Ecuador’s foremost tuna fishing operator NIRSA has completed a project to convert the tailshaft seals and bearings aboard the 1973-built tuna vessel BP EL Marquez to a seawater-lubricated package from Thordon Bearings.
In total, four Thordon SXL propeller shaft bearings and a pair of TG100 mechanical shaft seals, each of which features Thordon’s emergency-safe-return-to-port (SRTP) capability, replaced a competitor’s seawater-lubricated bearings and stuffing box after the shaft had suffered early wear due to gland packing. Bronze shaft liners were also included in the Thordon scope of supply in what marked a significant retrofit project that required the renewal of shafts, sterntubes, seals, and bearings.
The new Thordon seal and bearing arrangement was retrofitted to the 41m (135ft) vessel’s 2m (78in) long, 203mm (8in) diameter tailshafts in January, at the Astinave EP shipyard in Guayaquil, Ecuador. Thordon’s local distributor, Inrioch, provided technical support.
NIRSA, which operates fourteen tuna boats, seven sardine boats, and eight smaller fishing vessels wanted a cleaner, more reliable propeller shaft arrangement.
In addition to zero pollution risk, Thordon’s seawater-lubricated elastomeric polymer bearings deliver a lower friction coefficient and early hydrodynamic film development. This creates an acoustically quieter bearing with a smoother shaft rotation that operators find reduces fuel consumption and doesn’t scare the fish away!
“Environmental performance and reduced costs were certainly key factors in NIRSA’s decision to retrofit a Thordon solution,” said Inrioch Manager, Eng. Samuel Ochoa.
“NIRSA, a long-standing customer of Thordon’s, has a goal to reduce its environmental impact through improved vessel performance — the SXL and TG100 combination is the optimum solution for this class of vessel. We also had the materials in stock so were able to facilitate delivery in line with the vessel’s drydocking schedule, resulting in reduced project time and costs.”
Jamil Moreira, Port Engineer, NIRSA explained that midway through the installation there were some structural alterations to the vessel’s shaft which changed the diameter but “Inrioch’s team was able to easily re-machine the SXL material and adapt the TG100 seal to suit the new carbon steel and bronze shaft sleeve”.
“We have good experience with Thordon’s bearings across a number of our vessels, but this is our first installation of its award-winning TG100 shaft seal,” Moreira said.
Egnard Bernal, Thordon Bearings’ Business Development Manager – LATAM, said: “Thordon and Inrioch have an established reputation in the Ecuadorian marine and industrial pump markets and NIRSA plays an important role in growing our market share across the country’s maritime and fisheries sector.
“A Thordon seawater-lubricated bearing system is the only commercially and environmentally viable solution for operators looking to increase bearing wear life and reduce maintenance costs.”
Inrioch is now working with NIRSA on a plan to replace the bearings on a further two fishing vessels. In addition to converting their propeller shaft bearings to the SXL material, the greased bronzed bearings used in the vessels’ deck equipment are expected to be replaced with Thordon’s ThorPlas-Blue material in the coming months.
In addition to owning the largest fishing fleet in Ecuador, NIRSA operates port facilities, fish processing plants and produces the ‘Real’ brand of canned tuna. Last year the company was awarded, for the second consecutive year, an ESR Distinction as Latin America’s most socially responsible company.