Category Archives: Investment in People

Sharing positive news

In most industries it is unlikely that your CEO will be very happy if you tweet and facebook via linkedIn every time you encounter a new machinery issue, however it is rare that anyone will be facing problems that have not been faced and solved before.

So to that extent why not impress your CEO and tell everyone about your successes – you will have found many a solution and your team stepped up and made it right. After all your CEO probably signed your employment papers and your company only employs the best people! Right?

In a condition based environment we manage the asset population by a combination of strategies targeted at avoiding unnecessary maintenance. However, failures do occur – we like to call them – anomalies – as they come from nowhere, when we thought we had all bases covered. In reality these “outliers” are to be expected – the measure of our capability is how effectively we learn from them and bring them back into the protected environment so we can minimise their likelihood of reoccurrence and minimise their effect.

As is probably well known to you all, making mistakes and falling down is unavoidable in the real world. We learn from these events and we move on. Repeating mistakes however is unacceptable and we would do better to remember this by ensuring that;

1 – Every time we find an issue and fix it, we make sure that we check other similar systems and confirm that they are protected accordingly.

2 – We ensure that all our systems are setup to automatically capture evidence of similar events – which we may miss – so we can fix them.

3 – We tell our peers to look out for these issues and become active in the community.

Business advantage via reliability enhancements sounds attractive on one level but every time someone is killed or injured because we did not share the knowledge required to fix it – in some way we are all responsible.

This is NOT whistle blowing but professional engineering practice.

See the UK Engineering Council‘s statement on ethics here

Its all about the people not the products!

Lubes Panel Discussion at Riviera Propulsion Conference London – 7th and 8th March 2013

On the podium Castrol Marine/ExxonMobil/Gulf Marine/Shell Global/Total Lubmarine – Panel Chair Lloyd’s Register

DCS 002

Not so long ago the choice of cylinder lube oil was a relatively straight forward one based upon Sulphur content. Then we got the S/ECA’s meaning that we had to change between 70 and 40BN products when we were operating for more than a week or so on low Sulphur fuels.


At around this time universal products covering 0.5 to 3.5% Sulphur were being developed, which would have been fine if we had not also decided to throw a spanner into the works by slowing down our engines to conserve fuel.

As lubricant supply to the ring liner interface is proportional to the speed of the engine the the result is that the residence time of the lubricant upon the liner is increased as we slow down the speed – thus – as we slow down the speed, we also slow down the relative velocity between the ring and the liner. What this means is that there is more time for the acidic materials to form. In addition as this has the effect of reducing the temperature of the liner then the potential for acidic material formation H20 + S2 = H2SO4 is also increased.

Acidic Corrosion – Why?

As  it is not clear what the exacting conditions are for acidic corrosion we cannot yet manage this directly, instead we manage the potential effects of acidic corrosion by increasing/reducing the CLO feed rate and relying upon the additive performance to control the rate and degree of chemical corrosion.. However, often more neutralisation is required than can be accommodated without over lubrication, i.e. more per ml of lubricant, meaning that new higher,  80BN+ oils (Castrol Marine) have been made available and supported by engine makers.

On the other hand  there seems now to be a new thread of technology which relates to the neutralizing performance not in terms of the quantity present (BN#), but in terms of the quality of neutralization itself (Total Lubmarine and Shell Marine Products). Put in simple terms not all oils are the same. Unfortunately there is not yet an industry test to differentiate products in this way. BN may well be out as the metric used to select the right oil!

What is very clear is that CLO’s are NOT a fit and forget material  – they have to be managed in service to get the most out of them and to ensure that their use is optimized. ExxonMobil Marine place field support high on the list of important features choosing to differentiate themselves in this way and by avoiding the “universal” solution argument – although they too have a mid range universal product on their books.  Supporting the vessel engineers in the day to day activities has to be a priority as they are often criticized indirectly by means of the “reduced crew competence” argument which is often cited but rarely explored in any real way.

My own experience with FOBAS Engine has shown that ships engineers don’t seem to follow a specific path when setting lubricators to control feed rate. There is the tendency for everyone to over lubricate as they do not feel empowered to keep trimming – (Some use PQ style magnetic quantifiers to check that metal wear is not increasing – which is a bit late really!) but even so we often find engines with all units in the normal operational phase  with different settings. Meaning that CLO feed is simply not being managed – period!

Service not Commodity

Gulf Marine restated their position that the chosen lubricant supply partner needs to be considered across the whole range of products and services. Lubricants have been commoditized yet solution borne materials such as CLO’s for differing operational profiles, increased demand for biodegradable and environmentally responsible products plus the increasing need for service support and the role of educator and adviser should not be ignored as these differentiators may be critical when selecting your preferred supplier

The world has changed and we have not prepared for that change. Crew competency has not reduced but it is not aligned with what we ask of it. The industry itself is responsible for defining the need and so we should fix it and not simply deflect criticism onto others.

Ignore the human element at your peril!

A discussion about how we attract and retain high quality engineering staff into an industry that appears to neither provide the necessary human environment nor provide the sort of business structures which consider the person important in the operational structure, will not be possible here, but what we can do is remind ourselves that the shift of power away from the Chief Engineer to the Superintendent or further to the OEM, will not provide the degree of continuity and confidence to operate in the modern shipping world.

Companies like lube suppliers are keen to differentiate their capabilities, we should embrace this but not see it as a way to reduce our own. It will be by empowerment of the CE by reducing in paperwork, removal of unnecessary regulation and supporting the other core activities surrounding leadership and motivation that will lead to improvements.

My main point  – Let your Chief Engineers do their job and shield them from everything else that gets in the way!

The difficulty of cutural change cannot be understated

People, People, PEOPLE!

To quote Machiavelli,

“It must be considered that there is nothing more difficult to carry out nor more doubtful of success nor more dangerous to handle than to initiate a new order of things; for the reformer has enemies in all those who profit by the old order, and only lukewarm defenders in all those who would profit by the new order; this lukewarmness arising partly from the incredulity of mankind who does not truly believe in anything new until they actually have experience of it.”

Also it is not simply by telling people what they must do but involving them in the WHY of WHY WE ARE DOING IT!

I recently met Bernd Geropp at the Lloyd’s Register sponsored Condition Based Maintenance Conference in London – he has a good sense of what may be behind the difficulties we face.


I attach a short presentation he recently posted elsewhere.

WHY should I get behind these new ideas?