Remote condition monitoring of ship gearboxes

Paul Boughton

Schaeffler UK has installed condition monitoring systems on two ships operated by United European Car Carriers (UECC). The monitoring systems, which are installed in the ships’ engine control rooms, are set up to monitor the vibration behaviour of the engine gearboxes.

As well as supplying and installing the condition monitoring hardware, Schaeffler is also providing UECC with ongoing exception-based remote monitoring services via V-SAT link. This service not only provides UECC with an early warning system for any potential gearbox failures, but also generates useful diagnostics and trend information that UECC can give to class inspectors (e.g. Lloyds Register) during routine ship audit inspections. These gearbox diagnostics reports eliminate the need for time consuming, one-off gearbox inspections, which cost tens of thousands of pounds per gearbox and cause costly delays while the ships remain in dry dock.

Founded in 1990 and headquartered in Oslo, Norway, UECC is Europe’s leading provider of short sea RoRo transportation. The company transports around 1.5 million units per year – including passenger cars, commercial vehicles, high and heavy equipment and trailers – to and from sea ports in the UK and Europe. UECC operates a fleet of 23 purpose-built vessels.

Two of UECC’s vessels – the AutoStar and AutoSun – are fitted with Schaeffler’s FAG DTECT X1s vibration monitoring systems. On each ship, a single, 8-channel FAG DTECT X1s system is set up to monitor four vibration points (two on the gearbox input shaft and two on the output shaft) on each of the two main engine gearboxes. The systems are mounted close to the gearboxes in protective enclosures. A panel PC displays the vibration data from each gearbox. The systems are connected to the ship’s V-SAT communications system.

The FAG DTECT X1s is a condition monitoring system that is suitable for use in a wide range of industrial and marine environments, including the monitoring of rotating components and machines such as bearings, gearboxes, turbochargers, compressors, fans, pumps and drives. All commonly used acceleration, speed and displacement sensors can be connected to the FAG DTECT X1s, enabling process parameters such as speed, temperature, torque and pressure to be monitored.

UK-based company HargreavesMarine, Schaeffler UK’s partner for the marine industry, was responsible for the specification and installation of the FAG DTECT X1s systems, as well as the ongoing remote monitoring service. Bob Hargreaves, MD of HargreavesMarine commented: “The condition monitoring systems were installed in early 2013 and have already proved their worth at UECC. If an alarm is generated from the FAG DTECT X1s systems, we can immediately see this regardless of where the ships are located in the world. We can see which bearing on which gearbox is responsible for triggering the alarm, and then decide whether action is required by the ship’s engineers.”

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