SUMED 4 is one of seven SUMED service boats fitted with Thordon SXL tailshaft bearings; Source: Thordon Bearings

Seven vessels servicing oil pipeline running from Persian Gulf to Mediterranean get an upgrade

Canada-headquartered Thordon Bearings has retrofitted seven special purpose, single point mooring (SPM) service boats, which are servicing the SUMED pipeline, operated by Egypt’s Arab Petroleum Pipeline Company (SUMED).

SUMED 4 is one of seven SUMED service boats fitted with Thordon SXL tailshaft bearings; Source: Thordon Bearings

According to Thordon, the tailshaft conversion to its SXL seawater-lubricated bearing system has been completed for seven SUMED pipeline SPM service boats. The final vessel in a series of 17.5m (57.4 ft) long service boats had its original oil-lubricated tailshaft bearings replaced with the Thordon system at Nefertiti Marine’s Yard-K, in Rosetta Nile, in December 2022. The first vessel, SUMED 10, was converted in 2019.

Furthermore, Nefertiti Marine also provided classification approval drawings and advised on the installation process through to commissioning along with SXL tailshaft bearings machined for shaft diameters of 95 mm. All 1976–built seven service boats received the same scope of supply. The company explains that the water-lubricated tailshaft arrangement negates the need for an aft seal, which is prone to failure, resulting in oil pollution, costly repairs, and downtime. A forward seal is required in an open system.

While referring to the first installation, Karim Abd El Karim, Engineering Manager with Nefertiti Marine, Thordon Bearings’ authorized distributor in Egypt, who has overseen the completion of all seven conversions, remarked: “Oil was leaking from the shafts, and the operator was looking for a longer lasting bearing solution, resistant to abrasive waterways. We proposed the SXL material as the right solution to meet all performance and environmental needs. The vessel owner agreed.

“The success of that first installation, together with the reliability and availability of Thordon’s SXL bearings, lead times, and Nefertiti Marine’s engineering expertise, gave us the confidence to convert all our special purpose service boats to seawater lubrication. The perennial problem of worn aft seals leaking oil into the sea and canal has now been solved.”

Moreover, SUMED’s fleet of service boats assists tankers in loading shipments from the SUMED oil pipeline. The pipeline, which runs from the Ain Sokhna terminal in the Gulf of Suez to Sidi Kreir port in the Mediterranean Sea, provides an alternative to the Suez Canal for transporting oil from the Arabian Gulf region to the Mediterranean.

SXL tailshaft bearing shown in situ bearings are installed on the interior of the wheels; Source: Thordon Bearings
SXL tailshaft bearing shown in situ bearings are installed on the interior of the wheels; Source: Thordon Bearings

Neil McDonald, Thordon Bearings’ Regional Manager – Northern Europe & Africa, commented: “We are delighted that SUMED has put its trust in our zero-pollution, low-maintenance bearings to deliver environmental and economic benefits.

“Based on the success of that first installation, the other vessels in the fleet spent less time in drydock, reducing vessel downtime considerably. The company is now looking at converting greased deck equipment bearings and rudder bearings to our grease-free ThorPlas-Blue bearings.”

Thordon Bearing further underlines that its SXL and ThorPlas-Blue non-metallic bearings are “ideal solutions” for the tugboat, dredger, and other coastal workboat operators looking to convert their closed oil-polluting seal system to solutions more in-line with their environmental, sustainability, and governance goals.

“Compared to oil-lubricated metal bearings, SXL eliminates shaftline pollution forever. We are seeing increased market interest for Thordon’s water-lubricated and grease-free seal and bearing products across the Middle East,added McDonald.

While an open SXL water-lubricated bearing system is less expensive than new, white-metal bearings that operate with two oil seals, the firm points out that vessel operators looking to convert should do so before existing shaft liners are too worn, as it may be possible to use existing shaft liners and simply replace the bearings, providing additional cost advantages.

“With the completion of these conversions, Thordon Bearings continues to grow its retrofit market, while increasing workboat reliability and improving the environment in the waters of the Middle East,” underscored McDonald.