April 07 2018 0Comment
Underwater Services Company Lome, Piraeus, Globally BEVALDIA

Propeller Blades Cropping

Effect on Engine Performance and Torsional Vibrations


At times it is essential to take a remedial action, with due caution and after deliberation and though it may not be the ideal solution but keeping the ‘commercial aspects and commitments’ in mind, it proves to be a well calculated risk worth taking! Discovery of serious cracks in one blade of the propeller when the vessel is at the repair berth towards the end of the repair period, with no plans of the Owners to dry dock the vessel and very important to fulfill the commitments made to the Charterers for delivery of vessel, can be a challenge, requiring such a remedial action. The blades of the propeller were cropped after identification of the end of the cracks, which were about 500 mm long 760 mm apart at the tips, emanating from the blade tip radially inwards. The radius of the cropped blades was reduced to 0.797 R.


While the vessel was undergoing repairs and inspections for completion of a Special Survey, alongside a shipyard repair berth, with no schedule of dry docking of the vessel, it was observed, during a routine propeller inspection by vessel’s Chief Engineer, that one of the propeller blades was having two visible cracks.


There were no tell-tale signs of any mechanical impact] damage on the blades. The blade profile was found to be smooth and the area between the cracks was also found to be following the natural profile of the blade. The cracks appeared to be gradually propagating, over some period of time, as the surface of the cracked area was found to have turned brownish and eroded. Ellie cracks were found split with a gap of 2-2.5 mm and light could be seen passing through the cracks. All the blades were then closely inspected and a thorough dye penetrant test carried out on the tips of all the blades, which did not reveal any other crack.


Manganese Bronze propellers require careful heat treatment after any repair work in order avoid locked up stresses and in turn stress corrosion in service. In the absence of any mechanical impact or damage, it was opined that these cracks were associated with a previous repair about 7 months ago and were caused by stress corrosion. On closer inspection, the blade was found to be having cracks as follows:


Makers were asked to comment on available options- Leaving the blades as it is, after drilling crack arresting holes at the root of the cracks. Possibility to carry out the metal locking Cropping of the blades as a solution till next scheduled dry docking (more than 2 years away) Considering the extent of the cracks propagation and the pattern of the cracks with distance on top to the cracks being 760 mm and at the ends of the cracks as 480 nun, it was feared that leaving the propeller blade with only holes drilled may result in the wedge, thus formed, breaking away. This may cause further damage to the blade, excessive vibrations, necessitating emergency docking/repairs. The option of metal locking was also dropped due to above reasons. Cropping of the blades, besides the permanent repairs, was found to be a viable solution and the makers of the propeller were contacted to comment of the effects of the cropping of the blades. from their experience, on:

  1. Performance of the engine with regards to Power/ Revolutions/Speed relationship.
  2. Vibrations

The information provided by the makers was very encouraging “experience has shown that ihe effects upon the ship’s performance are surprisingly small. For instance, the changes in the speed may be of the order of 0.1 knots and the increase in revolutions may be of the order of 3-5%” “because the opposite blade is also to be cropped, there will be no static imbalance in the propeller. Although the cropped tips will perform differently in a hydrodynamic sense, experience has shown that this does not cause excessive or undue vibration. Indeed, we would fully expect that there will be virtually no change in the propeller’s apparent performance “because the cropped lips no longer have a proper shape some cavitation effects will be experienced. This obviously limits the length of the lime that a ship can continue in service but is something of an unknown quantity. However, it is known to have a quite a number of vessels to continue for 2-3 years in this condition with only minor cavitation damage which is rectified during the main repair. The decision to crop the blades was thus made and the opposite, healthy blade was also equally cropped off and sent to the Maker for casting the blade tips.

The blades were cropped as per following dimensions:

Shown here under a sketch of the blades in actual present working condition:


Torsional Vibrations: After the vessels sailed out of the port, Chief Engineer advised a difference in the vibration pattern. The earlier determined critical range, during the New Building Stage were no more valid. It was considered essential to carry out the “Torsional Vibration Analysis” by an authorized and reputed company. The analysis was carried out under fine weather conditions and with no significant rolling of the vessel throughout the entire measurement period.

