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Stern tubes

Stern tubes (Sea Water lubricated)

Stern tubes

The stern tube is normally constructed of cast iron slightly larger at

the forward end to ease removal. The forward end is flanged and
bolted to a doubler-plate stiffened aft peak bulkhead. The forward
end is supplied with a stuffing box and gland, the after end with a
bearing comprising lignum vitae staves or similar, and is dove tailed
into a brass bush. The wood is machined and cut on end grain. ie.
The staves in the lower bearing area are cut and fitted in such away
that the end grain is vertical to facilitate better life and staves at the
top part are cut with grain in the axial direction for economy. The
bearing can be lined with Lignum Vitae , rubber composition (cutlass
rubber) or an approved plastic material (Certain plastics possess
good bearing properties being inert and very tolerant of slow speed
boundary lubrication conditions. For water lubricated bearing length
shall not be less than 4 x the diameter of the steel shaft. If the
bearing is over 380mm diameter forced water lubrication must be
used, a circulating pump or other source with a water flow indicator.
The shaft is withdrawn for examination every 3 years.

Stern tubes

Oil lubricated bearings

Unlike for the water lubricated stern tube a shaft liner is unnecessary.
Generally a small one is fitted in way of the aft seal bolted on to the
propeller boss. In this way it excludes sea water contact with the main
shaft and provides an easily replaceable rubbing surface for the seal.
Lined with white metal are to have a bearing length so as not to exceed a
bearing pressure from the weight of the shaft and propeller of 5 kg/cm2.
The limitations of a bearing are the load it can withstand without metal
cracking or squeezing out and the temperature it can withstand without
melting. Length of bearing not less than 2 X D in any case. Cast iron and
bronze bearings must have a bearing length not less than 4D. Lubrication
system must be capable of maintaining oil tightness despite varying
temperature. Gravity tanks fitted with low level alarms, Usual for aft peak
to be filled with water to provide cooling low suction valve to be fitted to be
locked shut.
Wear down for the white metal should not exceed 2mm to avoid
hammering out and the period for inspection is 6 years. A highly resilient
reinforced plastic may be used in place of the white metal. It is claimed to
have greater load carrying capacity, high resistance to fatigue and shock
loading, with good lubrication properties. Ceramic liners can also be used.

Oil lubricated bearings

Oil lubricated bearings

When large propellers are fitted the heavy overhanging weight
greatly increases the load at the after end of the stern tube
breaking down the hydrostatic lubrication causing metal to
metal contact and seizure towards the aft end of bearing. To
obviate this it is usual to angle the shaft downwards for about
8mm over 100m length thus attempting to ensure than the
weight of the bearing is taken on the full length of the bearing.
It is good practice to leave the oil tank open to the stern tube
when in port with machinery stopped, this prevents sea water
leaking into the system. However, water has been known to
contaminate lubricating oil systems causing rusting of tail shaft
particularly when shaft is stopped for periods long enough for
water to settle in bottom of bearing.
In ships with large changes in draught it is usual to fit two
gravity tanks. The upper tank is used when fully loaded or
there is water leaking in.

Oil lubricated bearings

If outboard seal leaks, the following steps are to be

Fresh water in gravity tank to emulsify and coagulate it, oil

pumped around system to seal and lubricated.
Recharge with high viscosity oil
Disconnect oil supply line and reconnect to 45 gallon drum
which is supported by block and tackle in order to give a
variable head. By raising and lowering the drum the oil
pressure in the system can be made to match the water
pressure from outside (taking into account the difference in

Simplex shaft seal

simplex seal
A very common arrangement for oil lubricated stern tube bearings. A
simplex seal arrangement is fitted to both inner and outer ends.
The replaceable chrome liner prevents damage to the prop shaft which
would be expensive to repair.
Not shown is a rope guard bolted to the hull which prevents material from
being 'wound' into the gap and damaging the seal. Rope cutters may be
fitted with a fixed blade attached to the hull and a moving blade to the
Oil pressure is fed to the area between the two opposite facing seals.
This pressure is governed by the draught of the vessel and is often
supplied via tanks situated at set heights. This pressure balances the sea
water pressure on the seal and prevents sea water ingress, by opening
the correct tank the pressure exerted by the oil is insufficient to cause oil
to leakage out.
Stern tube seals with oil lubrication have tended to use rubber rings
increasingly. Viton with additives has been shown to be more effective
than nitrile butadiene rubber for seal rings

