Vehicles of all kinds require lubrication to operate effectively, and ships are no different. Lubricants allow working parts in mechanical systems to move freely, ensuring they can perform properly, but they also protect components from unwanted friction. In metal parts, friction can cause abrasion and excessive heat, slowing performance rates and damaging them, often beyond economic repair. Lubricants also seal parts and filter out unwanted contaminants, cleaning systems and protecting them from destructive forces like corrosion.
Due to the intense work rates, heavy loads and unique environments they operate in, ships require heavy-duty lubricants capable of providing a higher level of support. These oils, greases and other fluids are typically referred to as marine lubricants. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at these lubricant solutions.
Marine engine oils and greases
Marine lubricants are used widely in the shipping industry for improve the efficiency of how engines and equipment operate while protecting them. They are specifically designed to enable maximum performance in all operations, such as protecting parts at high temperatures, extending engine life, improving machine reliability and performance, reducing cold corrosion and enhancing protection levels against mechanical wear.
Along with protecting against corrosion and wear, many marine lubricants also transmit power and control operating temperatures of individual parts by efficiently dissipating heat. By far the most common types of marine lubricant are grease and oil. Oils and the base oils used in grease may be synthetic or mineral-based, but also vegetable-based, commonly referred to as EALs – Environmentally Acceptable Lubricants. Operating conditions and environmental laws can dictate the type of oils that are best selected for use in shipping. Those working in extreme conditions may require the added benefits of synthetic oils, while EALs are ideal where harm to the environment is a concern.
Marine oil additives
Finally, to help them deliver optimum performance in an exacting sector like shipping and under extreme conditions, marine lubricants include additives to enhance them.
In operating environments involving extreme temperatures, from hot to cold, a viscosity index improver is often added. Such additives feature long organic molecules that can remain clustered in colder weather while breaking down in warmer environments. Effectively, this process can modify the viscosity of an oil and enable it to flow better in low temperatures while maintaining its attributes at high temperatures.
Ultimately, these built-for-purpose solutions help the innerworkings of ships answer the operational and environmental challenges they face daily.