Ship Breakdowns Blamed on Lube Failures

Marine mutual insurer Swedish Club found in a report on main engine damage that lubrication failure was the most expensive and most frequent cause of damage on vessels during the 2015-2017 period.

Swedish Club members are an international community of ship owners. The types of vessels insured by the company include bulkers, container ships, dry cargo ships, roll-on and roll-off ships, tankers, and passenger vessels and ferries, among others. According to the groups report, passenger vessels and ferries have the highest frequency of main engine claims.

Photo: Info793571/Dreamstime

A view of the main engine in a large cargo ship. A report by marine mutual insurer Swedish Club found that lubrication failure was the most frequent cause of main engine damage on vessels from 2015 to 2017.

The report included 202 main engine claims at an average cost of $647,920 per claim. The Gothenburg, Sweden-based insurer determined that 40 vessel casualties were caused by lubrication failure during 2015-2017, at an average cost of $763,320.

The Swedish Clubs recommendations for avoiding main engine damage include implementing robust onboard fuel and lubrication oil management systems; onboard testing of lubrication oil and submitting samples for laboratory analysis at regular intervals at least every third month; and carrying out system checks of purifiers and filters for both fuel and lubrication oil systems.

Crankshaft and associated bearings were the most expensive claim, at an average cost of $1.2 million per claim. The insurer noted that costly rudder and rudder bearing damage affected the result for steering claims, which saw an average increase in cost of 53 percent since the 2010-2014 time period, with an average cost of $572,920 per claim.

The publication also includes loss prevention advice from major engine manufacturers Man Engines and Wartsila.

Fluids such as fuel, lube oil and cooling water have a significant impact on engine operation and should be constantly monitored using laboratories with stringent quality controls, Man stated in its comments. This will enable the operator to react to any changes of fluid quality immediately. When available, take advantage of manufacturers remote monitoring technology to reduce downtimes.

Wartsila noted that proper trending of cooling water, lubrication oil and fuel oil analysis creates an understanding of the overall condition of the machinery and assists in calibrating maintenance needs as well as component lifetimes.

The report is available online here.