Safety Starts in the Engine Room

Safety Starts in the Engine Room

A Caterpillar marine power experts explains how safety and reliability are built into every Cat® marine engine and propulsion system.

That’s Bart Long, Caterpillar Marine’s Global Offshore Segment Manager. He knows a thing or two about marine power, and he takes justifiable pride in the safety and reliability of the global company’s ocean-going engine and propulsion systems.

“Safety factors in as far back as our new product development process,” Long says. “It’s built right into the way our products for the marine market are designed, and that includes both engines and propulsion systems for the tug and salvage markets.”

 The goal, he adds, is maximum uptime and system availability. “In the marine world, safety and uptime are synonymous. If you look at the types of jobs that marine equipment might be doing—pushing a petroleum barge or dynamic positioning operations within close quarters of a huge rig—uptime is of the utmost importance. You can’t afford to have a failure in those potentially risky situations.”

Conservative Components And Redundant Systems

So what makes Cat engines and propulsion systems safe and reliable? First, Long explains, “you’ve got componentry that’s qualified and conservative in design, meaning that it’s well within the specs needed to handle the pressures, loads temperatures applied to the components. At the foundational level, that’s the biggest safety factor that you can design into a product.”

He continues, “All of our engines and propulsion systems are Marine Classification Society approved. If fact, most our engine families are what they call “Type Approved.’ Inspectors have examined our assembly processes and testing regimes to the point where they can say ‘Look, we don’t have to come and watch every Cat 3500 marine engine being built. As long as you can guarantee that you’re not deviating from the process—which we can—this whole engine series is good to go.’”

Part of the Cat design process includes building in redundant systems. If something does go wrong, a backup component will immediately take over to keep things running.

For example, Long says, “We run dual ECMs (Electronic Control Modules) on marine engines to limit the possibility of a failure taking the engine down. They’ll switch from one ECM to the other with no interruption to operations. Same thing goes for the duplex fuel and oil filtration systems that we apply to marine products. A plugging filter doesn’t impact the vessel because the engine can switch over to a secondary unit and maintain normal operating conditions.”

Monitoring For Performance And Safety

All of those redundant systems are monitored and managed by a sophisticated Alarm & Protection Safety System. The system watches over essentially everything in the engine room and provides alerts that keep the crew informed about operating safety and performance issues.

“There another level to those monitoring and protection systems,” Long notes. “We also offer what we call Marine Asset Intelligence. Everybody does remote monitoring but the drawback is that you end up with is a bunch of data that people may not even look at until two weeks after a failure.

“Marine Asset Intelligence is quite a bit different. We’re applying advanced analytics to the data to turn trends and state detection into actionable information. It actually helps to prevent failures because it’s moving into what we would consider to be true predictive maintenance.”

Of course, Long admits, it can be tough to convince people to trust the data at first. “We had one case where we were monitoring a fuel transfer pump and the trends were clearly showing deterioration. We watched it fail for three weeks.

“Unfortunately, the operator didn’t heed our warnings. To be fair, it’s hard for non-experts to look at the data for a variable pump and say ‘That pressure’s not normal at 800 rpm.’ Analytics can do that for you. That operator is now very much a believer in the value of predictive data.”

Well-Trained Certified Technicians

The final component in Cat Marine Power safety is the support operators get from the worldwide Cat dealer network, Long adds, especially from the well-trained Cat Certified Marine Technicians on staff in ports around the globe.

“Our training is very much best in class. A lot of time and resources are invested in training Certified Marine Technicians so they understand all the regulations and Classification Society rules that apply to operating a piece of machinery in a marine environment. They know the proper procedures to service and maintain the evolved componentry on today’s engines, such as high pressure fuel systems. It’s critical the way those advanced systems and components are handled.”

It all comes together in Cat marine engines and propulsion systems that deliver high availability and very low downtime, which means safer vessel operation even in demanding conditions. The proof? Long notes, “We have a customer out there who ran for something like 22 years without one, single unexpected failure. It illustrates the fact that—with a good maintenance regime and a well-designed, well-built engine—you can get some pretty amazing results.”

Top 3 Ways to Maintain Marine Power Safety

Marine Power Safety Infographic

The safest vessels are the ones with reliable engine and propulsion systems. Here are the top three things you can do to maintain uptime and availability.

View Safety Infographic

Maintenance Made Simple

We realize the value of an engine isn’t solely measured by its performance in an engine room. That’s why Caterpillar has continuously developed service offerings to complement the horsepower our marine products deliver below deck. The Cat® Preventive Maintenance Agreement (PMA) allows customers to lock in maintenance costs at today’s rates for the term of the contract.

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