MONITORING critical areas of a ship helps prevent collision or grounding due to engine breakdown, which often cause personal and environmental tragedies. A monitoring system provides early warning of malfunctions in machinery, but current standards for monitoring often require older vessels to install an entirely new systems. The Bergesen shipping company chose to have Moland Automation retrofit their older vessels. ''When we decided to invest in life-extension for our pre-1978 tankers, we looked for reputable and reliable suppliers with cost-effective products,'' said Ingvar Aspen, Bergesen's electrical engineer. ''We can install a wholly new system adapted to the ship in minimum time - even while the vessel is earning its keep,'' said Moland Automation president Otto Knudsen. ''That's because of our long ship-board experience, and because our systems are easy to program and adapt readily to existing cables and sensors.'' Moland systems have now been installed in about 150 vessels, of which about 30 are older ships upgraded to the classification societies' standards for documentation and functionality of alarm systems. The system shows the machinery's status on a screen, print-outs and existing signal panel. New alarm lists are printed out immediately after installation. ''Our system is based on completed modular units,'' Mr Knudsen said. ''Software is adapted during installation so that every ship gets its own tailor-made model after we've carried out a detailed requirement analysis.'' The manufacturer claims that installing modern alarm and monitoring systems saves money. These systems allow more preventive maintenance to be carried out on the equipment being monitored. ''A lot of old systems are out of production, making spare parts and maintenance costly,'' said Mr Knudsen. ''Our system is virtually maintenance free. Replaceable module cards along with our 24-hour telephone service means that the ship's crew can service the system in a cost-effective way.'' Classification societies that have technically approved the Moland alarm and monitoring system include ABS, BV, GL, Lloyd's, NKK and Norske Veritas. The company is also known for its voyage recorders and ship data loggers. It also sells its alarm systems to the high-speed ferry market.