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Friday, March 21, 2008

Increasing Vessel Longevity and Efficiency

In today's environment of skyrocketing commodities and oil costs it makes sense for every boat, ship and fleet owner to adopt maintenance and other methods for improving efficiency and increasing vessel longevity. While many techniques are well known to the owner, some may not be as obvious. Here's a brief list of things that can be done to help reduce operating costs and extend a vessel's lifespan.

1. Everybody knows that keeping the hull clean and freshly coated with anti-fouling paint helps reduce operating costs, but do you know that polishing the wheel will also help reduce fuel costs? Ship owners are now conducting more frequent propeller polishing. One fleet owner claims the practice of polishing the wheel every four months instead of the usual six months has saved 1 ton of fuel every 24 hours of operation in a vessel that burns on average 128 ton every 24 hours.

2. Down time should be used wisely. Nothing causes deterioration faster than humidity, moisture and standing water, especially sea water. The easiest thing in the world to do is open hatches and doors on a bright, sunny, dry day. Clearly, ships in the combustible fuels transportation business don't have the option of opening all hatches and doors, but the rest of us, especially those of us with composite vessels, can really benefit from the practice. When dockside or on a mooring, open hatches and doors and let the thing dry out.

3. From a safety standpoint, it's always a good idea to shake the hell out of your ABC Dry Chemical fire extinguishers, then turn them over and shake them again. When mounted in their usual brackets the extinguishing material inside tends to compact at the bottom, especially with the continual pounding of the vessel in head seas. If you had to use one that had been standing untended for a long time, if you hadn't shaken it up, the first few shots you would get out of it would be compressed gas.

4. Winterizing a small, heat exchanger cooled diesel engine is a concern to every small boat owner in the northeast. What most people do is run non-toxic anti-freeze through the main engine intake until they see it come out the exhaust. This is truly the best way to do it, rather than by pulling the zinc plugs and/or draining the seawater out of it. The reason for this is that even though you may leave the engine empty of seawater, over the course of the winter, condensation will build up in the cooling circuit. For an even better sleep at night, use minus 100 degree anti-freeze protection.

5. Here's another no brainer: Keep your filters fresh: Air, oil (engine and transmission), oil sump re-breather, fuel (both primary and secondary), spinner (centrifugal), coolant (if you have one). Forget the negative effects of dirt, which are bad enough, the harder the engine has to work to move air, fuel and lube oil, the shorter its lifespan.

6. Back to the propeller. No amount of polishing will help reduce fuel consumption and increase engine longevity if you have a vibration issue with either prop, shaft or transmission. Identify vibration issues and rectify them.

7. Fair the hull. Don't skim on anti-fouling coatings; keep them smooth and functional. While you're at it, make sure all your protruding through hull fittings are equipped with fairings. The smoother and cleaner the path for water to the propeller, the better your performance and fuel efficiency.

That's it for now. I'll be adding to this list later.


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