Friday, September 19, 2014

USCG Provides Propulsion Loss, Fuel Switching Guidance

By Mark Edward Nero

With deep draft vessels in and around California waters continuing to experience loss of propulsion accidents, the US Coast Guard is taking steps to increase awareness of recent loss of propulsion cases and provide general guidance, based on lessons learned, to help prevent future incidents.

Between June 2013 and June 2014, the USCG says, there were 93 loss of propulsion incidents – with 15 found to be related to fuel switching – in Coast Guard District 11. The district includes California, Arizona, Nevada and Utah as well as the coastal and offshore waters out over a thousand miles, and the offshore waters of Mexico and Central America down to South America.

An extensive analysis of loss of propulsion incidents in California, the USCG says, revealed that the leading causes include: general mechanical issues, lack of maintenance, start air system issues including insufficient start air pressure and issues with fuel oil systems.

Advanced planning and preventive maintenance are critical to the proper operation of a vessel’s main engine and prevention of losses of propulsion, the USCG states. In order to manage risk and improve safety, vessel owners and operators have been advised by the Coast Guard in a new marine safety bulletin to:
  • Ensure manufacturer’s technical publications are onboard and sufficient equipment/spare parts are available to perform routine preventive maintenance;
  • Establish a rigorous inspection and maintenance schedule;
  • Ensure engine components are maintained in serviceable condition and operated per manufacturer’s guidelines, particularly start air valves and fuel system seals, gaskets, flanges, fittings, brackets and supports;
  • Conduct initial familiarization and periodic crew training on pertinent systems and IMO/U.S./State requirements;
  • Exercise tight control, when possible, over the quality of fuel oils received;
  • Ensure fuel system components are operational, including flow indicators, pressure/temperature alarms, etc.;
  • Ensure a detailed fuel system diagram is available and posted in vicinity of pertinent systems, and;
  • Ensure start air supply is sufficient and fully charged prior to maneuvering.

The marine safety bulletin, which was developed by the District 11 Prevention Division in Alameda, Calif., is for informational purposes and doesn’t relieve vessel owners/operators from any domestic or international safety, operational or material requirement, according to the USCG.