Engine Room Procedures Guide

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Engine Room Procedures Guide


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The Engine Room Procedures Guide provides authoritative and comprehensive guidance on engine room procedures, to ensure that ships’ engine rooms are operated and managed safely while protecting the environment. A companion to the globally recognised ICS Bridge Procedures Guide, the Engine Room Procedures Guide can be used on all types of merchant ship.

The guide sets out routine engine room procedures and includes useful checklists for the ship’s engineering team. It provides clear guidance on safe and environmentally responsible engine room operation and maintenance, supporting internationally agreed standards and recommendations adopted by the International Maritime Organization (IMO).

The guide is an invaluable tool for Chief Engineers and other members of the engineering team, as well as shipping companies and training institutions. 

It is recommended that a copy is carried on board every merchant ship.

Key features in the second edition:

Updated Content: The new edition embraces internationally agreed regulations of the IMO, ensuring that engine room crew have access to current and reliable procedures that support greenhouse gas emissions measures, such as how to safely conduct low load operations. 

Expanded Coverage: The guide covers a wide array of engine room procedures, from routine maintenance to emergency response protocols, providing a comprehensive reference for crew members. The guide includes crucial new procedures on handling alternative fuels such as liquefied natural gas, and highlights the latest common engine room deficiencies to help crew prepare for port state control inspections. 

Enhanced Safety Measures: Safety is a top priority in the maritime industry, and this edition emphasises safety procedures to ensure the well-being of all crew members and the environment. It includes updated and consolidated enclosed space entry procedures that align with latest industry best practice. 

User-Friendly Design: The guide is designed for ease of use, with a clear layout and navigational features that make finding the right information quick and straightforward.  

Additional Information
Author International Chamber of Shipping
Publisher International Chamber of Shipping Publications
Edition Second Edition
Publication month 2024 - February
ISBN 978-1-913997-54-0
Shipping Weight 1.500Kg



Chapter 1 Introduction

1.1 The value of procedures

1.2 Changes in the engine room

1.3 An effective engineering team

1.4 Documentation

1.5 Environmental protection

1.6 Company policy and procedures

1.6.1 The Safety Management System (SMS)

1.6.2 Drug and alcohol policy

1.6.3 Personal electronic devices and cyber security

1.6.4 Smoking policy

Chapter 2 Engineering department organisation

2.1 Chief engineer

2.1.1 Role as director of operations

2.1.2 Standing orders

2.1.3 Night and day orders

2.2 The engineering team

2.2.1 The watchkeeping team, for ships that operate a
watchkeeping system

2.2.2 The UMS team, for ships operating a UMS system

2.2.3 The maintenance team

2.3 Familiarisation of new crew

2.4 Role of the electro-technical officer (ETO)

Chapter 3 Engineering team management

3.1 Officer in charge of an engineering watch (EOOW)

3.1.1 Chief engineer’s representative

3.1.2 Primary duties

3.1.3 Secondary duties

3.2 Watchkeeping ratings

3.3 The maintenance team

3.3.1 The planned maintenance system (PMS)

3.3.2 Senior maintenance engineer

3.3.3 Ratings

3.4 The human element

3.4.1 ‘Just culture’

