Ask a Captain and Chief’ is the VIRGINIA V’s new advice column, where Captain Dale Pederson and Chief Engineer Joe Schmitt respond to your questions about commanding a ship and operating an engine room. No question is too small, too big, or too technical! To submit a question, please email

Dear Chief Engineer…

What regulations do you need to adhere to these days, and do those regulations require any periodic tear down and inspection of the boiler? – Maddie

Dear Maddie,

This is an excellent question, and one that truly warrants a 3-page, single spaced answer. I’ve done my best to be succinct.

The S.S. VIRGINIA V is a U.S. Coast Guard inspected vessel.  As a vessel under 100 gross tons, certified to carry 150 or less passengers, the vessel is subjected to the regulations specified in Subchapter “T” of Title 46 (Shipping) of the Code of Federal Regulations (Parts 175-185).  In the maritime industry, you will hear a vessel of such particulars referred to as a “T-Boat”.  Subchapter “T” provides a codification of applicable regulations for vessel construction, inspection and certification, stability and watertight integrity, lifesaving equipment, fire protection equipment, machinery installations, electrical installations, and operations.

Subpart “H” (Part 176) of Subchapter “T” requires pressure vessels and boilers to be tested and inspected in accordance with the requirements set forth in 46 CFR Part 61 in Subchapter “F” (Machinery Engineering).  The inspection and testing requirements are based on the Maximum Allowable Working Pressure (MAWP) of the boiler, the basic design of the boiler (watertube vs. firetube) and the vessel’s service (passenger vessel vs. other vessel). Since the vessel’s watertube boiler is rated at a pressure of 250 psi, we must perform the following inspections and tests, in the presence of a U.S.C.G. Machinery Inspector, at the following intervals:

  1. Hydrostatic pressure test to 1.25X the boiler’s MAWP – 2.5 years.
  2. Main and auxiliary steam piping hydrostatic pressure test to 1.25X MAWP – 2.5 years.
  3. Fireside inspection (internal fire box) – 2.5 years.*
  4. Waterside inspection (steam drum, mud drum, borescope of generating tube internals) – 2.5 years.*
  5. Safety valve pressure testing (verify lift pressure and blowdown) – 2.5 years.**
  6. Boiler valve inspection – 5 years.
  7. Boiler valve stud and bolt inspection – 10 years.
  8. Boiler mount inspection (requires removal of all boiler valves) – 10 years.
  9. Steam pressure gauge calibration – 2.5 years.

*       Our engineers conduct a boiler waterside inspection annually to ensure that the boiler water chemistry protocol is effective in protecting boiler drum and steam generating tube internals.  In addition, the boiler firesides are also examined each year to check the burner throat and diffuser, external tube surfaces, and firebox refractory condition.

**    The boiler safety valve testing is performed annually in conjunction with the vessel’s boiler automation test procedure (see below).

In addition to the above inspection and test requirements, during the Certificate of Inspection examination and the annual and periodic re-inspections, the U.S.C.G. approved boiler automation test procedures must be conducted in the presence of a U.S.C.G. Machinery Inspector.  The automation test procedure verifies the proper function of the following boiler operational safety features:

  1. Low boiler drum water level alarm.
  2. Low boiler drum water level fuel trip.
  3. High boiler drum water level alarm.
  4. Low steam pressure alarm.
  5. High steam pressure alarm.
  6. High steam pressure fuel trip.
  7. Safety valve pressure test.
  8. Flame failure alarm and trip.
  9. Low fuel pressure alarm and trip.
  10. Low atomizing steam pressure alarm and trip.
  11. Low forced draft fan pressure alarm and trip.

Rest assured, the focus of our vessel engineers is the safety of our passengers, crew, and the S.S. VIRGINIA V. 


Joe Schmitt, Chief Engineer

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