Following instrumentation was used

  • RS 256-461 1000 pulse/rev Shaft Encoder
  • Scientific – Atlanta Model 25 12, Calibrator
  • Scientific – Atlanta Model 2509, Signal Conditioner
  • e Ono Sokki CF Analyzer

All torsional vibration readings were measured in angular velocity form i.e. Degrees/sec. For comparison to the baseline data, all recorded signals were then digitally integrated to angular displacement (degree) units within the Analyzer. In order to investigate the full torsional vibration characteristic, measurements were taken between engine Dead Slow and maximum speed with the following intervals –

  1. 40 – 60 RPM – readings were taken with 5 mm interval.
  2. 60 – 75 RPM – (Designed Critical RPM Range) – readings were taken at 1 RPM interval.
  3. 75 – 97 RPM – readings were taken at 3 RPM interval.
  4. 97 – 103 RPM – readings were taken at I RPM interval.
  5. 103 – 112 RPM – readings were taken at 5 RPM interval.
  6. 112- 114 RPM – readings were taken at 1 RPM interval.


Under all measured shaft running speed conditions, the fifth harmonics component was found to be dominating in the angular velocity spectra. In general, the torsional vibration amplitudes over the entire engine operating speed range had not varied significantly when compared to the data collected prior to the cropping of the blades. However, it is evident from the following figures that the critical speed range has been shifted to a higher value i.e. from 60-75 RPM previously to its current range of 65- 80 RPM. The newly determined peak is occurring at 69 RPM, in the previous readings, it was 65 RPM.

This Observation ties in with the theory that cropped off propeller blade tips have effectively reduced the moment of inertia of the engine-propeller system while the torsional stiffness remains unchanged- resulting in a shift of the torsional resonance i.e. at the critical speed. Despite the characteristic shift, only a marginal increase in overall-vibration levels has taken place while a mild reduction of the fifth order component was also observed, at the “new peak”. In addition, the torsional vibration levels remained almost unchanged outside the critical range i.e., below 60 RPM and above 80 RPM.

Hence as far as the Torsional Vibrations were considered, no significant increase of overall-amplitudes had been observed within the newly discovered critical speed range and vibration levels also remained almost unchanged outside the critical speed range.


Further vibration tests were performed to ascertain the effectiveness of the Electric balancer and to check the linear vibrations on the wheel house. Vibration levels in the fore-aft direction, in line with the imbalanced propelling forces was felt to be significantly higher. The Electric Balancer reduces the engine shaft torsional significantly whilst it has no effect on the Wheel House deck linear vibration. Results showed that the second order shaft running frequency was critical and fell within the region of “Easily noticeable & Troublesome threshold” Further tests to identify “whether the hull vibration will cause any possible structural damages and /or induce bodv-fatigue to crew members” were recommended.


A comparative study was carried out between Shaft speed (RPM) “RPM range the engine was operating prior to cropping of blades ” to the “RPM range was operating after cropping of the blades”. It was observed that the average RPM had increased from IOI- 107 to 109-112. The second range is the during which engine operated with cropped blades. Thus, the increase in average RPM has been about 6% to deliver about the same load. The effect of increase in the RPM reflected in the higher exhaust temperatures and an increase in the specific fuel consumption.

The variations in the parameters are as follows:

Increase in fuel consumption % (A) 3.9 | (B) 3.20

Increase in RPM % (A) 5.8 | (B) 6.1

Increase in Exhaust Temperature % (A) 10.6 | (B) 10.5

(A) Values from day to day parameters | (B) Values when Indicator Cards are taken


The propeller blades were closely inspected (underwater) after 9 months of their cropping and the results were very satisfactory. There is some minor cavitation at tow isolated places but in general, the blades are free of any nicks, stress raisers at the tips. The cropped blades especially were found to be in very good condition.


The propeller has been performing well, without causing any undue torsional vibrations and adverse effect of concern on the engine performance. Some of the effects are as follows:

The critical speed range has shifted to a higher value i.e. from earlier range of 60-75 RPM to present range of 65-80 RPM.
The newly determined peak is occurring at 69 RPM, compared to earlier peak of 65 FOM.
No significant increase of overall-amplitudes has been observed within the newly discovered critical speed range and vibration levels have remained almost unchanged outside the critical speed range.
Second order shaft running frequency fell within the region of “Easily noticeable & ‘l Troublesome Threshold” and requires further tests to identify “Whether the hull vibration will cause any possible structural damages and/or induce body-fatigue to crew members”
For about the same power/Ship speed, there has been an increase in following parameter values-

* Fuel Consumption – by about 3.2%

* RPM -by about

* Exhaust Temperature by about 10.5%

Peak Pressures fell by about 8%
Physical Inspections have not revealed serious cavitation and/ or any further cracks.


The author is indebted to Mr. V. Khurana, General Manager

(Technical – Chellaram Shipping Ltd.) for his valuable support and contribution.