10 Situations Wherein Engine and Deck Officers Must Maintain Efficient Communication

A ship successfully run by two different departments – Engine and Deck that work day and night to ensure that the ship delivers its cargo on time. Duties of officers and crew in each of these departments is of great importance and the ship cannot sail if a problem is faced by either of them.

Moreover, everyone from the maritime industry know the fact that there is always a cold war between the engine and deck officers on every ship. It is often seen that officers and crew from each of the departments would try to prove that the ship cannot run without them; though everyone deep down knows that in order to allow the ship to sail efficiently none of the departments can do without each other and it’s all about teamwork on board.

One of the most common and important operations wherein the deck and engine departments come together is the ship’s maneuvering. However, in order to ensure utmost safety of the ship, it is important that officers and crew members from each department shun their ego and maintain healthy communication not only during emergency situations but throughout all important ship operations.

Mentioned below are some of the most important situations on board wherein the engine and deck officers must communicate properly and inform each other about the situation.

1.Engine Room Machinery Abnormality: A machinery in the ship’s engine room is bound to face problem when at sea. In case of breakdown of any machinery, the duty engineer must inform the bridge officer immediately without any delay. If problem occurs in the main engine,power generator or any associated machinery which can affect the voyage of the ship, the engineer must take all necessary steps and inform the bridge at the earliest.

2. Fire on ship: With implementation of advanced safety and automation systems, detection of fire on board ships has become quite efficient. In case of fire on the ship, the indication of affected location is displayed either on the bridge or in the fire station. In such condition, it is important that deck officer call the engine room to inform about the specific location of fire even after the fire alarm has been sounded. The same rule also applies to the engine officer, who must inform the bridge on how big is the fire and its condition after ringing the fire alarm. However, only informing is not important, it is necessary that all required steps are taken by the ship’s crew to stop the fire and inform other department regarding the same.

3. Fog, Traffic or Other Manned Situation: Today, most of the ships have UMS engine room and the engine is controlled from the bridge. If any situation arises wherein the engine is to be slowed down and manned, the bridge officer must inform the duty engineer well in advance. These situation may include: Fog or weather warnings, Canal Crossing, High Traffic Areas, Under-Bridge Crossing etc.

4. Heavy Smoke/ Spark from the Funnel: If the ship’s funnel is discharging abnormal black/ white smoke or there are sparks rising from the funnel, the deck officer on the bridge must inform the same to the engine room immediately as it may lead to uptake fire if ignored.

5. Internal Oil Transfer Operation: Any engine room internal oil transfer procedure must be pre-informed to the bridge officer as the transfer of oil from one tank to another may affect the current list/ trim of the ship. Also, an informed deck officer will keep a good overboard watch and revert back to the engine room immediately in case of oil leakage or spill.

6. Pumping Operation: Ballast pumps are high capacity pumps which are used to correct the list, trim or draught of the ship. They are also used in ports for cargo loading/ discharging. In order to save fuel, normally one generator is run at higher load when the ship is at port. Hence deck officer must inform the engine department before starting any pumps including ballast and fire pump as there might be a requirement to start one more generators to accommodate the power requirement.

7. Deck Machinery Operation: Before starting any deck machinery including bow thrusters and winches, the deck officer must inform the engine department so that engineers can check and ensure that the machinery is ready to start and the generator has enough accommodating power available. Also, in case of bow thruster (BT), hydraulic pumps and fans are to be started sequentially before the main operation, which the ship engineer will perform if informed well in advance.

8. OWS Operation: Nowadays, Oily Water Separator is an important ship machinery checked by all PSCs on every visit. It is important for marine engineers to inform the bridge and take position of the ship while starting and stopping the Oily Water Separator (OWS). Also, bridge officers are required to take a note of the same in the bridge log book. An overside check is also required by the bridge officer for any oil sheen in water once the OWS operation has started. Oil pollution from ships is a serious crime which includes huge fines and even imprisonment. OWS operation therefore requires clear and sound communication between officers from both the departments.

9. Manning / Un-manning the Engine Room: Engine officer on duty of a UMS ship must inform the bridge before turning on the Unmanned mode and leaving the engine room. Engineer should inform about his visit and manned/unmanned situation every time he/she visits the engine room and switch on or switch off the dead man’s alarm. This will help in informing the bridge officer of an engineer’s presence in the machinery space. Also, in case of any mishap in the engine room or “no reply” of the dead man’s alarm, the deck officer can assist and take immediate action.

10. Pilot/ PSC Onboard: It is the duty of the bridge officer to inform the engine room about the pilot boarding time or whenever any outside authority is about to visit the ship. This will give time to engine room staff to be ready for important situations and prevent any kind of ship delay.

Running a ship safely and efficiently is a team-effort which requires utmost clear communication between the deck and engine officers. The above mentioned situations are some of the most important ones which needs great coordination between both the ship departments.