The intended purpose of this chapter is to address relevant Marine and Electrical Engineering practices on vessels in the UNOLS fleet and certain aspects of these practices as they pertain to setting up and utilizing scientific or science-related equipment on vessels. Scientific or science-related equipment installations on vessels may be unique, non-standard (from a marine environment perspective) and/or temporary. Particular attention should be given to such specialized installations, since the equipment is frequently experimental in nature and the researchers providing and using it are generally not familiar with accepted marine and electrical engineering practices. Such equipment may have been designed for operation in a shore-based environment; whereas, in a shipboard application additional environmental factors may be present, such as: moisture, motion, vibration, temperature variations, and power supply fluctuations. For example, one area of confusion and occasional problems entails equipment designed for use with grounded neutral electrical systems (the norm for office and laboratory equipment) on ships with ungrounded distribution systems.
BASICS OF MARINE ENGINEERING: Marine engineering encompasses the design, operation and maintenance of a vessel’s propulsion and auxiliary machinery as well as the mechanical, electrical, fluid (fuel, steam, hydraulic, water, etc.), and control systems aboard a vessel. Additionally, systems engineered for research vessels must support equipment used for research purposes such as electrical and hydraulic distribution systems needed for specialized winches and cranes, and sometimes, special refrigeration equipment used for science purposes.
BASICS OF ELECTRICAL ENGINEERING: The textbook “Marine Engineering” published by the Society of Naval Architects and Marine Engineers (SNAME) includes the following with regard to shipboard electrical systems:
“All ships have an electric power plant similar to a land-based electric utility . . . Electric power is required for propulsion, propulsion system auxiliaries, deck machinery, illumination, heating, ventilation, air conditioning, stores and cargo refrigeration, galley, fresh water and sanitary systems, and safety and casualty control such as fire and bilge systems, fire detection and alarm systems, and remotely operated watertight and firescreen doors. Power must also be supplied for interior communication systems, controls, radio communications, radar, and other electronic aids to navigation and shipboard operation.”
The above list of common electrical loads is more applicable to larger vessels. Electrical system requirements for smaller research vessels may be more simply structured to support both the basic needs of the vessel as well as any requirements of the vessel’s research mission.
On research vessels, power must also be supplied for scientific work, in addition to all of the above functions. Such “scientific” power must often be especially “clean” and/or delivered from uninterruptible sources. Scientific power may also entail different voltages that must be transformed from those available on the ship’s service electrical bus.
The following is a list of the documents that are referenced by this chapter, including regulations and guidance regarding Marine and Electrical Engineering practices. These documents are updated or amended periodically, so a check should be made to ensure that the latest edition is used.
Nearly all UNOLS vessels are subject to marine and/or electrical engineering regulations promulgated by the Coast Guard and other regulatory bodies, as well as possibly classification rules. Due to differences in size, mission and areas of operation, not all the same regulations and rules necessarily apply to all UNOLS vessels. Thus, it is important that a careful analysis be made to ascertain which ones apply to your particular vessel.
All applicable marine and electrical engineering regulations, as well as recommended standards (even if they are not legally binding requirements), must be addressed by the design process for new vessel construction or major modification of a vessel.
For existing vessels, as a general rule, any significant changes to the vessel’s machinery or electrical systems must be designed or reviewed for compliance with applicable regulatory and classification requirements by a qualified naval architect and/or marine engineer, preferably one who has relevant experience with research vessels. Operational staff who are not similarly qualified can not assume they understand all the implications and effects of what they may perceive as a simple modification; remember the “rule of unintended consequences.”
Inspected vessels are generally subject to the marine engineering regulations of 46 CFR Subchapter F – Marine Engineering and electrical engineering regulations of 46 CFR Subchapter J – Electrical Engineering. This is specifically required for vessels regulated by any of the following subchapters:
Vessels that are regulated by 46 CFR Subchapter T - Small Passenger Vessels (Under 100 Gross Tons) are subject to the marine and electrical engineering requirements as expressly identified within that chapter.
Oceanographic research vessels, which are subject to 46 CFR Subchapter U, are subject to certain additional regulations. For example, Subchapter U includes some discussion of marine and electrical engineering concerns related to scientific equipment such as the following:
U.S. flag vessels in the UNOLS fleet are typically classed by the American Bureau of Shipping (“ABS”) and maintained in accordance with associated ABS requirements for their class. In addition to all other applicable Regulatory Body requirements, such classed vessels must comply with the set of ABS “Rules for Building and Classing Steel Vessels” that is appropriate to their size and service. These rules contain numerous requirements pertaining to marine and electrical engineering. Even if a vessel is not “classed,” those Rules can provide guidance on good practices.
Regulations from the SOLAS convention (including all current amendments) apply to vessels over 500 GT (international). Vessels under 500 GT, which do not carry more than 12 passengers, are generally exempt. These regulations contain requirements pertaining to machinery and electrical installations – see especially Chapter II-1 “Structure, subdivision and stability, machinery and electrical installations”.
The marine and electrical engineering requirements for uninspected vessels are contained in 46 CFR Subchapter C - Uninspected Vessels. Beyond that which is expressly required by Subchapter C, additional guidance for marine engineering and electrical systems aboard UNOLS vessels can be found by consideration of Subchapter C Part 28 (for fishing vessels) and 46 CFR Subchapter T (for small passenger vessels), as well as 46 CFR Subchapters F and J. There is no prohibition against using the inspected vessel requirements for uninspected vessels; those requirements cited above for inspected vessels should be considered for guidance as well.
