Can your business risk to lose $4.5million?

With the size of turbines increasing, the wind industry needs to learn about the importance of fire safety in wind turbines. Fire is the second leading cause of accidents in wind turbines after blade failure. As our reliance grows on wind turbines, keeping them fully operational and at reduced levels of risk becoming more important, and as a result, so does safety management.  10-30% of all loss-of-power-generation incidents in wind power plants are due to fire. Fires in wind turbines not only lead to a loss of business continuity and a negative impact on the company’s reputation but also, most importantly, are a critical safety issue.

With predictions of much taller and more powerful turbines and thus fewer per project, ensuring that the they are in working order is essential, because the larger and fewer the turbines, the more costly they will be to operators in the event of fire damage. Due to the height and location of wind turbines, classic firefighting methods come up against their limits and therefore fire extinguishing systems that use gases such as carbon dioxide, inert gases or clean agents such as FM 200 fire suppression system

and Novec™1230, which are especially appropriate for dealing with fires in electrical systems because they extinguish the fire quickly whilst not damaging the electrical systems or the compartment in which they are being discharged. 

However, it is important to note that such fire extinguishing systems require maintenance to ensure they are fully operational and ready in event of a fire. ISO 14520-1:2015(E) assumes that these systems accidentally discharge and leak. 6.2.4.2 Contents indication: “Means shall be provided to indicate that each container is correctly charged.” Followed by “9.2.1.3 The storage container contents shall be checked at least every six months as follows. a) Liquefied gases: for halocarbon agents, if a container shows a loss of agent in quantity of more than 5 % or a loss of pressure (adjusted for temperature) of more than 10 %, it shall be refilled or replaced.”

Focused on continued advancement of safety technology, Coltraco have now developed the Permalevel® Multiplex, a fixed fire suppression monitoring system, designed for continuous contents verification. Permalevel® is designed to ensure that fire suppression systems are always fully operational and that no accidental discharge has occurred, which could affect the effectiveness of the overall fire protection system in the event of a fire. With guaranteed systems operations, adaptability for purpose, 24/7 remote access to the systems status, an uninterruptible power supply (UPS) and remote real-time monitoring, the Permalevel® offers the efficiency that is needed in a wind turbine.

For regular inspection, the Portalevel® MAX is a handheld ultrasonic liquid level indicator, which can service a cylinder in 30 seconds (in contrast to 15 minutes by traditional manual weighing) with accuracy of up to 1.5mm off the true liquid level. Portalevel® MAX builds on Coltraco Ultrasonics’ 30 years’ experience in designing, manufacturing and supporting ultrasonic liquid level indicating equipment, in 108 Countries and numerous market sectors and environments. The development program was born out of the desire to further improve on Coltraco’s existing 8 designs and taking on board feedback and opinions of our customers.

Coltraco Ultrasonics provide smart Firetest® solutions which enable wind turbine owners and operators to improve their fire safety management and reduce the risks to human life, business continuity caused by any downtime and thus minimise risk to reputation by delivering a Safesite®.

How are we failing to protect the crew by maintaining hatch covers?

Wrongly applied and poorly maintained cargo hatch covers and sealing systems increase the risk of cargo becoming damaged by water. The most common wet cargo problems include leaking cross joints, and compression bars, rubber gaskets, hatch coamings, drain channels and cleats in poor condition.

The importance of continually maintaining seal integrity must take a more prominent position in ship maintenance scheduling as demanded by regulations:

SOLAS Reg II-1/11.1  it states that hatches and watertight seals must be regularly tested: “Where a hose test is not practicable [sic] it may be replaced by [sic] an ultrasonic leak test or an equivalent test. In any case a thorough inspection of the watertight bulkheads shall be carried out.”

How have hatch covers been tested traditionally?

Chalk testing is used traditionally for visual inspection of the compression integrity of doors and hatches on vessels that hold the potential for flooding. Chalk is applied evenly around the knife edge, coaming compression bars or panel cross seams of doorways. The door/hatch is then closed and sealed. Once re-opened the rubber gasket which pushes against the knife edge is visually inspected for the chalk line. Any breaks in the chalk line indicate a lack of compression in that area. It must be noted that chalk testing is NOT a leak test, but only provides an indication of potential compression issues

The International Association of Classification Societies states that a chalk test must be followed by a hose test. The hose test is used in conjunction to determine the weather tightness of doors and hatch covers. The spray from a nozzle of 12mm diameter is sprayed from a distance of 1 to 1.5 meters with a water jet pressure of 0.5 ms-1 This test should help identify any leakage from the hatch joints, although the exact location of the leakage sight cannot be pinpointed.

Why are these methods no longer recommended by P&I clubs?

Various drawback come with chalk and hose testing, for instance;

  • The hold is required to be empty as cargo can be damaged by water. This is not always possible and certainly poses more issues once the ship is laden with goods. 
  • The test requires drains to be opened posing a genuine pollution risk. 
  • Two people are required to carry out the test effectively. 
  • Cannot be performed in sub-zero conditions.
  • Water pressure and distance can affect results.
  • Time-consuming.

Both of these tests are time-consuming and sometimes completely impractical. Some circumstances have been highlighted that prevent this test from being conducted such as the hose test if dry cargo is within the hold being tested but these tests conducted at port or in dry dock will never reproduce conditions when the ship is at sea and therefore cannot expect to achieve the same standard. Claims resulting from water damage due to leaking hatch covers still contribute a huge part of the overall loss figures on dry cargo ships. This method is neither accurate nor time effective.