3.4.2 Challenging decisions

3.4.3 Thinking aloud

3.4.4 Personal protective equipment (PPE)

3.5 Work and rest hours

Chapter 4 Communication

4.1 A common working language

4.2 Quality of communication

4.2.1 Closed loop system

4.2.2 Recording devices

4.2.3 Communication and people’s cultures

4.3 Briefing and debriefing

4.4 Communication with the bridge

4.4.1 Situation reviews

4.4.2 Unattended machinery space (UMS) operation

4.4.3 Manoeuvring

4.5 Communication with other departments

4.5.1 Cargo operations

4.5.2 Hotel and other departments

4.6 Call for help

4.6.1 Night call outs

4.6.2 Engineers’ call alarm

4.7 Radio communication

4.8 Talkback and sound-powered phones

Chapter 5 Safety of the ship

5.1 General

5.2 Regulations

5.3 Fire

5.3.1 Causes

5.3.2 Prevention

5.3.3 Preparedness and response

5.4 Flooding

5.4.1 Causes

5.4.2 Prevention, preparedness and response

5.4.3 Watertight doors

5.5 Loss of control of navigation and ship’s systems

Chapter 6 Emergency preparedness

Chapter 7 Critical operating periods

7.1 Crewing level changes

7.1.1 Planned changes

7.1.2 Unplanned changes

7.2 Changing watches

7.3 Manoeuvring

7.4 Security threats

7.5 Crewing in port/anchorage

7.6 Unattended machinery spaces

7.6.1 Pre-UMS rounds and checklist

7.6.2 The deadman alarm

7.7 Emission control areas (ECAs) – fuel changeovers

7.8 Bunkering

7.8.1 Responsibilities

7.8.2 Procedures

7.8.3 Fuel quantities

7.8.4 LNG bunkering

7.8.5 Bunkering of biofuels

7.8.6 Alkali bunkering

Chapter 8 Watchkeeping

8.1 The bridge

8.1.1 Reacting to instructions

8.1.2 Co-operation

8.1.3 Situational awareness with the bridge

8.2 Checklists

8.2.1 Repetitive procedures

8.2.2 Ease of use

8.3 Situational awareness in the engine room

8.3.1 Recording engineering department activities

8.3.2 Machinery and ship status

8.3.3 The noticeboard

8.4 Alarms and actions

8.5 Periodic checks on machinery and related equipment

8.6 Periodic quality tests

8.6.1 Fuel oil

8.6.2 Lube oil

8.6.3 Engine cooling water

8.6.4 Boiler water

8.7 Bilge and sludge management

8.8 Record keeping

8.8.1 Oil record book

8.9 Changing over the watch

8.9.1 Pre-watch routine

8.9.2 Critical information

8.9.3 The complete engine room round

8.9.4 Handover or takeover models

8.9.5 Fitness for duty

Chapter 9 Pollution control

9.1 Regulations

9.2 Air emissions

9.3 Equipment operation guidelines

9.3.1 Oily water separators (OWS)

9.3.2 Incinerators

9.3.3 Sewage treatment plants

9.3.4 Exhaust gas cleaning systems (EGCS)

9.3.5 Ballast water systems

9.4 Environmental training

9.5 Bilge management

9.6 Responsibilities

9.7 Record keeping and reporting

Chapter 10 Machinery operation guidelines

10.1 Machinery operation manuals

10.2 Main and auxiliary engines(s)

10.2.1 Normal operation

10.2.2 Low load operation

10.2.3 Emergency operation

10.2.4 Engine protection

10.3 Fuel

10.3.1 Types of fuel

10.3.2 Environmental considerations

10.3.3 Blending

10.3.4 Changeover procedure

10.3.5 Microbiological infestation

10.4 Gas turbines

10.5 Steam propulsion

10.6 Steering gear

10.6.1 Regulation

10.6.2 Normal operation

10.6.3 Emergency operation

10.7 The electrical power plant

10.7.1 Alternators

10.7.2 Distribution

10.7.3 Direct current (DC) power systems

10.7.4 Emergency power

10.7.5 Earth faults

10.7.6 High voltage (HV)

10.8 Steam plant

10.8.1 Boilers

10.8.2 Economisers

10.8.3 Steam distribution system

10.9 Ancillary equipment

10.9.1 Alarm and control station

10.9.2 Pumps

10.9.3 Freshwater generators

10.9.4 Evaporators

10.9.5 Reverse osmosis plants

10.9.6 Purifiers

10.9.7 Air system

10.9.8 Refrigeration and air conditioning

10.10 Energy conservation

Chapter 11 Machinery maintenance and inspection guidelines

11.1 Equipment isolation

11.1.1 Immobilisation of ship

11.2 Code of Safe Working Practices

11.3 Machinery operating and maintenance manuals

11.4 Spare parts and inventory management

11.5 Maintenance methodology

11.6 Machinery defect log

11.7 Machinery inspections

11.8 Risk assessment and permit to work

11.8.1 Risk assessment matrix

11.8.2 Routine operations

11.8.3 Non-routine operations

11.9 Measuring instruments

11.10 Tools

11.10.1 Special tools and lifting appliances

11.10.2 Hydraulic tools

11.11 Enclosed spaces

11.11.1 Introduction

11.11.2 IMO guidelines

11.11.3 Hazards

11.11.4 Oxygen content in air