For vessels under 65 feet in length, “Safety Standards for Small Craft“ published by American Boat and Yacht Council (ABYC) shall be met. Some examples relating to the mechanical and electrical systems include these ABYC standards:
ABYC standards related to the control or documentation of electrical and mechanical systems such as: “T-5, Safety Signs and Labels” shall be adhered to. Also, any and all applicable safety requirements from the Motorboat Act of 1940, including all amendments, must be complied with.
VESSELS: UNOLS vessels will be designed to and maintained in accordance with all applicable marine and electrical engineering requirements as set forth in US regulations, international conventions and accepted marine standards for the size and operating area of the vessel.
PORTABLE SCIENTIFIC EQUIPMENT: Major portable scientific equipment such as winches, seismic air compressors, and laboratory vans or powered sampling equipment may present hazards of injury to personnel or damage to the vessel or vessel systems. Such equipment shall be designed to meet the requirements of 46 CFR Subchapter F and J when applicable. The use of these standards will help in ensuring that the equipment is safe and suitable for use on all vessels.
The following examples demonstrate how the requirements may apply to portable equipment. They do not form a complete list of applicable requirements.
FUEL TANKS: Fuel tanks for portable, engine-driven equipment, see 46 CFR 58.50 - Independent Fuel Tanks.
MACHINERY GUARDS: 46 CFR 58.01-20 requires that “Gears, couplings, flywheels and all machinery capable of injuring personnel shall be provided with adequate covers or guards.” By extension, this includes exposed shafts, which can snag a person’s clothing.
HYDRAULIC AND PNEUMATIC SYSTEMS: For hydraulic and pneumatic systems on winches, portable A-frames and cranes, etc., see 46 CFR 58.30-50 - Requirements for miscellaneous fluid power and control systems.
PRESSURE VESSELS: For pressure vessels, (including hydraulic accumulators which may be part of a winch or over-the-side recovery system), see 46 CFR 54 - Pressure Vessels.
DIVING SUPPORT EQUIPMENT: For diving support equipment including compressors, chambers, etc., see 46 CFR 197, Subpart B – Commercial Diving Operations. Additional information can be found in Chapter 11 (Diving Operations) of this manual.
SYSTEMS IN VANS: Electrical and mechanical systems contained in laboratory vans, machinery vans and chemical storage vans shall meet all applicable requirements of 46 CFR Subchapters F, J, and U. Note especially 46 CFR 195.11 - Portable Vans and Tanks. Additional information can be found in Appendix C of this manual.
GROUNDING OF PORTABLE EQUIPMENT: All portable electric powered equipment must be safely grounded - see 46 CFR 111.05. Specific attention is directed to vans, winches and other equipment connected to the ship’s electrical supply by portable cords.
The following guidance for scientific equipment has been taken from the Research Vessel Safety Training manual and made a requirement for safe installation of equipment.
“Most shipboard electrical distribution systems are not grounded, and in that respect are different from household or shore systems. Neither of the two conductors in a shipboard system is grounded, while the potential between them is about 120 volts. If an individual, while grounded, were to touch either of these two conductors, that person would receive a severe shock. All live electrical circuits are always treated as potential hazards.”
“Scientific equipment (including power supplies and clean power sources) and the metal racks usually erected for stowage of scientific equipment must be properly grounded. Any discrepancies found must be reported to the Chief Engineer and remedied before such equipment is energized. Temporary electrical cables rigged for scientific equipment shall be arranged to the satisfaction of the Chief Engineer. This includes marking the cable for identification and ensuring the cable is properly supported, free from possibility of chaffing, is properly protected by an overcurrent device, and is of proper size and construction for the application. Further, such cables must be removed after they have served their purpose.”
The following relevant information has been reproduced from the UNOLS, RVOC Safety Training Manual.
Consider the results of each act. There is absolutely no reason for individuals to take chances that will endanger their lives or the lives of others.
Assume circuits are live. Don’t take the word of others. Stored capacitance can be fatal. Take time to test/discharge circuits before starting work.
Test your tester. When testing circuits to see if they are live, test a known voltage source first to see if your tester works.
Heed warning signs. If a sign warns that there may be two sources of power to a cabinet, take time to identify and secure both sources before reaching into the cabinet.
Use your senses. Be alert to smoke, overheating, and an “electrical smell” which are signs that trouble may not be far off.
Authorized personnel only. Only personnel authorized by the Chief Engineer should work on installed shipboard electrical equipment. Researchers should coordinate their requirements with the Chief Engineer before proceeding with work, which may impact a ship’s distribution system.
Keep covers closed. Close covers to fuse panels, junction boxes, etc., when not in use. Covers are there to keep moisture and debris out.
Count tools. When working in cabinets or other equipment, count the tools you take in with you and be certain that you remove the same number when you leave.
Beware of dual voltages. Some switchboard panels have both 440/220-volt and 120-volt circuits. If servicing a 120-volt circuit, beware that a higher voltage circuit is close by.
Remove jewelry. Don’t wear jewelry when working with electrical equipment or moving machinery. Remove rings, necklaces, and bracelets when you need to work near live components. The jewelry may serve as a path to ground or cause a short circuit, which could be fatal or cause injury. Make sure to avoid contact with metal zippers on clothing.
Tagged-out equipment. The ship’s electricians and engineers place equipment out-of-service if it could jeopardize safety of personnel or cause equipment damage if started. Know how to secure all sources of possible power to such equipment. Never violate a tag by energizing that equipment.
Do not ground yourself. Make sure you are not grounded when adjusting equipment or using measuring equipment. Use only one hand when servicing energized equipment. Keep the other hand behind you or in your pocket.