More Stories from Castrol Liquid Engineering

RiverCats Purring Again 

It was just on five years ago when Sydney Ferries contacted Castrol with a particularly nasty problem they were having with the Schottel Steerable Rudder Propulsion units (SRPs) on the new RiverCats.

The Balmain Shipyard engineers were in the midst of a series of catastrophic gearbox failures that were causing considerable grief to the Parramatta Ferry operators, not to mention the inconvenience being inflicted on customers.

The high-tech Z-drive units comprise two gearboxes, with the lower of the two operating whilst completely submerged. Dramas began when seawater started to seep into the hard-working lower boxes. The sparkling new RiverCats were starting to use up their nine lives!

"We were using (another brand of) oil which simply would not tolerate the conditions," said Mick McTaggert, Manager of Marine Engineering. "The gears were wearing very rapidly due to the degraded oil quality and high stress environment. Apart from having to over-service the boxes, we were experiencing numerous gear failures. The debris from the broken gear would then literally destroy the entire box."

The Schottel SRP's gearbox casings are nearly $30,000 each. Add that to the high turnover of internal parts, the extra man-hours required to service the units (typically around 70) and the lost revenue due to down-time and you're starting to run up quite a bill!

Enter Castrol's Optigear BM100. Manufactured by specialty lubricant maker and Castrol Group Company, Optimol, BM100 is a truly remarkable product. Not only can it tolerate a staggering 15% water dilution, it contains the revolutionary "Microflux Trans" anti-wear technology that can dramatically extend oil drain periods, often by as much as five times.

The upshot of this exercise was that Sydney Ferries not only stopped losing whole gearboxes, but immediately extended their previous best service time of just 1400 hours, to over 5000 hours.

"We pay very close attention to our preventative maintenance schedules," continues Mr McTaggert. "We have also installed monitoring equipment that gives us a better indication of the machinery's condition at any given time. This, together with Castrol's Optigear oil, has enabled us to further extend our relubrication interval to two years (10,000 hours)."

As this whole saga occurred at the time of Sydney's Olympic bid, it was quite a relief to our Ferry operators to have this worrying and expensive situation solved.