USCG issues marine safety alert on maintaining machinery suction

Following the loss of the SS El Faro and the subsequent findings from the US Coast Guard’s investigation into the disaster, the USCG has recently issued a safety alert on the role which the main propulsion lube oil system was found to have played in regard to that casualty. American Club reported on the advice.

A failure of a vessel’s lube oil system generally means a loss of propulsion for all types of engineering plants. In the case of the El Faro the lube oil pump’s ability to maintain suction was likely affected by the vessel’s list, motion, and the volume of oil in the sump.

SOLAS Chapter II 1, Regulation 26.6, and 46 CFR 58.01 40 both require that propulsion machinery and all auxiliary machinery essential to the propulsion and safety of the vessel be designed to operate:

  1. when the vessel is upright,
  2. when the vessel is inclined under static conditions at any angle of list up to and including 15°, and
  3. when the vessel is inclined under dynamic conditions (rolling) at any angle of list up to and including 22.5° degrees and, simultaneously, at any angle of trim (pitching) up to and including 7.5° by the bow or stern.

Given the criticality of propulsion and essential auxiliary machinery, particularly in heavy weather or high traffic areas, the USCG “strongly” recommended that:

  1. Operators verify that their main propulsion machinery, essential auxiliary systems, and emergency generators are designed in compliance with the CFR, SOLAS and Classification Society requirements for operation in static and dynamic conditions of list and trim.
  2. Engineering Department personnel review the design, arrangement, limiting angles of inclination, normal and limiting high/low lubricating oil sump levels, and casualty control procedures for all systems vital to the propulsion and safety of the vessel to better understand the possible ways to mitigate the effects of heavy weather on vessel operations.

American Club Members were asked to note and follow the USCG recommendations and were encouraged to share their experiences in this regard with the Managers.