What is the alternative?

Ultrasound.

The Swedish P & I club recommend using Ultrasound. As stated in their 2018 report “A much more effective method is to use an ultrasonic device, which is designed for this purpose and can pinpoint the area which is leaking, and if the compression of the gasket is sufficient. The advantages of using this type of equipment are evident, since ultrasonic tests can be carried out during any stage of the loading without risking cargo damage. The test can also be completed in sub-zero temperatures. The ultrasonic test should be carried out as per the class requirements.” 

Ultrasonic testing is a dramatically more sensitive, accurate and reliable method for cargo hatch cover testing, bulkheads and doors for watertight integrity on all vessels. A multi-directional ultrasound emitter is placed in a hold. The opening being tested is then sealed and the receiver switched on ready to receive any leakage of ultrasound via a set of headphones. An increased reading of ultrasound signal signifies an issue with the integrity of the door/hatch. Further, and closer inspection will allow identification of any specific leakage sight along with the severity. This test will take approximately 10 minutes and requires only one operator. 

Which is the best ultrasonic test kit for hatch cover testing?

Owners, managers, marine surveyors, third party servicing companies and other mariners have pledged their support for the Portascanner® WATERTIGHT for years.
For 3 simple reasons: “it is faster, better, cheaper” than any competitor. But don’t take Coltraco Ultrasonics’ word for it, here are 3 customer testimonials:

We did some transit inspection work on one of our customers vessel using the Portascanner and we are very pleased with your instrument. We are looking forward extending our service offer using it.” – Techsol Marine, Canada

“The fleet was equipped with a unit per Bulk Carrier and the units are and working well, providing the confidence that there will be no problems with water damage claims.” Ship Management Company

“Our PORTASCANNER WATERTIGHT unit performed well during the entire period of use, proved rugged and we feel sure that if it had not required returning for mandatory calibration and certification, the unit would have performed well for many more years to come.” Captain J.F. Holmes, Botrans

The Portascanner® WATERTIGHT is:

  • Faster: designed for ease of use from poorly educated crew up to chief engineer – no need for extensive and expensive training courses, simply read the operating instructions in the kit and away you go
  • Better: most mathematically accurate to 0.06 (+/-0.02mm) to identify leak integrity quickly and easily allowing prompt maintenance if required
  • Cheaper: never beaten on price guarantee from Coltraco Ultrasonics who are used to serving the world’s leading fleets for 30 years

The Portascanner® generator is the most efficient of all on the market. Unlike the old “Hedgehog Generator”, the Portascanner® generator has excellent battery life, is light and small, has magnetic mount, is highly sensitive and uses smart pinpoint technology to direct ultrasound to the seals during testing.

Coltraco Ultrasonics’ mission delivering Safeship® solutions to improve safety of life, assets and vessels at sea. They do  by manufacturing high quality British instrumentation, supplied to over 100 countries worldwide, since 1987. Coltraco Ultrasonics focus on benefitting the crew; designing innovative ultrasonic solutions which the crew will be happy to use by being easy to operate, quick, accurate and a better method to traditional techniques. Thus increasing the likelihood of tests being regularly conducted, in line with regulations and even going above and beyond for more frequent testing. By so doing, the crew will be creating a safer ship.

Discover more about Coltraco Ultrasonics’ commitment to customer care and safety on www.coltraco.com.

Protect tankers from the risk of explosion 

Addressing fire in tankers is critical, especially when all owners and managers are seeking to reduce risk, cut costs and surge on safety. The safety of tankers is integral for the continuation of their business success. Catastrophic risks to human life, vessel, reputation and revenue all result from a fire event onboard. One simple step towards improving fire safety onboard is ensuring all equipment is intrinsically safe approved, to protect the crew against the risk of explosion. 

The risk of explosion on tankers means that technology inspecting the fixed fire suppression systems must be designed for the atmospheres on tankers. LNG is only dangerous when it meets an ignition source. The International Maritime Risk Rating Agency (IMRRA) placed 12.5% of tankers it assessed in 2017 into the higher risk category for their fire safety. 

SPECIFIC AREAS OF RISK

The engine room, motor rooms and cargo compressor rooms on tankers carrying LNG & LPG are often protected by CO2 fire suppression systems. Fully operative fire systems on an offshore platform is paramount and demanded by ISO 14520 and PFEER codes. Gaseous extinguishing systems are highly pressurised, the risk of leaking and discharging is accepted as part of their use, shown in the regulations that demand their upkeep e.g. IMO SOLAS FSS Ch5. 2.1.1.3. The systems are pressurised approximately 50 bars, significantly higher than a standard cup of water, which is just 1bar. It’s accepted that these systems are not passive but dynamic, thus requiring monitoring.

SERIOUS INCIDENTS

Serious cases of tanker fires and risks have been reported in the past years. In March 2017 there was an explosion on a Chinese Tanker, in which 3 crew members went missing and serious damage to the vessel was caused.  One of the most tragic incidents of 2018 was the Sanchi oil tanker explosion, on 6 January 2018. After the explosion on the tanker, tragically 31 crew members lost their lives. The Sanchi oil tanker was carrying 136,000 tonnes of natural gas condensate, and the estimate financial damage of the sinking of the vessel is estimated at $110 million.

