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Oil lubricated sterntube bearing, sterntube seals & shafting arrangement

The sterntube bearing serves two important purposes. It supports the tailshaft and a considerable proportion of the propeller weight. It also acts as a gland to prevent the entry of sea water to the machinery space.

Early arrangements used bearing materials such as lignum vitae (a very dense form of timber) which were lubricated by sea water. Most modern designs use an oil lubrication arrangement for a white metal lined sterntube bearing. One arrangement is shown in Figure below

Oil is pumped to the bush through external axial grooves and passes through holes on each side into internal axial passages. The oil leaves from the ends of the bush and circulates back to the pump and the cooler. One of two header tanks will provide a back pressure in the system and a period of oil supply in the event of pump failure. A low-level alarm will be fitted to each header tank.

Oil pressure in the lubrication system is higher than the static sea water head to ensure that sea water cannot enter the sterntube in the event of seal failure.

Oil lubricated sterntube bearing
Fig:Oil lubricated sterntube bearing

Sterntube seals

Special seals are fitted at the outboard and inboard ends of the tailshaft. They are arranged to prevent the entry of sea water and also the loss of lubricating oil from the stern bearing.

Older designs, usually associated with sea water lubricated stern bearings, made use of a conventional stuffing box and gland at the after bulkhead. Oil-lubricated stern bearings use either lip or radial face seals or a combination of the two.

Lip seals are shaped rings of material with a projecting lip or edge which is held in contact with a shaft to prevent oil leakage or water entry. A number of lip seals are usually fitted depending upon the particular application.

Face seals use a pair of mating radial faces to seal against leakage. One face is stationary and the other rotates. The rotating face of the after seal is usually secured to the propeller boss. The stationary face of the forward or inboard seal is the after bulkhead. A spring arrangement forces the stationary and rotating faces together.


There may be one or more sections of intermediate shafting between the thrust shaft and the tailshaft, depending upon the machinery space location. All shafting is manufactured from solid forged ingot steel with integral flanged couplings. The shafting sections are joined by solid forged steel fitted bolts.

The intermediate shafting has flanges at each end and may be increased in diameter where it is supported by bearings. The propeller shaft or tailshaft has a flanged face where it joins the intermediate shafting. The other end is tapered to suit a similar taper on the propeller boss. The tapered end will also be threaded to take a nut which holds the propeller in place.

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