Catastrophic bearing failures at two Great Lakes shipping companies prompted the marine engineers to re-evaluate the water-lubricated composite bearings installed on their ships.
This whole thing started with another Great Lakes shipping company, American Steamship. Bearings were failing on two American Steamship Company vessels: M/V American Spirit and M/V American Century.
These are massive, self-unloading vessels operating 24/7 and carrying essential dry-bulk commodities. In an average year, American vessels haul about 90 million tons of cargo around the Great Lakes.
We started working on a plan with American Steamship to replace the bearings. Typical bearing replacements take place sometime between layup season and the startup of the shipping season (December to March).
Low water levels in the Great Lakes in recent years have contributed to more silt in the water which creates a more abrasive environment for the bearing.
The strut and propeller shaft bearings experienced extreme wear and the existing bearing material used caused catastrophic damage to the bearing shell. The existing polymer bearing materials were only lasting 3 to 5 months, on average. Other bearing materials tried, but also experienced unacceptable bearing life.
The shipowners were frustrated with older materials that had a short bearing life. The goals we wanted to achieve together were:
- Reliable bearing materials to help with asset integrity
- Extend the bearing life between scheduled dry dockings
Increase the maintenance intervals between dry dock layups with a reliable reinforced thermoset composite bearing material.
CRC Distribution and Trelleborg Sealing Solutions worked together to provide American Steamship Company with a bearing solution that would dramatically increase the maintenance intervals between dry dock layups.
Manufacturing and engineering support from Trelleborg plus clear communication and responsiveness from CRC helped create the right atmosphere for success.
Orkot® reinforced thermoset composite materials are self-lubricating and can operate in fresh and seawater or run completely dry.
The runout on the shaft was tough to deal with and would have an impact on the hydrodynamic operation, but Orkot® had much better wear properties than the current material and solved this problem.
The value in reducing the installation effort and thus associated costs (especially if the ship is taken out of revenue service) would be significant."- American Steamship Company
Trelleborg's Orkot® Marine Bearings were installed on American Spirit and American Century in 2014. The bearings were inspected Fall 2018 and showed minimal wear and no issues since installation. This is a significantly longer bearing life than the 3-5 months they were getting before.
Feeling good about the bearing material switch, American Steamship Company shared their story with The Interlake Steamship Company who were also experiencing bearing failure at the time.
The Interlake Steamship Company installed Trelleborg's Orkot® Marine Bearings on two of their ships, the M/V Paul R. Tregurtha and the M/V James R. Barker. There has been no issue since installation and is considered a success among the Great Lakes freighter community.
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