 TRADITION VS TECHNOLOGY 

For the gaseous systems, the traditional method requires turning the system off, dismantling and manually weighing each cylinder on industrial scales. Routine maintenance is liable to be overlooked because the crew is unqualified to test or insufficient attention is given by the owner of the system. It’s neglected to the peril of the lives of occupants of the vessel and at the risk of crippling financial and reputational loss to the tanker.
Ultrasound should be harnessed by innovators in the safety of offshore platforms.  By utilising a sensor which acts as a transceiver, an ultrasonic liquid level indicator is capable of detecting liquid levels within any single-skinned container through transmitting an ultrasonic pulse and analysing the strength of the returned signal to determine the level of contents.  Importantly, due to the risk of explosion on the oil and gas tankers, ultrasonic liquid level indicators used on board to ensure fire safety, must be Intrinsically Safe. 

APPROVE THE APPROVAL METHODS

Intrinsically Safe is a design technique applied to electrical equipment and wiring for hazardous locations. The technique is based on limiting energy, electrical and thermal, to a level below that required to ignite a specific hazardous atmospheric mixture. 

LEADING OPERATORS LEAD ON FIRE SAFETY

At the request of Shell and similar Tanker Operators, Coltraco Ultrasonics have designed an Intrinsically Safe, ATEX Zone 1 Approved, ultrasonic liquid level indicator which offers unparalleled accuracy, speed and ease of use.  Using innovative methods of inspecting leaking cylinders with ultrasonics, enables identification in under 30 seconds using Portalevel® Intrinsically Safe with one person, instead of the traditional 15 minutes, with two people laboriously weighing. Using ultrasonic technology - to pinpoint the liquid level of suppressant agent in the cylinders of the extinguishing system- testing is quicker and easier.

Ensuring that the fire safety systems on board the gas tankers are operational, via smart ultrasonic technology, designed specifically for explosive atmospheres, is essential for protecting lives, the vessel and the cargo.

CASE STUDY: Corrosion in Metal Work

WHO? Vales Point Power Station

WHERE? Delta, Australia. The coal fired power station is at the southern end of lake Macquarie. This power station was built in the 1960’s as a four-unit station, but now operates two 660 MW generating units. The power station is owned and operated by Power International, with the capacity of around 1,320 megawatts, providing 24 hours of around the clock electricity.

WHAT? Corrosion in power plants leads to costly repairs, prolonged maintenance, material losses, poor performance and, if left untreated, failure. In power plants, corrosion is the primary factor leading to costly and critical downtimes. The water-steam circuits in fossil and nuclear power plants are inherently prone to corrosion, as metal components are constantly in contact with water. When corrosion affects systems carrying steam or hot water—such as pipes—material or welds may fail, causing bodily injury or death. Water, steel and dissolved oxygen within boiler units causes boiler tubes to oxidize and corrode. The corrosion forms grooves within the tubes that lead to cracks and boiler failures. Corrosion can account for up to 75 percent of a plant’s arrest time during maintenance and up to 54 percent of production costs.

HOW? To protect against the threat of corrosion, Vales Point Power Station bought a Portagauge® for testing normal structure and stainless steel, so that they could monitor corrosion rates. The Portagauge® 3 is a single-echo portable ultrasonic thickness gauge. The quick, simple and hardy Portagauge® 3 allows accuracy of ±0.1mm even on corroded, challenging and some plastic surfaces. With a 50 hour battery life, measuring thickness ranges between 1.5mm to 99.9mm and a variety of verified testing materials such as steel, quartz and glass PVC, the Portagauge® 3 provides the great amount versatility needed to suit a diversity of safety needs. The handheld highly dependable unit is ideal for a wide range of industrial applications such as fire cylinders, bulk heads, pipework, chemical equipment and oil storage tanks.

CASE STUDY : Oxygen Reduction System in a Data Centre

WHERE? Oxygen Reduction System, England

WHAT? A data centre is a facility that stores, manages and disseminates data.  Data centres are now supporting a variety of heavy industries such as mines.

WHY? Oxygen Reduction system works by taking Nitrogen from the air outdoors and pumping this into the room consistently in order to suppress oxygen levels, down to the level where combustion can no longer occur. To ensure the system works safely and efficiently, ultrasonic room integrity tester is of utmost important for two reasons: (1) A properly sealed room will contain the Nitrogen for a longer period of time, therefore putting less work on the air compressor in order to save energy. (2) If Nitrogen starts to leak from the Server Room, there are safety concerns over where this Nitrogen would leak to as it has the potential to harm occupants in other rooms if the Nitrogen leaks into their room and the oxygen levels were unmonitored.

HOW? Several areas were tested with an ultrasonic room integrity tester where leakage was probable and the readings were noted on the drawings. These were the doors, vents, cable penetrations and also sections of the wall where gaps were visible. The ultrasonic room integrity tester identified the main source of leaks for the room, the doors, where full readings were clearly detected. Multiple air vents in the room were also improperly sealed and some leakage was found into the external room. Cable penetrations leading to the area outside the Server Room were also found to be leaking. Once the required maintenance was conducted and assuming no changes were made to the room, it is safe to assume that the room retains its integrity, thus comply and exceed current ISO 14520 regulations requiring periodic inspections of room integrity whereby visual inspection is usually specified and is not sufficient.