11.11.5 Oxygen deficiency

11.11.6 Toxic and/or flammable gases

11.11.7 Oxygen enrichment

11.11.8 Oxygen-depleting cargoes and carbon dioxide

11.11.9 Enclosed space entry and rescue drills

11.11.10 Preparing for an enclosed space entry

11.11.11 Entry into an enclosed space where the atmosphere
has been tested and is

considered safe

11.11.12 Rescue from enclosed spaces

11.12 Hot work

11.12.1 Preparation for hot work

11.12.2 Checks during hot work

11.12.3 Action on completion of hot work

11.12.4 Hot work flowchart

11.13 Harmful substances

11.14 Essential engine room seamanship

Chapter 12 Ship-type specific guidelines

12.1 Oil, gas and chemical tankers

12.1.1 OCIMF and SIRE

12.2 Dynamic positioning (DP) ships

12.3 Passenger ships

Chapter 13 Preparing for inspections

13.1 Introduction

13.2 The role of the chief engineer and the engineering team

13.3 Common areas that are inspected in the engine room

13.4 Common inspection deficiencies

13.4.1 Fire dampers and funnel dampers

13.4.2 Emergency fire pump

13.4.3 Lifeboats and rescue boats engine and davit

13.4.4 Oily water separator

13.4.5 Sewage treatment plant (STP)

13.4.6 Emergency generator

13.5 Crew related factors for deficiencies


Appendix A Manoeuvring checklists

A1 – Preparations for arrival

A2 – Preparations for departure

A3 – Steering gear checks

Appendix B Engine room checklists and permits

B1 – Preparations for change of watch

B2 – Preparations for UMS

B3 – Bunkering (marine fuel oil (MFO))

B4 – LNG bunkering

B5 – Fuel changeover

B6 – Preparations for alkali bunkering

B7 – Alkali bunkering

B8 – After alkali bunkering

B9 – Enclosed space entry

B10 – Hot work

B11 – Isolation/lock out-tag out

B12 – Work on high voltage systems

B13 – Familiarisation

Appendix C Emergency checklists

C1 – Engine room fire

C2 – Engine room flooding

C3 – Grounding

C4 – Scavenge space fire

C5 – Economiser fire

C6 – Oil mist in crankcase

C7 – Loss of power/blackout

Appendix D Two-stroke low load operation inspection report



The Engine Room Procedures Guide has been developed by the
International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) for use by marine engineer officers and
ratings responsible for operating and maintaining engine rooms on merchant
ships. The Guide, now in its second edition, is primarily intended to provide
guidance for chief engineers and other members of the engineering team working
on all types of ship, but it should also assist shipping companies and training

The Engine Room Procedures Guide sets out routine and
emergency engine room procedures and checklists for use by the ship’s
engineering team. It provides clear guidance on best practice approaches to
operating and maintaining engine rooms, and all the equipment they contain, in
a safe and environmentally responsible manner. The Guide embraces and promotes
adherence to internationally agreed standards and is intended to complement
regulations and recommendations adopted by the United Nations (UN)
International Maritime Organization (IMO).

Many of the procedures outlined in this Guide are already in
widespread use across the industry and may seem obvious to experienced crew.
However, feedback from ICS member national shipowners’ associations suggests
that incidents still occur, even during routine procedures. The aim of setting down
basic procedures in a best practice guide is to further improve safety
standards across the global fleet, consistent with the concept of continuous
improvement which underpins the IMO International Safety Management (ISM) Code.

Since the first edition was published in 2020, the Engine
Room Procedures Guide has started to enjoy a similar degree of recognition and
authority as its longstanding sister publication, the widely used Bridge
Procedures Guide.

This second edition of this Guide has evolved to incorporate
the new technologies and procedures that the shipping industry requires to meet
their decarbonisation goals. For this reason, ICS has developed new sections
for ships that:

• Use LNG as a fuel on non-gas carriers;

• Use biofuels;

• Bunker alkali; and

• Carry out low load operations.

Based on lessons learned, ICS has also updated the sections
on topics including exhaust gas cleaning systems (EGCS), enclosed space entry,
ballast water management, and preparing for inspections, to further improve and
develop engine room team understanding.


