Case 2: Engine damage... or attempted fraud? Arntz uncovers the true events and saves insurance heaps of money.

A plausible story

A diesel engine fails, water enters the crankcase, the vessel is towed in for repairs.

According to the engineer, the engine at full throttle suddenly started shaking, there were some loud bangs and the engine block started showing cracks. Suspecting a broken piston, he shut the engine down right away. He thinks a cylinder may have suffered water hammer. His story makes perfect sense, and the cylinder cover is so severely damaged it is impossible to tell what exactly caused the water hammer. The injector has been smashed to pieces and the exhaust valve has lodged itself in the cylinder head bottom. The piston and piston rings have been shattered and the cylinder block has cracked in a number of places. The crankshaft is twisted. The engine is a total loss.

Something’s not right….

The story makes sense, the event is covered by insurance, but Arntz has a gut feeling about this case. Something’s not right…

The entire engine is removed from the vessel but not taken apart due to costs. The engine is sold to a scrape dealer, a new engine is installed. Damages amount to over 1 million euros.

Arntz has a bad feeling about all this and requests a piston be taken apart. The owner removes the piston from the engine and offers it to Arntz for inspection. The piston is found to be cracked in the piston ring grooves.

Arntz digs deeper. With the owner next to him, he takes a wrench and takes apart the oil splash plate at the bottom of the piston, where he finds… sand !? The owner claims the sand must have gotten in there at the scrape yard. Arntz sends out a sample for testing and learns it is sea sand. How could that have gotten in at the scrape yard premises? The owner solemnly swears this is the actual piston from the damaged engine.

The true events

After careful examination, Arntz establishes the true series of events. A vessel with a similar engine had sunk some time before, with the engine running. The vessel was salvaged, declared a total loss and scraped. The engine was identical in make and type to the engine involved in the damage case. Arntz now knows why the piston started cracking (sudden cooldown) and how the sea sand got in (several weeks lying on the seabed).

As it turns out, the owner had hoped to cover up his self-inflicted damage by using parts from the similar engine of the recently sunk vessel. In actual fact, the injector on the cylinder in question had loosened and the space above the piston had filled up with oil. When the engine was started after replacing the injector, the effect was that of water hammer (water on the piston).

The motive for this attempted fraud? A vessel owner in a financial predicament, and the simple fact that a vessel with a new engine fetches a lot more money than with a relatively old one. The result: considerable savings for the insurers.

Case 1:

Arntz exposes a design error and prevents further mishap.
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