WHAT? The most suitable way to address periodic inspections is through the use of ultrasound. The Portascanner® 520 uses ultrasonic technology to not only pinpoint precise leak locations, but to determine their leak apertures as small as 0.06mm with a tolerance of +/-0.02mm, making it by far the most accurate device for this function. Portascanner® 520 also provides interpretation of the fire resistance of the desired locations, labelling them either airtight or calculates the overall leakage of the room. The advantages of being able to accurately detect the exact leak locations and size are self-evident when considered alongside the resistance to collapse and transfer of excessive heat. In a case where there is too much leakage in a room, the Portascanner® 520 is an unrivalled ideal for the rapid and accurate identification of these sites so that they can be sealed. It is lightweight, fast and easy to use, allowing leak site detection to increase its operational efficiency and speed to a degree that has never been seen thus far in the Fire Industry.

Case study 4: Transformer oil levels in a copper, lead, silver, zinc and gold mine

WHERE? Gold Mine, Australia

WHAT? Transformers are used in electric power transmission and distributions and are devices that transfer electric power at different voltage levels. The main components within the transformers are the core and windings which are oil immersed. An oil conservator and Buchholz relay are also commonly found to monitor oil levels. Their combined function accommodates expansion and contraction of the oil in the main tank due to temperature changes or fault and also to provide audible alarms when the oil level falls below the minimum due to any leakages.

WHY? As transformers age, they become more likely to lose internal oil. It is important for oil levels in the transformer main tanks to be full, as they act as an insulator and allows the transformers to function efficiently. For transformers that are not fitted with an oil conservator or Buchholz relay, few means of ultrasonic oil level indicator inspection exist and traditional methods include inspection by opening the lid of the transformer.  When the lid is opened, the insulating oil is exposed to the moisture in the atmosphere and will increase the rate of oil deterioration causing the life of insulating oil to shorten. Shortened life spans lead not only to more frequent oil changes, but also significant downtime to the system when an oil change is conducted. Moisture in oil accelerates oxidation which results in the formation of acids and contributes to the formation of sludge. Over time, the sludge settles on the windings and the inside structures causing transformer cooling to be less efficient and an overall increase in transformer temperature which lowers its efficiency. Therefore, traditional methods of oil inspection inside transformers are not only time consuming and cumbersome, they also contribute directly to increased maintenance costs.

HOW? The Portalevel® MAX will be a safe, efficient and reliable solution to inspect oil levels in transformers non-invasively, typically in transformers that have no means of external oil indication. With the Portalevel® MAX, oil level inspection can be done routinely without opening the lid of the transformer and thus prevent unwanted moisture from being absorbed by the oil which deteriorates the oil. This practice is capable of prolonging the life span of the transformer oil whilst reducing the cost incurred from frequent oil changes and significant down time when a fault develops as a result of low oil levels or poor oil conditions.  

CASE STUDY Fire & Explosion:

WHO? NRG Energy

WHERE? The Morgan Town Plant is a coal powered power station based in Maryland. NRG own the USA’s largest and more diverse power generation competitive portfolio. NRG are dedicated to smart and reliable energy sourcing, and emission reductions although coal is a significant part of the electricity generation.

WHAT? Fires and explosions pose a constant threat to the safety of miners and to the productive capacity of mines. Mine fires and explosions traditionally have ranked among the most devastating industrial disasters. The prevention and control of fire and explosion in mines is fundamental. On a mine site, fire hazards may occur in and around process plants, underground conveyors, static and mobile plants, draglines, workshops, substations, monitored control rooms and switch rooms. All mines have highly expensive and mission critical equipment that typically operate day and night under extremely hostile conditions, in vast, remote and difficult to access environments, especially on underground equipment.

Gaseous fire suppression systems are the preferred systems installed to protect the high value asset and safeguard operators and processes so as to guarantee business continuity.

WHY? Gaseous extinguishing systems are pressurised, and therefore exist in a dynamic state i.e. they can leak. As supported by the BS EN ISO 14520 regulation, if clean agent cylinders leak beyond 5% of contents or 10% of pressure they will not extinguish a fire, as they will be below their design concentration.  As the “golden standard” of clean agent systems, BS EN ISO 14520 highlights the asset owner’s responsibility to check that the clean agents contents exist; that the protected space can be sealed; that the pipework used to discharge the clean agents are clear of particulates that can clog up the nozzles which reduces the amount of clean agent to the point where it cannot operate in the event of a fire.
HOW? After witnessing fire service experts undertaking ultrasonic liquid level indication in just minutes, NRG Energy were keen to change from their previous method of weighing which took over 15 minutes. The Portalevel® Max is an example of the technologically advanced techniques that the company are implementing to lead the way in safe and sustainable coal sourcing.  Portalevel® MAX is a handheld ultrasonic liquid level indicator to inspect CO2, clean agents and more liquefied gaseous agents, by one person in just 30 seconds as a safety critical asset, the Morgan Town Plant saw the necessity in investing into their fire safety.

CASE STUDY: Fire Safety in a Coal Powered Power Station

WHO? NRG Energy

WHERE? The Morgan Town Plant is a coal powered power station based in Maryland. NRG own the USA’s largest and more diverse power generation competitive portfolio. NRG are dedicated to smart and reliable energy sourcing, and emission reductions although coal is a significant part of the electricity generation.