ICS extends its thanks to the following for their assistance in researching and reviewing this publication: 

  • Fleet Management Limited;
  • Holland America Line;
  • MSC Mediterranean Shipping Company S.A.
  • Pacific Basin; and
  • Stolt Tankers B.V.

Particular thanks to Irish Ferries Limited for supplying photographs for this edition


1 Introduction

1.1 The value of procedures

Strict adherence to established procedures and recognised best practice in engine rooms is crucial for ensuring the safe and environmentally responsible operation of ships.

To achieve this goal, close and effective co-ordination is required between different departments on a ship. This is particularly important for the deck and the engine departments.

The master is the company’s representative on board the ship and has the overriding authority and responsibility to make decisions on board about safety and pollution prevention. The master and the chief engineer must work closely to ensure that the ship, crew and cargo – as well as the environment – are safe from harm.

1.2 Changes in the engine room

Engine room design and technology have changed considerably in the past few decades. As new technology is introduced into engine rooms, such as new fuels, exhaust gas cleaning systems (EGCS) and ballast water management systems (BWMS), new hazards are being introduced which are not always covered in existing procedures. Alongside the risks of breakdowns, fires and personal injury, these new hazards need to be risk assessed and appropriate safeguards put in place. 

Maintenance and watchkeeping standards and procedures have improved over time through the implementation of lessons learned from incidents and accidents. Adequate training, professionalism, experience, and following established procedures in the Safety Management System (SMS) form the basis of safe operations in the engine room. Recent new regulations on environmental protection and the related equipment installed in engine rooms have also influenced changes to procedures. 

To comply with these new regulations, there needs to be a ‘zero tolerance’ approach to failures in the operation and maintenance of engine room equipment. The importance of this point cannot be over-emphasised. Complacency is unacceptable.

1.3 An effective engineering team

The engineering team is responsible for the operation and maintenance of the engine room on a ship. They are also responsible for the inspection, maintenance and repair of deck machinery such as winches and cranes. 

Effective engine room organisation is the starting point to ensure that a system is in place to promote, support and monitor best practice and ensure safety of operation. At all times, safe operation of the engine room requires effective command, control, monitoring, supervision, communication and management.

1.4 Documentation

A sound system of document management, including records required for statutory purposes and records kept in line with company policy, should be capable of demonstrating a full, complete and accurate record of safety and environmental compliance on board each ship.

1.5 Environmental protection

It is the responsibility of every member of the crew, including those in the engineering team, to protect the environment and strictly comply with on board environmental procedures and instructions.

1.6 Company policy and procedures

1.6.1 The Safety Management System (SMS)

The International Safety Management (ISM) Code requires every shipowning or management company to have an SMS. The SMS must include a safety and environmental protection policy with functional requirements and practical guidance on all aspects of safe and environmentally responsible management and operation on board the company’s ships. The company is responsible for ensuring that the safety and environmental protection policy is implemented ashore and on board.

As part of the SMS, each ship should have a manual or series of manuals that provide the instructions, procedures and guidance to implement the SMS on board. This is called the safety management manual.

As a minimum, the SMS and safety management manual should include:

  • A system for allocating engineering watchkeeping duties and responsibilities for operational procedures;
  • Guidelines for ensuring that crew members are trained and competent to undertake their duties on board;
  • Procedures for engine room operations, including checklists;
  • Procedures for critical operations, including bunkering, port arrival and departure;
  • Procedures for preventing and controlling pollution, including activities such as oil spill response and disposal of waste;
  • Emergency response procedures and instructions;
  • A defect reporting procedure and system for rectifying defects;
  • Procedures for change management;
  • Procedures for control, validity and changes for documentation;
  • Reporting procedures for accidents and near-misses;
  • Maintenance procedures, including control of work and permit to work systems;
  • Identification of critical machinery/equipment and procedures to ensure availability and for isolation/maintenance of critical equipment;
  • Procedures for management of the minimum critical and essential spares;
  • A planned maintenance system (PMS) and a method for recording maintenance activities;
  • Procedures for crew familiarisation and handover at crew changes;
  • A recognised system for identifying training needs; and
  • Company contacts, including the designated person ashore (DPA) as required by the ISM Code.

