spoke only Japanese, got the rotor put on his lathe machine between centers and mounted a few dial gauges. With an acetylene torch in one hand and a small plastic water hose in another, he spot heated the rotor at specific places and then carefully controlled the sprayed water selectively on the rotor, turned the rotor by hand, checked the dial gauges and continued doing the same thing patiently and painstakingly for over an hour.
Lo and behold, after installing the straightened rotor, the turbocharger worked and the ship regained full speed for the rest of the voyage to the delight of everyone, afloat and ashore.
Tip: When any kind of rotor or shaft is found supported only at the ends, periodically rotate them 180o or support them in the middle area also.
We thank Mr. Tin Tun for contributing an excellent story with a moral in it.
We are sure that everyone has such nice stories to share.
Why not take a break from your stressed life and recollect some good stories and share it with us!
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