An LNG tanker experienced a fracture of the solid tail shaft, which is a section of the main drive shaft. The tail shaft was made of a forged low-carbon steel. In spite of two ultrasonic inspections, a large defect the size of a football in the center of the shaft was missed. During heat treating following forging, it was surmised that the defect led to the propagation of an internal brittle crack, or clink. A fatigue crack propagated from this origin to the outer surface of the shaft after about a year of service. Finally a last ligament of a few square inches held the shaft together and broke, leading to the separation of the shaft. The cause of failure was fatigue crack initiation and crack growth under reverse bending cyclic stresses. There was no indication that misalignment existed because there was no indication of fretting at the bolt holes in the flange at the end of the shaft. In the case of this shaft, a solution would have been to machine the core of the shaft to remove the brittle material or to use a tubular shaft.
M. Lam, Fracture of the Low Carbon Steel Tail Shaft on a Tanker Ship, ASM Failure Analysis Case Histories: Offshore, Shipbuilding, and Marine Equipment, ASM International, 2019, https://doi.org/10.31399/asm.fach.marine.c9001511
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