Lubrication system on a ship

A vessel’s lubrication system is of vital importance from a maintenance point of view. Its upkeep and the use of the right products will provide a longer service life requiring less investment in maintenance. Knowing how to do this should be a priority for any owner.


How a ship’s mechanical system is properly lubricated

Regular maintenance of a vessel’s lubrication system is vital; this includes cleaning filters, inspecting piping and monitoring the lubricant levels in reservoirs.

Selecting the right product for each component and complying with the manufacturer’s specifications and recommendations are paramount, as using unsuitable products can lead to medium- and long term problems.

The lubrication system must comply with international standards and be suitable for maritime use, as ships operate in different conditions from land and industrial vehicles.

It must also be resistant to extreme environmental conditions, such as humidity and salt water. Products supplied to the ship must be resistant to rust and corrosion and have high thermal and mechanical stability.

How a vessel’s mechanics are lubricated has a decisive impact on its durability and leads to considerable savings in maintenance and new parts.


Lubrication systems on a ship

There are numerous types of lubrication systems, but in general they fall into two categories: centralised and decentralised lubrication systems. The main difference between them is the way in which oil is distributed around the ship’s critical components.

In centralised systems, lubricant is pumped from a central source through pipes to reach all components.

In decentralised systems, each component has its own lubrication source and is therefore not dependent on a single service.

As to which of the two systems is better, it depends on the specific needs of the ship and its intended use.

Centralised systems are easier to maintain, as there is only one pump and one set of pipes that need to be maintained. However, they may be less flexible in case of failures or changes in vessel occupancy.

Decentralised systems, meanwhile, offer greater control over the lubrication of individual components, which can be beneficial in labour-intensive or harsh environments; however, they require greater supervision.

In both systems, it is important to ensure that the oil supplied is of the right type for the specific equipment and that it is maintained at the correct pressure, flow and temperature conditions.


Lubrication in centralised systems

In a centralised system, the lubricant is directed to friction points by a lubrication pump via specific ducts. This is suitable for large vessels with a large number of lubrication locations.

Centralised systems are a way to ensure that critical ship components, such as engines, transmissions and bearings, are continuously lubricated.

A central lubrication pump is responsible for supplying lubricant to friction points and recirculating it properly through the mechanical systems, preventing them from serious deterioration.


How to lubricate a ship based on the lubrication system
Suisca Group offers all the necessary advice for the maintenance of a ship’s lubrication system. Image by Freepik.


Lubrication in decentralised systems

Decentralised systems on ships are those in which each critical component has its own source of lubrication, rather than relying on a central pump for lubricant distribution.

Instead of a pipeline, this system has several individual sources and conduits for each component. However it requires greater supervision to ensure that each component is working properly, as well as an organised schedule to ensure that each component is receiving the lubrication it needs.


Ship lubricant types

When the question arises as to how to lubricate a ship correctly, the answer is that specific lubricants appropriate for the operating conditions and components on each ship need to be applied. The following are types of lubricants commonly used in different parts of ships.

  • Engines: These must meet the engine manufacturer’s specifications and provide adequate protection against wear, corrosion and excess heat.
  • Bearings: They have to provide adequate lubrication for bearings to minimise wear.
  • Transmissions: These oils should promote adequate lubrication for transmissions and reduce corrosion.
  • Lubricating greases: These are applied to lubricate components that cannot be greased with oil, such as shaft bearings.

Compressor lubricants: Oils must provide adequate protection for compressors, preventing excessive and premature wear.


Lubrication system maintenance on a ship

Proper lubrication maintenance on a vessel includes the following tasks.

  1. Monitoring and recording: Each component needs a record of the amount and type of oil used, operating time and environmental conditions to detect any problems or premature wear.
  2. Cleaning: Regular cleaning of friction points is essential to ensure the lubricants reach the components properly and to prevent contamination.
  3. Lubricant change: Lubrication on a vessel should be planned according to the manufacturer’s recommendations and operating conditions, as oil loses its effectiveness over time and in harsh environments.
  4. Component testing: Regular inspection of critical components is necessary to check for signs of wear or failure, with replacement when necessary.
  5. Checking pumps and pipes: This is extremely important, to ensure they are working properly with no leaks.
  6. Training: Crew members should be trained to carry out basic maintenance and be aware of the problems that non-compliance can cause.

As can be seen, the lubrication system on a vessel is of vital importance to keep it in good condition. Suisca Group offers everything a vessel may need throughout its operation.