Peril From Pneumatics on Board


Aswin AtreThe important part played by Pneumatics and control cannot be gainsaid.  Erudite readers of this note no doubt realise proper functioning pneumatic system and controls is sine qua non for safe operation.

This note, would like to highlight the laissez faire attitude towards this system by the operators.  Time and again, it has been observed that neglect of the system has led to minor or major breakdowns.

There have been cases of serious failure of manoeuvring system, which fortuitously did not lead to a disaster resulting in loss of life or environmental disaster.  Many of these cases  are not even reported!! Should the Management come to know of the incident, fleet letters will be dispatched and PMS system will be modified ad nauseam.

Maintaining  the pneumatic system and controls require the system to be clean i.e. water content to be minimised, oily residues to be avoided and avoid sludge.  All engineers on board, hopefully , have been taught something about pneumatic system and their upkeep.  Then, why in God’s name the systems are allowed to deteriorate? Is it apathy? Ignorance cannot be the reason, as the vessels are supposedly manned by qualified personnel.


Air starting motors  for generators has simplified design and manufacture of cylinder heads.  The reliability of these motors cannot be guaranteed if the air line is not drained and kept in pristine condition.  Operators, will acknowledge that they have to keep spare motors! How can one be sure of automatic starting of standby generator if the air motor’s performance is doubtful?

If the compressed air system are kept clean, this risk of air motors being dodgy with consequent problems can be obviated.  It is suggested, if right from compressors operation, to ensuring air reservoirs are drained off  regularly, along with provision of regular monitoring of filters and timely renewal of filter elements, there would be a decrease in inefficiency and assured reliability of controls.

It goes without saying the manoeuvring system will spring no surprises at the critical time.

Unfortunately, it has been reported in many vessels the condition of pneumatics leaves much to be desired.  Perhaps, it is worthwhile to suggest to personnel on board to look at the system as a whole.

Peril from poor pneumatic system is real and stakeholders are well advised to take due cognizance of this note.


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