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Used but might be OK?

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I’ve dealt with my share of disorganized yachts jammed packed with broken bits and pieces,  labeled as “USED BUT MIGHT BE O.K. Reorganizing chaotic spares inventories and disposing defunct parts is a labor intensive burden few people bother with or have the time to do.

Up to date equipment lists, contact lists and spare inventories that are stowed correctly save time, money and stress when breakdowns occur. On more than one occasion I’ve disposed of expensive parts because of corrosion and poor storage methods. Overcoming delays associated with material lead times, shipping costs, customs and the ad hoc repairs required to bypass system failures can be very unpleasant, nobody wants to be hanging upside-down in the sewage tank at 0300 hours on Sunday night.

Canceling a charter because the HVAC system failed, with no hope of repair parts being available for two weeks is a very realistic scenario. Domestic systems work the hardest on any yacht and are the least well maintained: ask your engineer when was the last time he cleaned the return air filters on all the air handlers or changed over the black water pumps?

Proper maintenance and system change over routines diminishes the potential for failure and assures standby equipment receives shut down maintenance. Spares inventories and correct tooling assures material resources are sufficient for maintenance and repair work to occur. Skilled engineers are skilled managers.

Disorganized parts inventories and poorly stowed parts amplify problems when people don’t know if the required spares are onboard or not? Ordering new parts is never straight forward; material lead times, shipping costs, customs and agent fees and design obsolescence complicate the repair process and introduce problems outside your control.

Why people like to keep broken and suspect parts onboard is beyond me, if a component has failed or has become scrap only two choices exist:

a)      Rebuild, place on inventory and stow

b)      Dispose of the item correctly and purchase replacement as needed

The practice of keeping every used and broken piece of equipment or fragment of old material consumes valuable storage space, clutters work areas and contributes to trips, falls and other hazards.

Keeping a broken heating element, circuit breaker or worn pump impeller is the equivalent of holding onto a blown fuse or broken light bulb.

Vital machinery systems have built in redundancy that enables marine engineers to bring standby equipment online (assuming equipment is functional), whereas domestic systems such as HVAC air handler units have no back devices. Nevertheless devices such as HVAC air handler units come in two or three sizes that often share components and knowing the size and design of equipment clarifies what spares are necessary.

For example:  HVAC air handler unit spares

·          Chilled water supply flexible hose connection and clamps

·          Climate control panel

·          Fan motor

·          Fan speed control panel and starting capacitors

·          Fan unit

·          Return air filter

·          Return air sensor

·          Water control valve

·          Water isolation valve

Intelligent use of space and correctly preserving parts and using sealable boxes or making purpose built shelves is prudent when you consider the cost and significance of emergency spares. Having the right spare at the right time always looks professional.

Service kits save space, but do require time to install consequently having complete pumps, motors, valves and so forth does make the most sense provided there adequate space for such items. New build projects give crew an opportunity to review system specifications and make sensible equipment selections to standardize specific pieces of equipment. Sticking to a specific manufacture, model and size is an effective way to reduce the number and type of spares needed. Obviously system functionality is priority; nevertheless it is possible to have the exact same pumps be used on the HVAC Chiller Plant on the sea water condenser circuit and the chilled water circuit, thereby reducing the type and quantity of spares required to repair this machinery system.

Lighting systems can very easily be standardized; bulbs, fixtures, cable connections, switches, controls makes and models can be streamlined and again reduce the make, model and quantities needed to effectively cover repair and maintenance needs.


I can remember being in the south pacific and a starter went out on this yacht. Thought he had a spare but turned out to be three broken starters. Thank God he kept them onboard as I was able to make one good one out of three!
Posted by: Captain Paul at 01/09/2010 00:41

Imagine the time you would have saved if the spare starter was already repaired and ready to go. Maintaining the correct vital, consumable spare is as important as the maintenance and breakdown work process. Ships spares should also be proportional to the vessels cruising area, if you tie to the dock and only do short voyages along the milk run you don’t need as many spares as more isolated voyages.
Posted by: Dean at 01/09/2010 06:31

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