Dealing with a breakdown on a fully-loaded container vessel or cruise ship does not come cheap. It is often not possible to tow it into port, so a small fleet of support vessels needs to be dispatched to carry out repairs at sea. The bill can run in to millions of euros.
Misalignment of a ship’s propulsion system, whether on a new build or a vessel already in service, can be a cause for breakdown. Furthermore, new lighter and more efficient equipment can also require more precise alignment than some older, less efficient systems.
In response to this, Wärtsilä is offering a new expanded alignment and measurement service to help ship owners reduce the risk of such costly breakdowns. The offering includes launching a set of new products and extending its service into new geographical regions.
In January, the company also launched a portable condition measurement system, which can be installed on board ships in a matter of hours and then left to identify misalignment and other equipment issues.
“It's like a health check before something happens, and it’s also used for trouble shooting,” René Bertelsen, Global Sales Manager, Seals & Bearings Alignment & Measurement services, explained.
The system includes vibration sensors, temperature sensors, speed pick up and positioning sensors, a torque meter, a PC and a data logging device. It can be applied to check alignment on almost any equipment which combines more than two moving parts. Vessels with a constant charter can have the equipment mounted while loading or unloading to avoid downtime.
“We go out and mount it on the vessel and the engineer goes home again, so it's a one-day job,” Bertelsen said. “Then the equipment just sails along with the vessel, and, after one or two journeys, the crew takes it off again and sends it back to Wärtsilä.”
Even if problems in alignment do not lead to engine failure, the vibration and stress they generate can damage the shaft assembly, and in the long run, even affect structural elements such as struts and hulls.
Ship owners are already using the portable condition measurement system in four different ways:
“You can have a status report before going to dry dock so you can actually plan,” Bertelsen explained about the final one of these uses.
“You can have new bearings ready, if it's the bearings that are worn out, or make preparations to get a shaft straightened, if it's a bent shaft. The big advantage is that the ship owner can prepare.”
Another major advantage is the fact that the shaft line does not need to be taken out for condition check. This has been very well received by the Class society and insurance companies.
In the months since Wärtsilä launched the service, it has already increased its stock of portable condition measurement systems to meet the stronger-than-expected demand. Several customers have asked to have the system installed permanently. The portable condition measurement system adds to Wärtsilä’s already strong portfolio of alignment services, which also features a patented gyro laser technology to measure the bending line quickly and accurately, and a jack-up system which allows engineers to compare the measured bending curve with the load in the bearings.
Before the end of 2016, Wärtsilä plans to announce further new products.
Wärtsilä is also hiring dozens of new engineers across the globe and training them up to a superintendent level to meet the growing global demand, opening a new base in the US and expanding those it already has in China, Dubai, Portugal, Denmark, and Canada.
According to Bertelsen, the portable condition measurement system is already generating follow-on business.
It is so innovative that it promises to open up an entirely new market, Bertelsen believes.