When it comes to the maintenance of marine vessels, there are plenty of required tests and drills under US and international laws. There are systems that need to be tested no more than 12 hours before entering the navigable waterways of the country and prior to getting underway. It is extremely important that a proactive approach to maintenance is consistently practiced to avoid any equipment failure.
The primary and secondary steering gear demand constant checkups. This comprises a visual inspection of the steering gear and its connecting linkage as well as the operation of each of its remote control system, the main steering gear from the alternative power supply, each rudder angle indicator, each remote steering gear control system power failure alarm, and the full movement of the rudder.
When not checked accordingly, the steering gear’s failure to function will surely cause damaging effects. If curing the root cause means everything for a steering gear, then what are the most common causes of failure found in the steering gear system of ships?
When there is excessive noise and vibrations from the steering gear, there is an entrapment of air in the system. Pumps and piping should be subjected to air hammer that causes vibrations and noise due to air bubbles in the oil. In this case air must be removed from the system. This is accomplished by using vent valve provided in the cylinder and pump after the system is replaced with new oil.
Low oil level in the steering gear system causes an increase in oil temperature which might lead to other problems related to other operations. A reduction in the viscosity of the oil which will hamper the steering operation occurs whenever there is high oil temperature.
Incorrect or inadequate adjustment of control and repeat back lever results to a difference in the angle at the helm and the actual rudder angle. To avoid failures in the steering gear system, the run buckle that is attached to the control rod and repeat back lever must be accurately adjusted.
Like always, machinery systems with various moving parts operated by hydraulic oil is a common cause of oil leakages. Every kind of leakage from a steering gear system should be addressed immediately. When the performance of the steering gear system is reduced, then there is definitely something wrong. When there is loss of speed then there is always a pressure drop or a loss of flow. When this occurs, the results would be an internal leakage in the pump, valves or actuators.
Safety valves or by pass valves malfunction is a common cause for a steering gear system that performs poorly. This results to the delay of the ship’s arrival as well an increased fuel consumption of the main engine.