While powering the electrical appliances in a ship and propelling it forward is certainly possible with the aid of one diesel generator of the appropriate kilowatts, it will be foolhardy to not share the load between 2 or more generators. Just last week, on the 30th of July to be more precise, Aviation Week reported the breakdown of a ship service diesel generator (SSDG) in the ‘USS Freedom’.
The problems identified were primarily with the coolant. The cooler had somehow been damaged, and so was the piping affixed for the coolant flow inappropriate. The fixes for the same were not in place and the crew had to call upon the services of the vendor. Thankfully, the ship housed three more generators.
Now, if the ship had just one, or considering the ship’s size, two generators, this apparently small dilemma would have balled up into a major crisis. Regardless of the political problems of the country adversely affecting the combat ship, generators are manufactured by humans. And like humans, there are bound to be faults with the generator as well. Not deliberate mistakes, but faults that showcase the human limitations.
We, as customers, need to overcome these maladies in order to ensure a desirable output. If the entire load of powering a ship is put on a single generator, the chances of the device breaking down are higher. Distribution of the load between 2 generators will result in a smooth sail. And in cases of an inadvertent disruption, it is better to be equipped with three diesel generators.
While the present situation of the ‘USS Freedom’ may be unknown, the navy officers state that the two fixes, and some more, will be incorporated in the follow ships of that variant.
Given the untimely death of Douglas Okello last week, more information on which can be found here (hyperlink to the other article), the safety precautions while handling a generator were bound to follow. So, without further ado, here are the most common ones. • Double-check the exhaust system: The exhaust fumes from a generator are highly noxious. The major compound found in these fumes is carbon monoxide. The modern diesel generators don’t wish to be responsible for the death of another human now. Ask the installation guy to recheck the exhaust system before switching it on. Also, you need to check it before every use.
• Keep a fire-extinguisher within arm’s reach: There is a negligible risk of fire with a diesel generator, but if you own a gas generator, a fire-extinguisher is a must in the vicinity. However, take heed that the extinguisher does not operate on carbon tetrachloride, else you might burn the insulation to ashes. It is always better to prevent the occurrence of fire by keeping flammable devices away from the generator.
• Check the insulation regularly: Dismantle the canopy at least once every month in order to check the insulation. This is necessary, especially if the generator is regularly subjected to extreme temperature conditions. Check the grounding too at regular intervals. Also, the cords and cables need to be of the recommended capacity.
Regardless the use to which the generator is put, a thorough maintenance should be carried out at least once a year. The maintenance should involve everything, ranging from cleaning the cooling system and checking for leakages, right down to analyzing the output and readjusting the wires. Ideally, the generator needs to be serviced every six months.