The crew is slowly coming to grips with the fact that there are no more guests on board and there will not be any for the fore-seeable future. Everybody knows that and every realizes that, sort of. But now on a sub-conscious level it starts to sink in as well. Especially for the Hotel Department, the presence of guests is the Raison- d’etre of their existence and that is gone for obvious reasons. And it is not because of dry-dock. Although we are grabbing the chance to do a lot of work. The crew suddenly realizes that they can slow their pace down for a few minutes, that they get extra time off and that we are together in a waiting game. Take a race driver his/her car away, take a yachtsman his sails away and you have the same effect as taking the guest away from a Holland America Line crew member.
Thus the focus is now on setting up a routine that will keep everybody busy, sane and positive. I am here to give a helping hand although it is debatable if my helping hand is really that much appreciated. As I keep everybody busy with drills, trainings and inspection follow ups. And for once I do not have to take the guests well-being and cruise enjoyment in consideration so I can suggest, and when approved, some elaborate things which normally would have had too much of an impact on the guests. (Like setting the whole atrium under smoke or really stopping all the elevators because we have an electrical situation) Thus the ship might be able to play out a number of scenarios in the coming days (or weeks).
Today we simulated a Main Engine room fire and subsequent full shutdown of all the engines and that would mean a black out if we did not have our Emergency Diesel Generator and Auxiliary Generator. Those two engines will ensure that there is enough power for light, toilets, cooking and limited A.C. But a main shut down of the engine can happen, if something goes wrong with the fuel supply. Fuel comes from the tanks and is then heated up, which makes it easier to ignite. It then goes to purifiers where it is heated up even more and then purified. That means: water and other imperfections are cleaned out. A purifier basically works like a washer /spinner at home. From there the fuel will eventually make it to the engines under very high pressure so it ignites more easily to push the cylinders up and down and what makes an engine a motor. The two dangerous points in that process are the purifiers and the hoses /pipes that lead the fuel to the engine. And it still goes wrong there on ships occasionally. Most of the time due to metal fatigue but also due to human error when a bolt has not been tightened or something similar.
When a malfunction happens this hot and under pressure oil is pushed out at great velocity. That really looks like the spouter they always talk about when they were searching for oil in the old Wild West. If that oil touches an even hotter surface in the ER, then ignition will occur. And then the ships complement has to be fast. Very fast. But with a big eruption we will most likely be too slow. And for that we train Co2 release. For an engineer it is extremely difficult to accept the fact that there might be a problem that cannot be solved by technical skill anymore, that it is just too late. Because of this issue, ships have been lost in the past. So part of the drill is to get the right mindset that we should stop with trying anything else but a major shutdown.
And that is C02. We have a whole bank with C02 bottles on board and experience learned that as soon as the chief engineer has a good insight in the seriousness of the situation that he recommends C02 release. And makes up his mind within 10 minutes. The captain then has to review as this will gravely impact the safe operation of his ship and then should give permission. Then within 15 minutes of the start of the emergency C02 should be released and that will push out all the still present C02 in the Engine space. Fire goes out.
C02 does not cool down so we then have to wait 4 to 12 hours before we can have a look inside. Any easier and the Oxygen than comes in when opening an entrance door, could ignite the fire again. Because we cannot release C02 in reality, this is a very theoretical drill which takes all the focus of everybody to play their part at the right moment. I provide scenario’s for that, so the C.E can measure the effectiveness of the drill against the standards. Today we managed to keep to the 15 minute time sequence and that is not easy to do. So things went well.
For our stay we are now waiting for future developments. We might have to go out for a night and then come back, we might just stay, and we might continue our voyage. Top management is assessing to see what is best for us. The captain holds every morning a sort of “Voice from the Bridge” when we all get an update. And again it was confirmed today that it is the intention that all crew will stay on board. So we keep cleaning. (And drilling………..)
Today was not as sunny as expected but it was a nice day. But tomorrow there should be more sun again 28oC / 82oF and a gentle breeze. The weather for the coming days is about the same. So all is well in the world, at least here on the ms Rotterdam.