Engine Room Procedures
April 11, 2009
The engine room, located below the main deck and below the water line,
houses the engines, generators, freshwater distillers, wastewater
processing, and other essential ship machinery. Five diesel fuel tanks
are distributed throughout the lower deck, to distribute the weight of
the over 1.8 million liters of fuel that can be brought along. Each of
the five fuel tanks is drained a little bit at a time, to maintain
proper weight distribution for the ship. Ballast tanks, which can be
filled with seawater to alter the ship’s trim, also line the lower deck.
Ballast tanks are filled as fuel levels are depleted, so that the ship
never becomes too light. If the ship is too light, it sits higher out
of the water and is less stable.
Color-coded pipes and machinery weave through the lower deck.
Credit: Johnny Pierce
The millions of liters of diesel fuel stored onboard enable the Palmer to go on cruises up to 75 days. The ship efficiently uses the energy
produced from the fuel by running diesel engines at 900 rotations per
minute (rpm). Diesel engines decrease in efficiency as the rate of
rotation increases, so maintaining a constant, low rpm keeps the ship
efficient. Waste heat produced by generator engines is used to heat
seawater during the water purification process.
The Palmer was built in 1992 and has been conducting expeditions in
polar oceans nearly continuously since that time. The machinery does
not reflect the 16 years of service at all; the lower deck is always
kept very clean—not a common feature for most vessels. Rainbows of
pipes run through the engine room. Engines and their corresponding
pipes are yellow. Blue freshwater pipes, orange seawater pipes, brown
wastewater lines, and black bilge pipes weave through the lower deck.
Air lines are painted green. Color coordination helps the engineers and
other crew identify the proper pipes for what they are working on; it
would be unfortunate for a crew member to accidentally open a wastewater
pipe when the intention was for a freshwater line.
With so many powerful moving parts, personal protective equipment (PPE)
is important and abundant for those working near the engines. All who
enter the lower deck don ear protection, safety glasses, steel-toed
shoes, and gloves as protection from the potential dangers of the engine
room. Loud machinery dominates the working environment. A loud roar
erupts into the control room overlooking the engine room whenever the
door connecting them is opened.
— Amanda Kahn