Establishing Shaft Centre line

A telescope with cross wire is set up at the shaft centre line on the foreword end
of the engine room. A plain cross wire target is established at the aft end on the
same axis. With both in use the centre of the engine room and the centre of the
shaft on the aft peak bulkhead can be marked prior to hole cutting for the stern
tube. The required centre of the aperture in the stern frame boss can then be
found by the line of sight using a crosswire in an adjustable spider.
Replacement of the crosswire with a plug with a centre gives a location for a
divider to be used for marking off the boss for boring.
Telescope and the cross wire system can be used to check up the accuracy of
the boring operation, installation of the stern tube and siting of the shaft

Shaft alignment
At the for'd end of the
engine room a light box
emitting light through a
pin hole is fixed from the
design height of the
crankshaft. Using the
sighting gear in stern
frame boss with solid
piece fitted. The stern
frame boss is marked off
for boring . The solid
piece is then exchanged
for a sighting piece

A second sighting gear with sighting piece is fitted to the bore hole in the aft peak
bulkhead. This is adjusted until the light source can be seen through the boss and
aft peak bulkhead sighting pieces. The sighting piece is replaced by the fixed
piece and the bulkhead may be machined. The stern tube is scribed out and the
p.c.d. of the bolts which will support the stern tube flange marked off. A similar
procedure is repeated for other bulkheads. When boring out is completed the
stern tube is hauled into position, wood packing being fitted under the flange
before bolting up at the aft peak bulkhead, the external stern tube nut is screwed
up hard making a rigid connection at the after end. The tail end shaft is now fitted
into the stern tube, subsequent to the installation of bearing. The flange of the tail
end shaft is now the standard by which the remaining line shafting will be aligned.

Shaft alignment
Taut wire method (Pilgrims wire)
Consists of steel wire anchored above shaft at one end of system and
led over a pulley with suspended weight at the other end.
The height of the pulley and fixed anchorage are adjusted so that they
are the same distance above the shaft and are positioned vertically
over the shaft centre line. A microstaff is employed to measure the
differences in height at bearing support points between shafts and wire,
an allowance being made for wire sag.
A master inclinometer is employed to monitor ships movement during
the aligning process.

Tailshaft keys and keyways

Abrupt changes of shape of section cause stress concentrations to build up
due to interruption of the stress flow lines.
This build up in stress causes cracks to develop and supports crack
propagation. With this in mind it can be seen that shapes or sections which
may be subject to great stresses; should be well rounded or gradually tapered
off to give smooth stress flow.

Stresses in tail shafts

Due to the considerable weight of the propeller, the tail shaft is subject
to a bending stress. There are however other stresses which are likely
to be encountered. There is a torsional stress due to the propeller
resistance and the engine turning moment, and a compressive stress
due to the prop thrust. All these stresses coupled with the fact that the
shaft may be in contact with highly corrosive sea water makes the
likelihood of corrosion attack highly probable.
Examining a tail shaft and stern tube
Before the periodic inspection the bearing wear down should
be measured.
After shaft removed given thorough examination.
On water lubricated shafts the integrity of the fit of the bronze
liner should be checked by tapping with a hammer along its
length listening for hollow noise indicating a separation.
Measure wear of shaft.
Examine key way for cracks especially the nut thread area.
replace rubber rings

Shaft Bearings
The intermediate shafting if supported in plain or tilting pad bearings, has an
after most bearing which is lined top and bottom. Roller bearings are installed in
some vessels.
Plain and tilting pad bearings
The shaft supported in a plain journal bearing, will as it rotates, carry oil to its
underside and develop a film of pressure. The pressure build up is related to
speed of rotation. Thus oil delivered as the shaft turns at normal speed, will
separate shaft and bearing, so preventing metal to metal contact. Pressure
generated in the oil film, is effective over about one third of the bearing area
because of oil loss at the bearing ends and peripherally. Load is supported and
transmitted to the journal, by the area where the film is generated. The
remaining two thirds area does not carry load
Replacement of the ineffective side portions of the journal by pads capable of
carrying load will considerably increase its capacity. Tilting pads based on those
developed by Mitchell for thrust blocks are used for the purpose. Each pad tilts
as oil is delivered to it so that a wedge or oil is formed. The three pressure
wedges give a larger total support area than that obtained with a plain bearing.
The tilt of the pads automatically adjusts to suit load, speed and oil viscosity.
The wedge of oil gives a greater separation between shaft and bearing than
does the oil film in a plain journal. The enhanced load capacity of a tilting pad
design permits the use of shorter length or less bearings.

