Water-contaminated gasoline noticed towboat lose all propulsion

Written by

Nick Blenkey

In a Marine Security Alert launched yesterday, the Coast Guard studies {that a} towing vessel working in a pushing-ahead configuration skilled a lack of all propulsion whereas working on the Mississippi River. The lack of propulsion occurred roughly three hours after getting underway and about 3.5 hours after receiving gasoline from a shore-side facility. Luckily, there was no vital injury to the vessel, nor accidents to crewmembers due to this casualty.

contaminated fuel
Diesel gasoline pattern displaying water and sediment

The next investigation into the causal elements revealed that the vessel’s gasoline tanks and gasoline service system to the engine had been closely contaminated by water. The quantity of water contamination was so vital that the vessel’s engines initially suffered a discount in energy and finally shut down utterly, leading to a complete lack of propulsion.


Since ships started utilizing liquid fuels greater than 100 years in the past, vessel operators and engineers have lengthy recognized the hazards related to contaminated gasoline, notes the protection alert. Luckily, developments in gasoline high quality requirements and onboard purification/filtration techniques have resulted in less-frequent casualties ensuing instantly from gasoline contamination. Nevertheless, enhancements have additionally been made in engine designs, leading to exact machining and smaller clearances in components comparable to gasoline pumps, bearings, cylinders, burners and injectors.

Contaminants comparable to sediment and water can have detrimental impacts on gear designed to function on clear, water-free gasoline. As well as, as a result of gasoline is continually consumed whereas the vessel is working, steady vigilance in gasoline procurement, in addition to system operations and upkeep, is required to keep up a top quality gasoline program.

Giant ships typically get pleasure from having the house and energy out there to function centrifugal purifiers to make sure excessive gasoline high quality is maintained. That is often not the case for smaller vessels that function solely on rivers or lakes. These vessels typically solely have one or two filters put in instantly within the gasoline provide line and people kinds of filters aren’t as environment friendly as centrifugal purifiers for eradicating water.

The consequences of water and different contaminants in gasoline techniques might be detrimental to the operation of any vessel. From giant industrial ships working internationally, to inland towing vessels and leisure boats, failure to make sure a provide of gasoline freed from water and contaminants can have devastating penalties.


The Coast Guard strongly recommends that vessel homeowners and operators:

  • Make sure that gasoline provides (bunkers) meet the engine producer’s specs for necessary parameters comparable to viscosity and cetane quantity, in addition to any regulatory necessities comparable to flash level and sulfur content material.
  • Embrace common gasoline oil sampling and testing from service tanks as a part of a periodic upkeep system.
  • Make sure that gasoline filters are of the proper circulate fee and filtration (micron) ranking, and that an ample provide of spare filters is stored onboard.
  • Contemplate the usage of duplex filter techniques to allow switching from clogged to scrub filters, in addition to the usage of filter differential strain gauges to watch the situation and cleanliness of the filter aspect.
  • Contemplate the usage of a water sensor within the diesel tank or filter system to watch water content material in fuels. These sensors could also be mixed with shows and alarms to point extreme water and are usually more practical at detecting rising water content material than periodic guide sampling.
  • Make sure that a way is offered, normally by a valve and piping association, to periodically pattern the gasoline being obtained throughout bunkering.
  • Have a plan in place to get better from any engine shutdown that happens due to water contamination in gasoline. Gas severely contaminated by water or different impurities has the potential to trigger injury to the engine in quite a few methods, together with subsequent contamination of the lubricating oil system.

Casualty investigators, marine surveyors and inspection personnel are inspired to keep up an acute consciousness to those points and provoke corrective actions as wanted.

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