WHAT? Fires and explosions pose a constant threat to the safety of miners and to the productive capacity of mines. Mine fires and explosions traditionally have ranked among the most devastating industrial disasters. The prevention and control of fire and explosion in mines is fundamental. On a mine site, fire hazards may occur in and around process plants, underground conveyors, static and mobile plants, draglines, workshops, substations, monitored control rooms and switch rooms. All mines have highly expensive and mission critical equipment that typically operate day and night under extreme hostile conditions, in vast, remote and difficult to access environments, especially on underground equipment.

Gaseous fire suppression systems was the preferred systems installed to protect the high value asset, safeguard operators and processes so as to guarantee business continuity.

WHY? Gaseous extinguishing systems are pressurised, and therefore exist in a dynamic state and can leak. As supported by the BS EN ISO 14520 regulation, if clean agent cylinders leak beyond 5% of contents or 10% of pressure they will not extinguish a fire event, as they will be below their design concentration.  As the “gold standard” of clean agent systems – BS EN ISO 14520 highlights the asset owner’s responsibility to check that the clean agents contents exist; that the protected space can be sealed; that the pipework used to discharge the clean agents are clear of particulates that can clog up the nozzles which reduces the amount of clean agent to the point where it cannot deal with the fire event.

HOW? After witnessing fire service experts undertaking ultrasonic liquid level indication in just minutes, NRG Energy were keen to change from their previous method of weighing. The Portalevel Max is an example of the technologically advanced techniques that the company are implementing to lead the way in safe and sustainable coal sourcing.  The Portalevel® MAX is an handheld ultrasonic liquid level indicator to inspect CO2, clean agents and more liquefied gaseous agents, by one person in just 30 seconds.  As a safety critical asset, the Morgan Town Plant saw the necessity in investing into their fire safety.

What risk does fire pose to the crew onboard vessels?

Lives are at stake. This is unacceptable.

Tragically in March 2018, 5 people lost their lives in the Maersk Honam fire. Financially, the damage from the fire will be the biggest on record, running into hundreds of millions of dollars. Disappointingly, this was not an unusual event. In container vessels alone, the past decade has seen a number of serious fires including MSC Flaminia in July 2012 causing up to $280 million of liability, Eugen Maersk in June 2013, APL Austria in February 2017 and MSC Daniela in April 2017. In July 2018, the merchant vessel SSL Kolkata sank due to a fire than ran for 3 weeks. From SSL Kolkata A number of containers already went into water and are floating in the area, endangering shipping.

What protects the crew from fire?

A ship’s gaseous extinguishing system typically comprises between 200 and 600 cylinders each containing 45KG of CO2 under high 720 psi/ 49 bar pressure. (Other suppressant clean agents such as FM-200® and Novec™1230 are becoming more widely used.)

How are we failing to protect the crew with these gaseous extinguishing systems?

Because gaseous extinguishing systems are highly pressurised, the risk of leaking and discharging is accepted as part of their use and this is shown in the regulations that demand their upkeep.

IMO SOLAS & FSS Code Chapter 2.1.1.3 - “Means shall be provided for the crew to safely check the quantity of the fire extinguishing medium in the containers.”

Some marine service companies estimate that 20% of a ship’s CO2 cylinders have discharged or partially leaked their contents at some point in their lifetime also know that occasionally marine “servicing companies” unintentionally leave it disabled.

What measures should be taken?

Fire protection on board is not unlike fire protection in buildings: If a fire breaks out and is not quickly brought under control, all that is left is a ruined shell, fit only for the wrecking ball. In turn, in the case of ships, a total write-off. To better protect the cargo on container ships, with a value running into many millions, it makes sense to modernize the on-board facilities for containing and extinguishing fires.”

There is a call to respond to regulations with a rigorous attitude, to go above and beyond, to provide security of life and infrastructure.
Currently, there is a failure to protect the lives of the crew. Ensuring the safety of the crew is not an option, it is a requirement.

What is the solution?

The crew must take responsibility for its own fire protection.

Using an ultrasonic liquid level indicator is the only way that the crew can safely test their CO2 without disturbing them. Coltraco Ultrasonics designed the Portalevel® MAX Marine & Portamarine® ultrasonic liquid level indicators, as radioactive units were being phased out. If shipping companies implemented the IMO SOLAS FSS codes by testing safely and quickly (just 30-60 seconds per cylinder) by using liquid level indicators and marine servicing companies were able to do their work without allowing for time pressures, then vessels would be far safer.

Solutions for the monitoring of the vessels gaseous extinguishing system exist:

  • Portalevel® MAX Marine liquid level indicators used by the crew weekly to test for contents
  • Portasteele® CALCULATOR converts the liquid level readings into a weight measurement, logging the recorded data with easy exporting via email. By reducing time needed for reports, more time can be spent on ensuring the safety of the vessel.
  • Portascanner® WATERTIGHT, watertight integrity test indicators used by the crew to test for compartmentation
  • Portapipe® pipework integrity indicators used to test for pipework obstructions and the Portagauge® thickness gauges for pipework corrosion

ACT NOW: Nuclear Power Plants Are Safety Critical

Continuous improvements and maintenance are required of the fire safety systems at nuclear power plants due to the safety critical nature of the site.  Incidents in nuclear power plants around the world have continued to demonstrate the vulnerability of safety systems to fire and its effects. The potential danger from an accident at a nuclear power plant is exposure to radiation to the people in the vicinity of the plume from the cloud and particles deposited on the ground, inhalation of radioactive materials and ingestion of radioactive materials. It is for this reason that the safety demands of the Atomic Energy Authority must be met.