Shaft Bearings

SKF (Muff) coupling

Outside dia's at end of
outer muff measured
before fitting
After fitted, dia's should
be approx. 0.5mm
greater Restraining
devices must be fitted
to prevent the muffs
separating too quickly

Coupling bolts
Elongation of a bar produces a related reduction in cross sectional area.
A bar with the same elastic properties in all directions will have a constant
relationship between axial strain and lateral strain. This is termed the Poissons
Ratio and given by the symbol n.
A bolt when tightened similarly causes a loss in area and diameter. In a
clearance hole this is not a problem. With a fitted bolt however, the positive
contact or 'fit' between the accurately machined bolt and reamed hole would be
Shaft coupling bolts are tightened to force the faces of the flange together so the
friction between the faces will provide some proportion of the drive. However,
fitted bolt shanks are also designed to take a proportion of the drive. A clearance
bolt could provide the first requirement but not the second. A fitted bolt when
tightened and subject to reduction in cross section would also fail on the second
count and probably be damaged by fretting. A tapered bolt may be used instead
of a conventional coupling bolt to obtain a good fit and required tightening.

Coupling bolts
Parallel shank fitted bolts
have Interference fit in holes so that in the event of loss of frictional grip between
flanges then each bolt will take on equal share of the shear stress due to torque
Parallel bolts become slack after one or two refits. Therefore taper shank bolts
have been used. An alternative is the sleeved coupling bolts.

The fit of the bolt is achieved by the tensioning of the taper shank bolt. Should
wear occur in the sleeve then this can be renewed, reusing the rest of the

Hydraulically fitted bolts.

The pilgrim or margrip hydraulic bolt
uses the principal embodied by Poisson
ratio to provide a calculated and definite
fitting force between bolt and hole
Center load rod fitted into hollow
coupling bolt and hydraulic head fitted.
High pressure oil pumped into head
pushing down, seal, piston and rod
.This action stretches the bolt ( within its
elastic limit ) and reduces its diameter
sufficiently for a sliding fit into the hole.
Fluid pressure is released allowing bolt
to expand and tightly grip within the hole
with a radial grip of about 2.36
Kg/mm2 . Simultaneous longitudinal
contraction of the bolt having already
fitted the nut hand tight, exerts
considerable compressive force which
is about 2 1/2 x greater than that which


Propeller bedded to tail shaft and jacked up to usual shop mark. The Pilgrim nut
is then screwed on the shaft with the loading ring against the prop boss. With
the lever operated, high pressure grease gun, grease is pumped into the inner
tube inside the nut at around 600 bar, ( w.p. stamped on nut, not to be
exceeded), the prop will be pushed sufficiently up the taper to give the required
frictional grip. The pressure is then released and the nut is rotated until it is hard
up against the aft face of the prop hub and locked, fair water cone then fitted
After removal of fair water cone and the locking plate, the pilgrim nut is
removed, reversed and together with a loose shock ring is screwed back onto
the shaft. A strong back is fitted and secured with studs to the prop boss.
Grease is now inserted to the system expanding the inner tube forcing the
loading ring, strong back, withdrawal studs and prop aft.

Controllable Pitch Propellers

Controllable Pitch Propellers

The CPP consists of a flange mounted hub inside which a piston arrangement
is moved fore and aft to rotate the blades by a crank arrangement. The piston
is moved by hydraulic oil applied at high pressure (typically 140 bar) via an Oil
transfer tube (OT tube) This tube has and inner and outer pipe through which
Ahead and astern oil passes. The tube is ported at either end to allow oil flow
and segregated by seals.
Oil is transferred to the tube via ports on the shaft circumference over which is
mounted the OT box. This sits on the shaft on bearings and is prevented from
rotation my a peg. The inner bore of the box is separated into three sections.
The ahead and astern and also an oil drain which is also attached to the
hydraulic oil header to ensure that positive pressure exists in the hub and
prevents oil or air ingress
The OT tube is rigidly attached to the piston, as the piston moves fore and aft
so the entire length of the tube is moved in the same way. A feedback
mechanism is attached to the tube, this also allows for checking of blade pitch
position from within the engineroom.

Controllable Pitch Propellers

Allow greater maneuverability
Allow engines to operate at optimum revs
Allow use of PTO alternators
Removes need for reversing engines
Reduced size of Air Start Compressors and receivers
Improves propulsion efficiency at lower loads
Greater initial cost
Increased complexity and maintenance requirements
Increase stern tube loading due to increase weight of assembly,
the stern tube bearing diameter is larger to accept the larger
diameter shaft required to allow room for OT tube
Lower propulsive efficiency at maximum continuous rating
Prop shaft must be removed outboard requiring rudder to be
removed for all prop maintenance.
Increased risk of pollution due to leak seals