The Fundamentals of a Ship’s Air Compressor

In marine environments, air compressors serve a variety of purposes. An air compressor’s primary function is to take in air and compress it in order to reduce its volume and increase its energetic potential.

When the air is released from the marine air compressor tanks, it can return to its original volume. This process gives you more power that you can use to complete specific tasks.

Marine air compressors are classified into four types, which are as follows:

  • Reciprocating
  • Centrifugal
  • Rotary Vane
  • Rotary Screw

The most common type of marine air compressor is the reciprocating type, though others may be better suited to different functions depending on their intended use.

What Are the Differences Between Marine and Other Compressors?

Marine air compressors are built to withstand the harsh conditions of the sea. These machines are frequently required to withstand wet conditions, as well as the presence of salt in the water and air.

Given not all metals can withstand the conditions, using an air compressor not designed for these conditions can result in device failure or even safety hazards.

Marine Air Compressor Uses

Compressed air can be used for a variety of purposes related to ship operations. Each marine air compressor is frequently serviced for a single purpose.

This aids in determining appropriate sizing and power potential to ensure that the task at hand is managed properly.

Typically, marine air compressors are classified according to their intended use:

  • Deck
  • Main
  • Topping Up
  • Emergency

Marine Air Compressor (Main)

On a ship, the main air compressor provides power for starting the primary and auxiliary engines. Pressurized air is stored in an appropriate tank and then released to provide the power required to start the engine.

These compressors are frequently high capacity, as starting the engines can require a significant amount of energy.

Deck Marine Air Compressor

On the deck, marine air compressors can be used for a variety of tasks. These are frequently smaller systems with a lower capacity. This contributes to the systems’ portability.

Air compressors can power a wide range of pneumatic power tools, allowing ship repairs and other mechanical operations to be completed while the ship is still on the water. They also serve as a source of cleanliness and sanitation.

Certain safety activities can also benefit from the use of a deck air compressor. In the event of a fire, they can, for example, operate emergency fire pumps. Because ships at sea are generally on their own during an emergency, having enough systems available to control situations like fires is critical to the ship’s integrity and safety, as well as the safety of the crew.

Emergency Marine Air Compressor

Emergency air compressors, as the name suggests, provide a backup source of potential energy in the event of an emergency. They are frequently designed to provide power to auxiliary engines if the main compressor fails.

Topping Up Marine Air Compressor

Top-up marine air compressors are intended to compensate for system leaks. They are linked to monitoring devices that provide data on the current system pressure.

When the pressure falls below a certain threshold, the topping up compressor kicks in to restore the desired balance.

Operating Procedures

While each marine air compressor has slightly different operating requirements (which will be specified in the operator’s manual), certain requirements are common.

The following are some examples of common standard requirements:

  • Pres Vac valve unloading
  • Keeping proper lubrication
  • Processes for filtering air
  • Pressure gauge cocks are used to prevent excessive pressure.
  • Operation of the relief valve
  • Utilization of cooling water
  • Air line piping upkeep

The frequency of regular maintenance is determined by time intervals. Certain procedures and checks must be performed on a daily basis or prior to using a standby marine compressor. Others are completed after a specific number of operating hours, such as 250 or 500 hours.

Timed Maintenance

The owner’s manual or the standards set by the parts manufacturer will dictate the timing of marine air compressor maintenance. Some maintenance tasks require cleaning and inspection, while others necessitate the replacement of parts. While the precise activities required are covered in the operator’s manual, here is an overview of some of the more common requirements.

To ensure that the compressor operates properly, air filters must be cleaned on a regular basis. Contaminants accumulate on the filter over time, obstructing air passage through the filter and into the tank. It can also raise the temperature of the air, posing a fire hazard.

For example, Pres Vac valves must be cleaned, inspected on a regular basis, and replaced if damage is discovered. The same is true for drive belts like the v-belt. Belts that have been damaged may fail, and belts that have been incorrectly fitted may slip.

The operation of the unloader must also be tested on a regular basis, and the crankcase oil must be changed after a certain amount of use. The frequency with which crankcase oil must be replaced depends on the oil used. Synthetic oils, for example, frequently have longer usable life spans than non-synthetic counterparts.

Troubleshooting Processes

Certain problems with marine air compressors can impair performance and pose a safety risk. While problems can vary depending on the compressor’s use and ship conditions, some common issues can be resolved with basic troubleshooting.

While these are not the only issues that can arise, this overview can help in determining the root causes of certain operational issues:

  • Leakage, as well as a clogged suction strainer, can both cause low-pressure warnings. The warning may also be triggered by faulty pressure gauges or a low level of available oil.
  • When the associated valves are closed, high-temperature warnings regarding cooling water can occur. Low water levels, as well as faulty cooling water pumps, could also be to blame. Pipe blockages and worn belts are two other possibilities.
  • Excessive noise during operation of the marine air compressor can have a variety of causes. Worn bearings and piston rings can increase the amount of noise created. Issues relating to the valves, including poor seating and damaged or broken pieces, may also be responsible.

Prior to troubleshooting any problem or performing any maintenance tasks, it is critical to consult the operator’s manual for recommended procedures and basic safety precautions. Failure to do so may result in additional damage as well as a violation of safety hazards for the individual troubleshooting the equipment.