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The engine room of a motor vessel typically contains several engines for different purposes. Main, or propulsion engines are used to turn the ship's propeller and move the ship through the water. They typically burn diesel oil or heavy fuel oil, and may be able to switch between the two. There are many propulsion arrangements for motor vessels, some including multiple engines, propellers, and gearboxes.
Large engines drive electrical generators that provide power for the ship's electrical systems. Large ships typically have three or more synchronized generators to ensure smooth operation. The combined output of a ship's generators is well above the actual power requirement to accommodate maintenance or the loss of one generator.
On a steamship, power for both electricity and propulsion is provided by one or more large boilers giving rise to the alternate name boiler room. High pressure steam from the boiler is used drive engines: reciprocating engines or turbines for propulsion, and turbo generators for electricity. Besides propulsion and auxiliary engines, a typical engine room contains many smaller engines, including generators, air compressors, feed pumps, and fuel pumps. Today, these machines are usually powered by small diesel engines or electric motors, but may also use low-pressure steam.
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