Pumproom conditions on the standard product tanker

20th March 2009, 23:10
Pumprooms ... yes well theres a book in itself ....the other day I had a request from a Bank Line laddie to describe the situation down a pumproom after he had read a posting about an apprentice getting gassed down such a space....having done that I thought I would copy it onto SN.

Attached are some photos and a schematic drawing of a typical pumproom pipeline layout of the BP Tanker product carriers. Generally there were two cargo pumprooms, one forward and one aft pretty well identical, there were cargo tanks forward and aft of each pumproom as you can see on the British Gannet photo ... I was Mate on her.

Typically the cargo section of the tanker was divided into 9 tanks which were numbered from forward to aft ... 1 - 9. The Forward pumproom had number one and two forward of it and 3,4,5,6, aft of it.Then came the after pumproom with tanks 7,8,9 aft of it.

Each main tank was divided by two fore and aft bulkheads making a Port tank, a Centre tank and a Stbd tank. So you had, for example number 3 port, 3 centre, 3 stbd. These bulkheads carried through each pumproom. Thus you had the pumps in the centre section of the pumproom and through the bulkheads the "Wings of the pumproom.

At the bottom resting on the keel level were two horiziontal duplex steam reciprocating pumps of 500 water tons per hour. One sucked on the port side pipelines and the other sucked on the stbd lines. In the photos you can see the pumproom deckhouse.

Access to the WINGS was through a hole cut in the fore and aft bulkheads each side ... there was a step or two up from the deckplates in the main pumproom and you were in the wings. As you can see from the schematic drawing of the pumproom the wings held all the valves and pipelines. Significantly, there where were no lights in the wings !!! If you look at the deck scene photo of the "British Patriot" in Bombay you will see a square hatch on the deck to port of the pumproom deckhouse, that was the only other access into the pumproom wing but was opened only on survey. You can see that in the wings are a lot of valves, all 12" diameter items !! Some you had to climb up onto a platform at half the height of the pumproom to swing. Each valve had a gland with packing, on the one hand you did not want liquid seeping out of the gland but on the other hand you did not want them tweaked up so hard that it was a wheel key job to swing them open of closed, it was a bugger of a job down there in the dark gloom in the heat as it was without flogging a hard set of valves. So there were drips of petrol, which in themselves vapourised and produced gas. The wings were NOT VENTILATED!!! In the body of the pumproom the two girt big pumps also had glands where the pistons went backwards and forwards. The pistons of course had pressure and again little squirts of liquid issued forth from that source. The two big ventilators you see on deck at each pumproom were the only means of ventilating the pumprooms but you need wind down them .... no wind ... no ventilation. Sitting on the top corner of the pumproom deckhouse on British Patriot you will es-spy a venturi gizmo ... an ejector which was driven by Steam ... bloody noisy and hungry on steam which you needed to drive the pumps.... so generally not used.

You could stand inside the entrance to the pumproom looking down into the pumproom and the pumps way down at the bottom which could be visible in a shimmering haze of petrol fumes. To get down there were two flights of steep ladders with a landing between them.

So there you have it, a very small and narrow but deep space with a port and stbd wing none of which were really not ventilated but having dribbles of cargo leaking into them. In the tropics or once the pumps had being clattering away for a few hours producing heat the vapours were pretty strong.....you always had a man standing by at the top of the pumproom watching the people below....and only one man went out into the wings with the other standing by in the pumproom. Theoretically anyway !!! OK with an apprentice on watch with you but usually it was you and the Pumpman who went down to "Set the Lines".

You generally came up with a furry tongue and were very gratefull for the fresh air. The pumpman of course went down every half hour when, discharging cargo to grease the rods of the pump with a "Dogs Leg" brush standing in between the two rods timing his dabs in time with the strikes. So he got more fumes through the watch than you did. Loading, no one went down the pumrooms until cargo was stopped or finished.

So you can imagine that there was a serious problem to manage people getting gassed down the pumprooms of the older product carriers with the ring main system as described here.

The later, "all aft" pumprooms were better ventilated with forced draught fans, the engines of the pumps were in the engineroom driving through the bulkhead and the pumps were centrifugal so there was only one or two glands of a seal type so did not leak much.

Hows that for a description? (POP)

With thanks to those who's photos from Ships Nostalgia I have used. You see its well worthwhile posting all sorts of detail from aboard not just broadside photos of ships.

Graham Wallace
23rd March 2009, 03:53

As far as I was concerned Pumprooms came under the heading, "3D" not the old movies, but Deep, Dark, and Dangerous. There were things going on down in those depths that I had no desire to get close to.

I was first trip E/A on the Empress 1958 and the C/E Tony Lowson (He did have some unusual ideas, I'll keep them for later. I found him a few years ago retired in Spain) decided it was time I learnt how to properly pack a steam/water pump gland. So instead of something simple in the engineroom, he decided to do the cargo pumps in the Pumproom.

Cannot say I was too happy with his choice of location but managed to get through it somehow, gave me a deep disliking of those depths, guess that was another reason why I then sailed on turbine ships with the cargo pump turbine in the ER, never got too look on the other side of that bulkhead, too many memories!

I have no recollection how it was vented, must have been effective tho as I'm still here. Modern day Safety Officials would have had a bird in those days !!

Can still do a neat gland packing job tho. Still have one of those flexible extractors with a "T' handle and shaped at the working end like a wine bottle corkscrew.


23rd March 2009, 05:09
I had a few Pump Room mishaps while I was sailing on Sealift Tankers. One of the most rememberable one was when the Chief Mate started the loading process with out checking the dog leg drains. In a cost saving effort the Pump Man was not called out for loadings so he went ashore. Each watch after wards would poke their head in at the top of the pump room. Just after noon the Second Assistant Engineer could smell Jet Fuel in the Engine Room. When he looked around he found that the bulkhead packing glands were leaking product from the pump room. The loading was stopped there was a product was just under the third platform from the top. Since the recip pump was already lined up for pumping the pump room bilges the product was pumped out ashore. The Captain fired the Chief Mate and Second Mate but did not fire the New Third Mate since she just reported abroad (24 hours first Tanker) and was doing that she was told to do. Since the Captain did not fire the Third Mate the union made the Company to rehire the other two mates. All of the bearings on the pumps had to be flushed and repacked with grease. The room repainted and the valves and lights repaired.

The second rememberable problem was with the same Chief Mate he came down to the Engine Room to borrow a electric drill when I asked where he was going to use it I was told he had to post some signs around the ship when I asked if it was in the house he said no so I gave him a air drill. A few days later after filling up the Main Engine Lube Oil Storage Tank I found out that the tank was leaking. When I was checking were the oil was going to I found the oil was leaking into the Pump room were the Chief Mate drilled holes into the tank to mount his anti pollution signs as required by the USCG.

23rd March 2009, 05:18

I, to this day actually have one of those gland extraction tools believe it or not !!! I got hold of it while we had The Boatshop in Picton, we used to sell Gland Packing and we still have some of that ... Lighthouse Brand.

Even though I am on the navigating side I can properly pack a gland ....


Your tales certainly make one shake their head in disbelief .... but you can sure believe it was done ....the number of times after a cock up people say ... "But I checked it" .... how in the heck could they have done when the results of their supposed checking lie all over the place for everyone to see.... in the incident that I can see in my memory it was Bitumen ... and it certainly lay aroundfor a while!!