STORY Commercial Marine

Special missions of a service nomad

Posted on April 15, 2024 by Lucie Maluck

It took just 4 ½ weeks for Melik Meddur and his team to perform a major overhaul of the three Series 8000 units powering the ferry HSC Condor Liberation, operated by British operator Condor Ferries. They did the job with the engines in-situ, i.e. in the engine room itself. Quite a feat, but by no means a premiere for Melik. So what's life like for him as a Rolls-Royce 'service nomad'?
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Melik Meddur certainly has an unusual job. Home is on Lake Constance, in the far south of Germany, but his job takes him all over the world, and down into the engine rooms of megayachts, frigates, high-speed ferries and rail locomotives. That's where he's in his element. As a senior service technician for Rolls-Royce, Melik Meddur spends his time in the field. That makes him something of a modern-day nomad, always busy on locations that can be anywhere between Sydney, Dubai, China and California. His most recent port of call was Falmouth on Britain's south-west coast, where the three mtu 8000 units powering the HSC Condor Liberation were given a major overhaul.    

It gets even more exciting. Melik was once flown by private jet to the Maldives, where a multi-millionaire stranded on his yacht needed him to get his engines up and running again. Those are the fabled assignments he'll be telling his grandchildren about 40 years from now. But the reality is tough, all the same. Melik spends most of his time not up on deck, but down in the depths, in the engine room. That was the case on his recent British assignment, where he supervised a major overhaul of the three Series 8000 units aboard HSC Condor Liberation. It took place directly in the engine room, so it's very hard work. mtu Series 8000 units, with 9,100 kW output, are not just Rolls-Royce's most powerful engines, but also their biggest and heaviest – over 7 m long, almost 2 m wide, and over 40 tons in weight.  

Impressive figures: A 20-cylinder mtu Series 8000 engine is 7.4 metres long, 1.9 metres wide and 3.3 metres high and weighs 44 tonnes. Its output: 9,100 kw.

For Melik Meddur and his colleagues, work began a whole year prior to the officially scheduled overhaul date. He had his first meeting with the customer whilst the Austal-built trimaran was still in service, shuttling between Poole on the south coast of England and the Channel Islands. A shipyard had to be chosen for performing the overhaul and the timeline discussed. An ambitious timeline too, to ensure that the high-speed trimaran would not be out of action for any longer than absolutely necessary. “That's the beauty of maintenance in-situ. The engines stay put on the vessel, making the whole process much faster than if they had to be lifted out and shipped to our factory for overhauling,” he explained. For Melik and his colleagues in the back-office, that means meticulous preparation and making sure absolutely nothing out is left out. Over 10,000 spare parts had to be ordered. Just one missing component would slow the whole overhaul process down.

The new 102-metre-long Austal trimaran has been in service for the British ship operator Condor Ferries since 2015. The Condor Liberation is improving service between the British mainland and the islands of Guernsey and Jersey in the English Channel off the French coast.

10,000 parts for overhauling three engines  

“The real challenge lay in the fact that that the shipyard was in Falmouth on the south-west coast of England, far away from an urban area.   We had to make sure that our plans were watertight, since the next parts store was a long way away,” reported Melik. Suspense was in the air when the first six mechanics arrived on location on day X. Together with his core team, Meddur began preparations. The 10,000 spare parts were sorted and allocated to the three engines to ensure everything would be on hand.  

Then the 102-m ferry was brought to the dry dock, and work began in earnest. 37 technicians were on site, working in concert under Melik's direction. The difference between a technician out in the field and an assembly technician in a Rolls-Royce production plant lies in the fact that the latter specializes in a specific sub-assembly, while the former deals with the engine as a whole. He removes components, examines them for wear, replaces or refurbishes them, performs re-assembly,   and tests the engine before carrying out handover to the customer. The field technician has expert knowledge not just of the complex interplay that takes place between mechanical and electronic components, but of the inner workings of a whole variety of sub-assemblies, and of the air, coolant, oil and fuel circulation systems too. “Out in the field is where you learn. Each service mission is different and can challenge the individual as much as the whole team. That strengthens the bonds within the team,” said Melik.  

As team captain, his primary role is to avert chaos. On the British assignment, he'd set up three different workstations where the spare parts were arranged. That enabled the mechanics to disassemble the three 44-ton units simultaneously in the engine room and re-assemble them step by step. This involved removing, cleaning and re-painting parts such as water pipes, screws and housings. Other components such as cylinder heads, pistons, water pumps and charge-air coolers were renewed. “After 18,000 hours of heavy-duty use, they were pretty worn,” explained Melik.  

Melik Meddur is a senior service technician in the field at Rolls-Royce Power Systems and is at home in the engine compartments of ferries around the world.

Each assignment unique  

The team worked hand-in-hand, nine hours a day, six days a week, for 4 ½ weeks. Everything went like clockwork. “Not something you can take for granted,” commented Melik. Each day brings surprises. "You can plan as carefully as you want, but what state the engine will be in after 18,000 operating hours also depends on things like climate, duration of use, the driving style of the ship’s captain, and maximum acceleration and speed values.” So wear parts are subject to varying loads, meaning that it is not always possible to predict whether a part will need replacing by a new one, or can be re-conditioned on location. Parts showing grinding marks or other surface changes are, in case of doubt, forwarded to the in-house laboratory in Friedrichshafen for analysis by development engineers.  

Another factor is on-site collaboration with the customer. Meddur was in daily contact with the customer's Technical Manager. “We need to know exactly which customer and regulatory standards we have to comply with. By the same token, the customer also needs to be aware of our procedures.”   On the UK assignment, those procedures worked to perfection. Indeed, the trimaran was handed over to the customer ahead of schedule.  

Saying good-bye to family getting harder  

Everything ran so smoothly that Melik was able to return home to Lake Constance even earlier than planned. Waiting for him were his wife and two children. “Soon to become three,” he proudly announced.   Then it will become even harder for him to take leave of them. The senior technician loves his job, and his family too. “Reconciling the two is not easy,” he said with candour. Physically and psychologically, the job is very demanding. Every eight weeks, Melik travels to a different time zone, where he has to get used to the food and the climate. “I've got on a plane at thirty-two degrees, and got off at minus eight,” he grinned. “Then I discovered that my suitcase, with the only jacket I'd packed, was not on board.”  

Melik Meddur has a pretty special vocation – servicing mtu engines for Rolls-Royce customers around the world. His next mission is taking him to the Caribbean, a great chance to escape the grey German winter for a while. Perhaps there are worse things in life?  

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