The safety management manual and associated procedures should be developed in line with the KISS principle – ‘Keep It Short and Simple’. A concise, easy-to-understand manual is more likely to be a useful tool which crew will actually use.

For comprehensive guidance on compliance with the ISM Code, and developing, implementing and maintaining an SMS, see the latest edition of the ICS Guidelines for the Application of the IMO International Safety Management (ISM) Code.

For help in the identification of critical machinery/equipment, the Oil Companies International Marine Forum (OCIMF) Safety Critical Equipment and Spare Parts Guidance can be consulted.

1.6.2 Drug and alcohol policy

The International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers, 1978, as amended (STCW) includes requirements to prevent drug and alcohol abuse on board. In general, a limit of no more than 0.05% blood alcohol level (BAC), or 0.25mg/l alcohol in breath, for crew performing designated safety, security and marine environmental protection duties is applied by flag states. Flag states may apply more stringent limits and the applicable limits must be known, reflected in on board procedures and complied with. The company may choose to apply more stringent requirements, and on some ships zero alcohol requirements may apply, e.g. on many tankers, depending on the policy of individual companies.

The company should have a drug and alcohol policy, which includes a clear statement of what constitutes prohibited substances, both on board and ashore. All crew, including the engineering team, should always comply with this policy. The policy should also apply to visitors and personnel temporarily on board, such as contractors and officials. Periodic unannounced drug and alcohol testing may be carried out to confirm compliance with these requirements.

If there is any concern that the drug and alcohol policy is not being complied with, the master should act immediately to ensure that the safety of the ship is not compromised.

For more guidance, see the ICS/Witherbys publication Drug Trafficking and Drug Abuse On Board Ship.

1.6.3 Personal electronic devices and cyber security

The company should have a written policy to ensure that mobile phones or other personal electronic devices may only be used in the engine room in circumstances approved by the chief engineer.

The chief engineer should consider factors such as general safety, hazardous area zoning, nearby sensitive equipment and workplace hazards, and the necessity of such devices. When devices are allowed, their use should be subject to limiting conditions.

Where internet and email services are available in the engine control room (ECR), a policy and procedure should manage their use. Engine room watchkeepers’ use of the internet and email should be limited to out of duty hours or when it is necessary for the safe operation of the engine room and machinery. Access to the internet and email in the ECR is normally restricted to:

  • Updates to the PMS, licences and permits;
  • Additional information on technical matters, rules and regulations, at the chief engineer’s discretion;
  • Computer-based training for engine room crew; and
  • Essential communication with the bridge and other departments on the ship, and shore-based technical support (such as superintendents and equipment supplier service technicians).

To protect the security of cyber systems on board:

  • Do not click unsafe links in emails, as they may lead to phishing attacks;
  • Warn crew of the risks of using the internet on engine room computers, including social media, chat forums and cloud-based file storage;
  • Never plug personal devices such as USBs into engine room control systems. All access to engine room control systems and unnecessary USB ports should be controlled by USB locks or disabled by systems software;
  • Nobody should give their usernames or passwords to any third party without the authorisation of the chief engineer; 
  • Encourage crew to report any potential cyber incidents (for example, unusual connections or someone plugging in an unknown device to the ship’s network); and
  • If a surveyor or inspector asks for a file to be printed, only direct printing via a ship’s printer or an email should be requested.

Criminals will often use information from social media for targeted phishing attacks. Most end user threats are specifically targeted, with the aim of getting the user to click a malicious link.

It is recommended that crew:

  • Never disclose information about the ship, its route or its cargo online;
  • Be aware of backgrounds of any pictures they post online, which may contain sensitive information about the ship;
  • Never post any information about the company or ship;
  • Never use a company/ship ID as a login for social media; and
  • Only access social media through the crew Wi-Fi network.

For more guidance, see the ICS, BIMCO and Witherbys , the ICS Guidelines on Cyber Security Onboard Ships and IMO MSC-FAL 1/Circ.3/Rev.1 Guidelines on Maritime Cyber Risk Management.

Never plug personal devices such as USBs into engine room control systems.

1.6.4 Smoking policy

Smoking should only be allowed in designated smoking areas. The company should specify these areas in its SMS.

When drawing up a smoking policy, the company should take into account the critical phases of the ship’s operation, such as bunkering, cargo operations, etc

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