The Merchant Navy

Having served in the merchant navy many years back I’m comfortably biased to this industry although I’m currently working in ‘IT’. I welcome any articles from seafarers covering the experiences they had with their on board equipment.

I would prefer this to be in line with electro-mechanical technology though. If stating the name of the ship please give details regarding the classification, engine type, call-sign, etc. Although I worked as a radio officer until Inmarsat changed the ways of communication I still had a passion for the electronics on board merchant ships. I’m currently also working on a website dedicated to the armed forces and merchant navy – strictly for looking up old crew and friends, so would like to keep the technical stuff here.

In a recent edition of Popular Mechanics the writer describes the flaws in CAD when designing for certain industries. I wonder how much planning and design goes into building a ship nowadays without CAD and this applies to every piece of equipment on a modern ship. A colleague of mine found out to his dismay that his Mercedes engine had to come out to get to the faulty starter motor. Marine equipment was always easily accessible for servicing but the schematics were sometimes weird to say the least.  I had an interesting issue with a receiver where the callibration was out – the manual was Japanese English and I ended up doing more harm than good. Fortunately the ship also had an American receiver as  the emergency receiver and the unit was exactly the same as the Japanese. Needless to say the manual was easily understood and I managed to sort the problem out. The question remains – the Japanese receiver was a copycat, so why not keep the manuals the same? Electricians used to complain bitterly about the French and Italian service manuals – it was almost as if they were written on different planets. Get used to the Italian way of doing things one year and the next year you end up on a French ship. I’m not knocking them, their equipment was excellent but one would think that a component, like a zener diode, should have an international symbol. Actually in this case it was switch-gear. Boggles the brain now to think about it but really, things are the same in the computer industry, consumer products, industrial electronics. I was told by a ‘lecky once that ‘they weren’t called cable ties – they’re called runlocks’. In my day I wish an electronics guru had a hand in the schematics and not the electrical guru because believe me, electronic schematics are easier for me to read than electrical schematics. If I am out of line here I’d love to know about it.

I note a very big trend nowadays is for the manufacturer only to supply a block diagram of his equipment. In it you will find all the relevant voltages, what current each module draws and with a bit of luck the voltages on strategic components. I deal with technical staff on a day to day basis and that’s how they think as well. While I would have been pondering about a problem years ago the modern technician would have been on his sixth job.  A lot of the engineers I have dealt with have been very methodical and capable people and rely on that schematic. That was then. I had the good fortunate to spend time in Asia with a computer motherboard design engineer. If you don’t have the fundamentals you will not be able to move from point A to B because everything is linked to an integrated circuit.  Hence the block schematic evryone relies on these days. Are things easier to fix nowadays compared to twenty-thirty years ago? I doubt it.

I welcome any articles written by sea going engineers, either currently employed or retired.The world is an interesting place but not as interesting as the equipment one would find on a ship. Having said this, I know nothing about aircraft but do know two people that are ex airforce electronic engineers. You are also more than welcome to drop us a line.

You can contact me directly at the webmaster address.

Thank you 

Road Freaks

The service department or Parts-Ring feel that it’s about time that motor vehicle manufacturers finally start to put indicators on the vehicles sold off in South Africa. We always thought that a trafficator on a motor vehicle was a regulation but possibly this only applies overseas.