At sea repairs keep Leeuwin sailing

Published on LEUT Ryan Zerbe (author), LSIS Kayla Jackson (photographer)

Topic(s): HMAS Leeuwin (A245)

Royal Australian Navy Able Seaman Marine Technician Joshua McDonald tightens a bolt on the start-air flange after conducting maintenance on a diesel generator onboard HMAS Leeuwin. (photo: LSIS Kayla Jackson)
Royal Australian Navy Able Seaman Marine Technician Joshua McDonald tightens a bolt on the start-air flange after conducting maintenance on a diesel generator onboard HMAS Leeuwin.

Marine Technicians in HMAS Leeuwin have proved their skills by overhauling one of the ship’s diesel generators while at sea crossing the Bay of Bengal.

One of the ship’s four diesel generators went offline near Sri Lanka’s eastern coast around a week’s travel from Singapore, the nearest port with the normal facilities and contractors to make repairs.

Leading Seaman Jack Richards (left) and Able Seaman Josh McDonald in HMAS Leeuwin’s engine room.

Leading Seaman Jack Richards (left) and Able Seaman Josh McDonald in HMAS Leeuwin’s engine room.

While the ship could continue to sail at a reduced speed, Marine Technicians Petty Officer David Jamieson, Leading Seaman Jack Richards and Able Seaman Josh McDonald spent six days disassembling the generator, making repairs, and returning Leeuwin to full capacity.

Leading Seaman Richards said the at-sea repairs were a challenge for the qualified Diesel Maintainers.

“We found three leaking injector tubes which were mixing fuel with engine coolant, but replacing them would have required machining equipment not available at sea, so the decision was made to completely rebuild and re-tune the entire cylinder head,” he said.

“It’s hot and loud in the Main Machinery Room when the other diesel generators are running, so it wasn’t ideal working conditions, but we were able to work through this.

“We were working nine hours a day on the diesel generator plus keeping watches at sea,” Leading Seaman Richards said.

Able Seaman McDonald had watched similar repairs before but, had not conducted them himself until now.

“Most engines are the same, but they have their own quirks,” Able Seaman McDonald said.

“We’ve observed contractors do this before so we knew what tools we needed and what to do, but this was the first time we’ve done this kind of work ourselves.”

“When it started up again for the first time - it was a good feeling,” he said.

With repairs made, Leeuwin was able to resume her transit towards the Malacca Strait at full speed and Leading Seaman Richards is now preparing instructions for Leeuwin’s sister ship HMAS Melville on how to look for the symptoms of similar faults and make repairs.

Engineering Officer, Lieutenant Commander Clare Randall said the overhaul represented what technical sailors could achieve when presented with a challenge.

“How a warship runs is based on the skill and competency of its personnel, and good technical sailors can repair and maintain the entire spectrum of systems, from engines and radars to refrigeration and hot showers.

“We are always working to ensure the availability and serviceability of ship’s systems through routine maintenance, but sometimes equipment and parts fail in circumstances that are less than ideal and we have to find ways to get things running again.

“We don’t have the opportunity to test ourselves with these kinds of repairs very often but Petty Officer Jamieson, Leading Seaman Richards and Able Seaman McDonald have proven what good training, technical skill and hard work can achieve when the need arises,” Lieutenant Commander Randall said.