ON THE SEA AND
Today’s ships are much more than floating tanks. They are power
generation and wastewater treatment plants, HVAC systems, plumbing
and transmission pipelines all in one. Meanwhile, under the ground, the
nation’s mines offer up a wealth of solid materials that must be tapped
for use in many of this nation’s industrial processes.
These two sectors present the valve industry a unique set of challenges.
WIDE IN SCOPE
AND VALVE NEED
BY GREG JOHNSON
Most valve industry professionals who don’t live near the water,
have little idea of the breadth of the
marine valve industry. In the U.S., this
industry is vibrant and interesting and
equals many other valve industry segments in scope. It is stocked with virtually every type of valve, manufactured
out of a host of common and not-so-common materials. An unpowered
barge may contain a few valves for regulating ballast, while a modern supertanker will contain hundreds of valves
of all sizes and types.
COVER AND MARINE PHOTOS COURTESY GREG JOHNSON
The marine industry uses many types and styles of valves, from fuel valves in the towboats to large pressure relief valves as shown on this barge being finished at a Gulf Coast shipyard.
HISTORY OF MARINE
The birth of the steamship during the
industrial revolution kicked off the
marine valve industry. The steam and
fire-belching engines that turned pad-dlewheels and propellers throughout
the 1800s were all controlled by globe
valves made of iron and brass. During
the latter half of the 19th century,
these early steam valve designs were
adapted to other marine uses as the
industry grew rapidly.
The development of the U.S. Navy
“ironclads” (armored battleships) at
the turn-of-the century set the pace
for naval valve production that would
reach a towering peak during World
War II. Beginning in the mid-1950s,
the Naval valve industry would further
refine and define itself by providing
the unique valves required for Admiral
Hyman Rickover’s fledgling nuclear
THE MANY DUTIES OF
Marine valves perform a number of different duties both above and below
decks. For example, all vessels need
some form of energy to power their
engines, and valves regulate the loading
and storage of this commodity. There
may only be one fuel valve on a diesel
tugboat, but large cargo ships may have
a complicated system of pumps and
manifolds with multiple valves directing
the fuel to various tanks on the ship.
Oftentimes, these tanks are located at
strategic points on a large ship to aid in
the ballasting of the vessel.
Water ballast and bilge systems are