Helping navies maximise platform availability (Studio)
What do navies need from shaft line repair services? For Wärtsilä, the key is to combine the best offerings of the commercial world with the flexibility and security demands of military customers.
Wärtsilä blends its in-house manufacturing capabilities and expertise with a deep understanding of naval needs to provide navies with a unique offering, revealed Robin Jones, General Manager Sales Support, Wärtsilä Seals and Bearings UK, in an interview with Shephard Media.
Unlike many of its competitors, Wärtsilä designs and builds almost all required equipment in-house.
This means that when Wärtsilä experts need to repair a shaft line, they can quickly provide the necessary components and parts, without having to rely on input from the original manufacturers or designers.
’That is a significant advantage for naval customers on several levels, allowing Wärtsilä to move quickly, remain adaptable, and – crucially – meet the highest security requirements,’ said Jones.
While navies have specific needs, Wärtsilä aims to bring much of its experience from the commercial sector to the military domain.
Navies have similar requirements to commercial customers in many ways, he noted.
The shaft lines fitted on naval vessels face comparable problems with vibration and noise due to poor alignment, which can be particularly challenging in the military, where silence is extremely important.
‘It can be tricky if a frigate or a destroyer is trying to do anti-submarine warfare and you can hear it from miles away because the propeller shaft is not very well set up,’ said Jones.
While deteriorating bearings ‘put the vessel at risk – it may not be able to keep its operational uptime and meet its military commitments’.
Wärtsilä has a longstanding presence in navies globally, Jones noted, and is also accustomed to working with shipyards and ministries of defence.
‘We understand that they all have different requirements, and we can appreciate those and help them meet all of their needs.’
Flexibility and adaptability are key. A naval vessel might need to cancel its repair work at a moment’s notice due to operational commitments, for instance.
Wärtsilä maintains extremely close contact with all of the stakeholders involved, adapting to changing circumstances as required.
‘These types of project management demands are a key difference between the commercial and military domains.’
Wärtsilä has developed a deep expertise of procurement requirements and processes, while maintaining the highest security standards through a tightly controlled supply chain
Project management is key in other areas as well. For example, Wärtsilä cannot simply remove a piece of equipment from a vessel and replace it with something else.
It must first gain approval from the customer and ensure that the replacement part can withstand the extreme vibration and shock faced by naval vessels.
‘We need to have good project management to ensure that if we’re taking equipment off the ship and fitting in alternatives, it is all approved by the time we do the work,’ explained Robin.
‘It is crucial to look at the broader picture to understand how the entire shaft line is performing.’
‘These types of project management demands are a key difference between the commercial and military domains.’— Robin Jones, General Manager Sales Support, Wärtsilä Seals and Bearings UK
More often than not, naval repairs are needed because the vessel is operating differently to how it was originally designed. It may take anywhere from ten to 15 years to go from the design phase to a ship putting out to sea, by which time its operational profile could be very different to the original design intent.
At Wärtsilä, experts compare the current operational profile to the actual setup of the shaft line, analysing whether the naval users are getting the outcome they need.
‘For example, if a ship was designed to travel very quickly between locations, but it is actually moving quite slowly, then the shaft line configuration should be different,’ said Jones.
‘In that case, we could look at using different designs or perhaps different materials.’
Wärtsilä has explored a range of improvements to its seals and bearings products aimed at improving maintenance support for its customers and these could bring significant advantages to naval users.
For example, Wärtsilä upgraded its flagship Enviroguard M seal range to provide information on how the seal performs throughout its life, better enabling users to perform at-sea maintenance and plan their maintenance routines more efficiently. This upgrade is available to customers through the company’s repair work.
Wärtsilä aims to provide users with an in-depth service covering a range of potential problems, from swiftly replacing hydraulic couplings to monitoring the performance of an entire shaft line. It is all part of the company’s aim to offer a wide-ranging, flexible service.
‘Our approach is to look at the whole system – not just individual pieces of equipment,’ Jones concluded.