The International Atomic Energy Authority state clearly in the Fire Safety in the Operation of Nuclear Power Plants standards that the effects of a single failure in fire safety systems, such as a system not performing its required function, can be detrimental. One example of this is the Chernobyl disaster a catastrophic nuclear accident which cost approximately 18 billion roubles and had a huge human impact. In this disaster a  combination of inherent reactor design flaws, together with the reactor operators arranging the core in a manner contrary to the checklist for the test, eventually resulted in uncontrolled reaction conditions that flashed water into steam generating a destructive steam explosion and a subsequent open-air graphite fire.  This fire produced considerable updrafts for about 9 days, that lofted plumes of fission products into the atmosphere, with the estimated radioactive inventory that was released during this very hot fire phase, approximately equal in magnitude to the airborne fission products released in the initial destructive explosion. Over thirty years later and investment into the site is still required, with Flamgard Calidair providing fire shut off dampers to the Chernobyl, as part of an €1.5 billion multinational engineering project. With fires at nuclear power plants still occurring, such as the 2017 power plant explosion at Flamanville, deemed “very serious” by industry experts, the call for advanced technology is of most importance. A significant technical issue led to a blast in the turbine hall in the unit, although there was no radioactive leak, a thorough investigation is being conducted into the concerning event.

Faced with this problem, a leading UK Nuclear family approached Coltraco Ultrasonics in 2003 and commissioned the first Permalevel™. Focused on continued advancement of safety technology, Coltraco have now developed the Permalevel™ Multiplex, a fixed fire suppression monitoring device, designed for permanent contents verification. The Permalevel  Multiplex™    is  designed  to  ensure  that fire  suppression  systems  are  always  fully operational and that no accidental discharge has occurred, which could affect the effectiveness of the overall fire protection system in the event of a fire at a nuclear power plant. The application of the Permalevel™ reaches further, with customers using this equipment in alternate specialist and confidential manners to ensure safety in the station. With guaranteed systems operations, adaptability for purpose, 24/7 remote access to the systems status, an interruptible power supply and remote real-time monitoring, the Permalevel offers the efficiency that is now a requirement at nuclear energy sites.

Industrial Application Case Study: Portalevel® MAX INDUSTRIAL testing Ammonia in Aerospace Component Factory

The UK aerospace industry is the second biggest in the world, with sales in the sector of £31.1billion last year. The aerospace industry is widely seen as the instigator of technology change in engineering disciplines. Within the bounds of manufacturing, the aerospace industry is the important testbed for developments in automation, assembly and inspection. The developments in the engineering of aerospace components often have implications for many other engineering sectors. Coltraco Ultrasonics received a request from an aerospace component manufacturer for an engineering solution for their manufacturing process.

A manufacturer of high end components for Aerospace and other high end engineering based in Wolverhampton, approached Coltraco for assistance with its monitoring of ammonia. The facilities manager met with Coltraco at a show in Birmingham, weeks prior. The facility runs 24/7, 265 days a year and is the size of around 2-3 football pitches. The facility is concerned mainly in manufacturing high end actuators that are installed on a range of civil and defence systems. Actuators are integral parts of modern engineering and their production is essential. The customer uses ammonia in a nitrating process in which ammonia is applied to heated metal, infusing the metal with the Nitrogen. This can have beneficial outcomes such as making the metal infuse with Nitrogen to make it harder, tougher and with higher melting temperatures. The factory asked Coltraco for a solution with its monitoring of the contents within the ammonia cylinders. This is specifically significant because if improperly managed, ammonia may threaten the safety of workers. To check that the ammonia cylinders had enough contents for a run, the manufacturer had been manually weighing the cylinders. However, manually weighing cylinders is inefficient, time consuming, risks damaging the system and injuring the personnel conducting the laborious test. This method also has been shown to incur waste which was costly to the manufacturer.

Coltraco presented an innovative non-invasive, accurate method that is quicker, much easier for the operator to test and thus, saves money. After a formal assessment by a Coltraco Engineer, the Portalevel® MAX  INDUSTRIAL was found effective in accurately and quickly identifying the liquid level indicator within the ammonia cylinders. Portalevel® MAX INDUSTRIAL allowed for more efficient operations and reduced waste by ensuring partially empty cylinders were not returned to the gas supplier. Coltraco offer comprehensive customer service and therefore designed an in-house testing and recording process that was compatible with the manufacturers current monitoring processes.

The Portalevel® MAX INDUSTRIAL builds on Coltraco Ultrasonics’ 30 years’ experience in designing, manufacturing and supporting ultrasonic liquid level indicating equipment, in 108 Countries and numerous market sectors and environments. The development program was born out of the desire to further improve on Coltraco’s existing 8 designs and taking on board feedback and opinions of our customers.

