Its all about the people not the products!

Lubes Panel Discussion at Riviera Propulsion Conference London – 7th and 8th March 2013

On the podium Castrol Marine/ExxonMobil/Gulf Marine/Shell Global/Total Lubmarine – Panel Chair Lloyd’s Register

DCS 002

Not so long ago the choice of cylinder lube oil was a relatively straight forward one based upon Sulphur content. Then we got the S/ECA’s meaning that we had to change between 70 and 40BN products when we were operating for more than a week or so on low Sulphur fuels.


At around this time universal products covering 0.5 to 3.5% Sulphur were being developed, which would have been fine if we had not also decided to throw a spanner into the works by slowing down our engines to conserve fuel.

As lubricant supply to the ring liner interface is proportional to the speed of the engine the the result is that the residence time of the lubricant upon the liner is increased as we slow down the speed – thus – as we slow down the speed, we also slow down the relative velocity between the ring and the liner. What this means is that there is more time for the acidic materials to form. In addition as this has the effect of reducing the temperature of the liner then the potential for acidic material formation H20 + S2 = H2SO4 is also increased.

Acidic Corrosion – Why?

As  it is not clear what the exacting conditions are for acidic corrosion we cannot yet manage this directly, instead we manage the potential effects of acidic corrosion by increasing/reducing the CLO feed rate and relying upon the additive performance to control the rate and degree of chemical corrosion.. However, often more neutralisation is required than can be accommodated without over lubrication, i.e. more per ml of lubricant, meaning that new higher,  80BN+ oils (Castrol Marine) have been made available and supported by engine makers.

On the other hand  there seems now to be a new thread of technology which relates to the neutralizing performance not in terms of the quantity present (BN#), but in terms of the quality of neutralization itself (Total Lubmarine and Shell Marine Products). Put in simple terms not all oils are the same. Unfortunately there is not yet an industry test to differentiate products in this way. BN may well be out as the metric used to select the right oil!

What is very clear is that CLO’s are NOT a fit and forget material  – they have to be managed in service to get the most out of them and to ensure that their use is optimized. ExxonMobil Marine place field support high on the list of important features choosing to differentiate themselves in this way and by avoiding the “universal” solution argument – although they too have a mid range universal product on their books.  Supporting the vessel engineers in the day to day activities has to be a priority as they are often criticized indirectly by means of the “reduced crew competence” argument which is often cited but rarely explored in any real way.

My own experience with FOBAS Engine has shown that ships engineers don’t seem to follow a specific path when setting lubricators to control feed rate. There is the tendency for everyone to over lubricate as they do not feel empowered to keep trimming – (Some use PQ style magnetic quantifiers to check that metal wear is not increasing – which is a bit late really!) but even so we often find engines with all units in the normal operational phase  with different settings. Meaning that CLO feed is simply not being managed – period!

Service not Commodity

Gulf Marine restated their position that the chosen lubricant supply partner needs to be considered across the whole range of products and services. Lubricants have been commoditized yet solution borne materials such as CLO’s for differing operational profiles, increased demand for biodegradable and environmentally responsible products plus the increasing need for service support and the role of educator and adviser should not be ignored as these differentiators may be critical when selecting your preferred supplier

The world has changed and we have not prepared for that change. Crew competency has not reduced but it is not aligned with what we ask of it. The industry itself is responsible for defining the need and so we should fix it and not simply deflect criticism onto others.

Ignore the human element at your peril!

A discussion about how we attract and retain high quality engineering staff into an industry that appears to neither provide the necessary human environment nor provide the sort of business structures which consider the person important in the operational structure, will not be possible here, but what we can do is remind ourselves that the shift of power away from the Chief Engineer to the Superintendent or further to the OEM, will not provide the degree of continuity and confidence to operate in the modern shipping world.

Companies like lube suppliers are keen to differentiate their capabilities, we should embrace this but not see it as a way to reduce our own. It will be by empowerment of the CE by reducing in paperwork, removal of unnecessary regulation and supporting the other core activities surrounding leadership and motivation that will lead to improvements.

My main point  – Let your Chief Engineers do their job and shield them from everything else that gets in the way!

Subscribe for new post updates

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *