The Benefits of a Global Footprint: Connecting Rod Repair “On the Fly”

If your ships operate globally, then you benefit from relying on a service partner that has a truly global footprint. This post neatly exemplifies this fact.

The subject is an American-owned, 9’000 TEU container ship with an 82-bore main engine. The vessel experiences a crosshead bearing failure while crossing the Atlantic. We repaired it “on the fly” with a minimum of down-time:

  1. During the last days of 2020, the vessel experiences a severe crosshead bearing failure close to Bermuda island. The crosshead pin and connecting rod are found severely damaged and are in need of repair or replacement. Our experts assess the situation and give remote assistance to the crew during removal of the connecting rod from the engine. Once that is done, the vessel continues its journey towards Europe with one cylinder cut out.
  2. On 15 January 2021, the vessel arrives in Algeciras. The damaged connecting rod gets offloaded and is transported by truck to our workshop in Genoa.
  3. It arrives at our works on 18 January and at once undergoes repairing. After completion of the repair, we ship the connecting rod by air freight from Milan, via Doha, to Singapore. It arrives in Singapore in the morning of 05 February 2021.
  4. Our technicians in Singapore assist the crew to reinstall it. After a short and successful trial run, the ship continues its journey towards the South China Sea.

QuantiServ operates out of 15 locations that are strategically placed along major shipping routes or close to important ports. Wherever your ships go, we are never far away.

Severely damaged crosshead bearing bore
Severely damaged crosshead bearing bore
Close-up of the damaged area
Close-up of the damaged area
While sailing with one cylinder cut out
While sailing with one cylinder cut out
After initial cleaning
After initial cleaning
Remachining of the bore
Remachining of the bore in Genoa
Crosshead bearing bore after machining
Crosshead bearing bore after machining
Corrosion protected and ready for dispatch
Corrosion protected and ready for dispatch
Connecting Rod ready for dispatch
Connecting Rod ready for dispatch

Metal Stitching on Historic Bridge in Washington DC, United States

Our American colleagues have just completed metal stitching repairs on a historic bridge crossing the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal.

The Canal

The Chesapeake and Ohio Canal stretches over a distance of 297 km (184.5 miles) from Cumberland, Maryland, to Georgetown, DC on the US East Coast. It was constructed between 1828 and 1850 by approximately 35’000 labourers, mostly immigrants from Europe. Its purpose was to enable the shipment of coal from the rural but coal rich Allegheny Mountains to the much more densely populated regions and sea ports along the Atlantic coast.

The canal was operated from 1831 until 1924. While originally built for the transportation of coal, it quickly became an important lifeline for communities along its way.

The bridge we assisted restoring. Visible in the foreground is one of the canal's 74 lifting locks
The bridge we assisted restoring. Visible in the foreground is one of the canal's 74 lifting locks

Boats were used to ship agricultural produce and lumber to markets downstreams. They then returned loaded with manufactured goods. These boats typically did not have their own means of propulsion, but were pulled along by mules walking on towpaths located at either side of the canal.

One end of the canal, Cumberland, lies at an altitude 184 m (605 feet) higher than the other end, Georgetown.  This meant that lift locks were needed – in total 74 of them were constructed. One of them is visible in the picture above, in front of the bridge.

In addition to the 74 locks, the canal also featured many other feats of early engineering. There were seven dams, about 240 culverts, a few aqueducts, a tunnel 950 meters (3’120 feet) long and, of course, bridges. A few of these bridges still exist today, such as the one that our metal stitching specialists proudly helped to restore.

Metal Stitching Work Performed

Exposure to the elements for over 150 years took its toll on the bridge structure. Cracks had developed in many of the vertical cast iron columns carrying the bridge deck. In all likelyhood, the cracks that were found were freeze cracks. Freezing temperatures are common in Georgetown from the middle of December until early March. If water enters one of the exposed, hollow columns and gets trapped there, then it very likely freezes during a cold winter night. Over time, the freeze/thaw cycles led to cracks.

All of the cracks ran in vertical direction. They had a cumulative lenght of 7’400 mm (25 feet). Our specialists sealed them with stitching pins and added perpendicular locks for extra strength. They then ground the locks and pins flush and made them blend in well with the weathered surface texture of the antique columns.

For the work to be carried out, a section of the canal had to be drained
For the work to be carried out, a section of the canal had to be drained
The width of the cracks required pins with a large diameter to length ratio
The width of the cracks required pins with a large diameter to length ratio
Installation of stitching pins
Installation of stitching pins: Close to 1'000 were used for this project
In many locations, the cracks were wide open
On some of the columns, the cracks had caused a gap of up to 12 mm
Our specialists stitched over 7 meters of cracks
On this restoration project, our specialists stitched over 7.4 meters (25 feet) of cracks
Once completed, the repair blends in very well
The completed repair blends in very well
Stitching in progress
Metal stitching in progress: Stitching pins installed in an overlapping pattern
Locks were added for extra strength
Metal stitching in progress: Adding of locks, perpendicularly to the crack, for extra strength

Four-stroke Engine Block Metal Stitching and Crankshaft Machining

Over the years, medium-speed diesel engines have become very popular for a variety of applications, most notably in ship propulsion and in power generation. Accordingly, the number of such engines in service is very large.

Due to their large number and to the relatively high nominal speeds, combined with significant mass inertias, one would from a theoretical stand point expect more fequent and more severe damages on medium-speed, four-stroke diesel engines than on low-speed, two-stroke ones. That this is indeed the case in practice is evidenced be the fact that we are frequently contacted and subsequently repair a few dozen cases of severe engine damage every year.

Here is a typical example, one of many:

A Korean-made auxilliary engine with eight cylinders, 210 mm bore and 320 mm stroke suffered a serious bearing failure on crankpin #1. The engine block and crankshaft both got severely damaged, due to the connecting rod impacting both. The accident happened while the vessel, a Ro-Ro ship, was trading in East Africa.

Her next port of call was in Florida, United States, where our technicians went on board for a thorough inspection. They determined that both the crankshaft and engine block were repairable. As in addition to crankpin #1, which was badly damaged, all other pins were found with corrosion and scratch marks, we suggeted to the customer to offload the engine and to sail a few weeks without it. The customer agreed.

The engine was offloaded in Freeport, Texas, for repair and was delivered back to the vessel 46 days later in the same port. In the meantime, the vessel continued to sail with one engine less. The duration of the voyage, 46 days, was more than sufficient for our specialists to repair the crankshaft and engine block according to our very exacting standards.

Repair of the crankshaft

Due to the damage sustained by the accident, crankpin #1 had to be machined to – 3.00 mm. This was necessary to clear all dent marks. And as the other seven crankpins were suffering from scratches and/or corrosion, it was decided to machine them all to – 0.50 mm.

Repair of the engine block

Repair of engine block before and after

The cavity in the block caused by the accident was fairly substantial. A total volume of about 6’000 cm³ (366 in³) of material was missing and cast iron plates with a thickness of 19 – 51 mm (0.75 – 2 in) had to be repaired.

Our cast iron repair specialists scanned the damage with a 3D scanner. The data thus acquired was then used to fabricate a perfectly-fitting cast iron repair patch. The repair patch was stitched in place with stitching components, chiefly Castmaster stitching pins and locks, that are sold by Lock-N-Stitch.

After the repair was completed, it was hardly visible and the customer was very pleased with the outcome.

Here is a step-by-step description of how the block repair work was carried out:

 

Flywheel In-situ Repair on the US East Coast

Starting up a handymax bulk carrier’s 48-bore, two-stroke main engine with its turning gear engaged resulted in the turning gear shattered and in damage to 12 consecutive teeth on the flywheel.

The turning gear was damaged beyond repair and had to be replaced. Not only was its housing shattered but the planetary gears were completely destroyed too.

Faced with the costly and unpalatable reality of most likely having to replace the flywheel as well, the ship management company turned to QuantiServ for help. Always liking a challenge when we see one, we engineered and delivered a comprehensive solution that consisted of the following:

  • Inspection on board
  • CAD and FEA modeling to engineer an economical yet structurally very strong solution
  • CNC machining of repair inserts in our workshop
  • In-situ machining of the flywheel on board
  • Stitching the repair inserts in place

Our in-situ machining and metal stitching specialists carried out the work in February 2019, during the vessel’s port stay in Florida, without interfering in her schedule.

QuantiServ carries out a number of gearwheel repair assignments every year, mostly for industrial, marine and mining customers.

It’s All in a Month’s Work for QuantiServ’s In-situ Machining Crew!

On board various ships and oil rigs, in power plants and in factories: Far from being idle during the holiday season, during the month of July our in-situ specialists were maintaining and repairing our customers’ equipment in 26 different countries, across four continents. No other in-situ machining company has such global reach and completes more projects than QuantiServ. Wherever the location, whatever the damage – it’s all in a month’s work for us!

Explore the interactive map below and discover what services our in-situ engineers have been providing to our customers during the month of July 2017.