The trial and implementation stimulated interested in developing an Ammonia Portasteele® Calculator program to allow accurate conversion of the liquid level to agent mass/weight. The Portasteele® is an advanced calculator application, that currently converts the liquid level height of C02, NOVEC™ 1230 and FM-200® liquefied gaseous extinguishant agent readings taken on an ultrasonic non-destructive liquid level indicator device into the agent weight/mass. The Portasteele® offers unparalleled efficiency, ease of maintenance and simple training. This advanced technology is supplied on a stand-alone rugged hand-held 7” touch screen tablet which makes these advanced calculations in real time. Data is stored on the Calculator so the crew or service technician are able to easily send servicing reports back to the shore based managers or directly to customers, without having to manually upload the results onto a computer. Furthermore, the Portasteele® can convert an expected substance weight back to the required liquid level allowing users to anticipate where the level should be. The adaptability of Coltraco’s technology allows programs to suit the requirements of their customers purpose.

Turn Risk To Reward : know your upfront costs + maintenance costs = lifecycle cost

We know that the most important factor for our customers is to minimise risk. In fast paced businesses, downtime can be costly, financially, reputationally, and for the maintenance of safety practices. For safety critical environments, we understand that it is essential that the equipment used to improve protection must be fully operational at all times. So, take the chance to transfer the maintenance risk of your new Coltraco Ultrasonics equipment back to the original manufacturer with the Portacare® package. 

What is Portacare® ?

  • Portacare® is a total care package that provides enhanced after sales support
  • It goes above and beyond Coltraco’s Customer Care Commitment (CCC)
  • It offers a world leading support programme to our products over a 5 year term length. Coltraco Ultrasonics operates with integrity - from design to after sales care - to best support customers and provide enhanced after sales support. 
  •  

What is the CCC?

  • Customer – we invite you to benefit from Coltraco’s ethos of integrity from design to lifetime support
  • Care – we think care is better if its personal so you can arrange a phone call any time that suits you worldwide to answer your queries
  • Commitment – we want to save you cost and time, whilst helping you improve safety.

How can you cut risk with the Portacare® Package?

Know your upfront unit cost plus maintenance cost when buying new equipment. The package includes:

  • Fixed costs for 5 years – All calibration costs within the first 5 year period (total of 4) – saving £250/year
  • Free replacement – If a component becomes obsolete, you receive a free replacement unit of similar life
  • Free repair – First line repair is free – saving £100 (repairs over £100 must be paid for. Please note that Portacare® excludes customer-induced damage). After the first repair, 25% discount is given on any further repairs and accessories. Priority assistance will be given in spares and repairs
  • Upgrades – Upgrades are available at 25% discount – transfer existing Portacare® to the new unit so no loss of fee.
  • Discounts – 25% discount on upgrade options, 10% discount of a second product and exclusive offers personalised to you
  • Flexibility – Coltraco understand that every companies requirements are different, and are pleased to tailor a Portacare® package to your needs

Keen to learn more about the Portacare®? Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for pricing, the brochure and frequently asked questions.

Portacare® is designed for customers using liquid level testing, seal integrity and condition monitoring equipment for in high value applications such as power plants, data centres and naval vessels.  Coltraco Ultrasonics is a leading British designer and manufacturer of innovative ultrasonic technology operating in 109 countries across multiple markets such as the offshore, marine, fire, renewable markets, for over 30 years. www.coltraco.com/news.

A CALL FOR CONSTANT MONITORING OF WIND TURBINES

A dynamic system needs monitoring.  The reality is that gaseous systems are checked for contents annually because they are pressurised and anything that is dynamic offers risk of loss of contents, but this fails to deal with the probability of discharge or leakage for the 364 days per annum in the interim between certification checks.

If the hazard is special and the infrastructure critical then this is the case for the constant monitoring of the suppression systems that aim to deliver the protection of them. Inspection should include an evaluation that the extinguishing system continues to provide adequate protection for the risk.
Coupled to this is a complete lack Room Integrity testing after the gaseous system has been installed. As buildings age or their internal use is changed leak sites develop. If the gas cannot be ‘held’ in the room on discharge during a fire event the probability of its suppression diminishes in direct proportion to the size of the leak sites.  Room integrity tests are imperative for the determination of both the hold time and the peak pressure needed for successful fire suppression.

The level of leakage is carefully monitored in order to ensure the correct agent concentration is achieved; room integrity must be ‘tight’ enough to ensure sufficient retention time according to NFPA Standards or ISO 14520, yet remain ‘loose’ enough to prevent enclosure damage at discharge.  The presence of undesired and unregulated leak sites reduces room integrity and will hence dramatically impact the hold time and peak pressure, placing room contents and potentially wall structures at risk.

It is accepted that in wind turbines vibration can loosen connections while dirt, dust, and temperature extremes are known to cause unwarranted discharge. Additionally, openings in the turbine housing significantly inhibit achieving the designated agent concentration. Devising a solution to overcome these challenges can add significantly to the weight in the turbine.

For regular inspection, there are solutions such as the Portalevel® MAX. This handheld ultrasonic liquid level indicator can service a cylinder in 30 seconds (in contrast to 15 minutes by traditional manual weighing) with accuracy of up to 1.5mm off the true liquid level.

Coltraco Ultrasonics provide smart Firetest® solutions that enable wind turbine owners and operators to improve their fire safety management and reduce the risks to human life, business continuity caused by any downtime and thus minimise risk to reputation by delivering a Safesite®.

Call for Continuous Monitoring

Continuous monitoring is no longer an option; it is essential for the protection against special hazards in critical infrastructure. Clean agents are designed to operate in limited spaces where there is a need for speed of suppression given the asset risk and where the space is occupied by people. They deliver the infrastructural resilience our advanced society requires. The assumptions in the installation, commissioning and maintenance of gaseous extinguishing systems is that they are highly pressurised but risk leaking and discharging. ISO 14520 specifically guides our industry as to these risks; In 9.2.1.3 The storage container contents shall be checked at least every six months as follows. : a) Liquefied gases: for halocarbon agents, if a container shows a loss of agent in quantity of more than 5 % or a loss of pressure (adjusted for temperature) of more than 10 %, it shall be refilled or replaced. b) Non-liquefied gases: for inert gas agents, pressure is an indication of agent quantity. If a container shows a loss of agent quantity or a loss of pressure (adjusted for temperature) of more than 5 %, it shall be refilled or replaced. Therefore, at a standards level it is known that gaseous systems can become ineffective through accidental discharge and leakage and thus they do not serve to protect the critical infrastructure in such a case. To know the contents, you need to monitor it, and checking it every 6 months is not monitoring it.

Should we not just constantly monitor all of them and be in full compliance to the regulations and the risks that are so clearly described in our own core standards? If it is known and accepted that these are dynamic systems that are prone to leaking, but they are expected to deliver resilience and protection, then why are they left unattended for 6 months of the year? We would not do the same to an alarm system without monitoring it 24/7, so why are we not monitoring gaseous extinguishing systems? Let us apply 21st century science to a 100 year old issue and be done with it. A dynamic system needs monitoring. The neglect of continuous monitoring of the fundamental protection provided by the gaseous extinguishing systems is to the peril of the lives of occupants of the premises and at the risk of crippling financial loss to the facility comprising the critical infrastructure. To ensure that dynamic gaseous systems are protecting critical infrastructure in a safe and diligent manner, 6 monthly monitoring and maintenance is no longer enough. There is a call for continuous monitoring and this is something that cannot wait any more.

Could you afford the financial and reputational damage of an engine fire onboard?

Fires on board ships can be devastating, to crew, vessel and cargo. Fire safety standards on board cannot afford to slip.

At sCould you afford the financial and reputational damage of an engine fire onboard?

Fires on board ships can be devastating, to crew, vessel and cargo. Fire safety standards on board cannot afford to slip.

At sea, fire poses one the of biggest threat to ships. Sailing alone and at sea throughout the year, and without the ability to call upon the emergency services as a land-based asset might.

The financial effects from onboard engine room fires can run into millions of dollars. Often, after an engine room fire, a ship can rarely proceed under its own power leading to salvage, repairs, downtime and cancellations, all highly costly. Not just financially, but engine room fires can be detrimental to the integrity of a shipping company when the life of the passengers and crew are threatened by a fire.

People are priceless

Given that 400 million European passengers every year entrust themselves to the safety of the ship that they travel on, any accidents on board are serious threats to the safety of those passengers. About 6 per cent of fires on ro-ro passenger ships have resulted in loss of life or serious injury and every year. In December 2014, 11 people were killed and several were injured in a fire aboard the Norman Atlantic ro-ro passenger ship. Chances must not be taken when lives are at risk, and when a vessel is at sea, this is all the time.

“All Aboard”: Fire safety onboard has to be taken up by us all across the industry

The UK P&I Club recommend that the high risk threat of engine room fires is recognised and that ship’s crew pay particular attention to training and the care, maintenance and correct operation of all fire fighting equipment. The issue goes further as the lack of knowledge of how to effectively control a fire has created difficulty in the past.

  1. In one case, fire fighting attempts were hindered by the ineffectiveness of the fire smothering system because of a lack of understanding of its correct method of deployment and lack of proper maintenance.
  2. In another occasion, a Chief Engineer did not operate the CO2 system release mechanism correctly and, as a result, only one cylinder (of 43) was discharged which had a negligible effect on the fire. It is possible that he released a cylinder from the main bank of cylinders instead of a pilot cylinder in the mistaken belief that this would trigger the release of the requisite number of cylinders.
  3. In other cases It was found that the filter cover bolts were improperly tightened and there was a lack of proper inspection routines.

3 key areas for regular inspection is important

The ungoverned space is the area where either the regulations or the protecting systems of the critical infrastructure are not effectively providing consistent and reliable safety. This life-threatening issue must be dealt with, with specific regard to loss of contents in fixed fire extinguishing systems and need for improvements to room integrity testing.

The neglect of the basic routine testing and maintenance of 3 key areas substantially increases the risk of an onboard engine room fire:

  1.  the cylinder agent content in the fire extinguishing installations, commonly CO2, FM-200®, Novec™1230, halons;
  2. the associated pipework;
  3. and the room integrity of the protected space into which the suppressant agent discharges;

Some smart Safeship® solutions

  1. Ultrasonic liquid level indicator: to identify the agent liquid level in under 30 seconds with 1 competent user*
    1. Compared to 15 minutes by laboriously weighing with 2 personnel, qho must be qualified in fire safety inspections, which most crew are not
    2. Complies with IMO SOLAS FSS Code 2.1.1.3 which requires crew to have the means onboard to test the installation agent content
  1. Ultrasonic thickness gauge, ultrasonic flow meter, acoustic emissions bearing indicator: all efficiently inspect and provide condition monitoring of
    1. metal work,
    2. pipework and
    3. rotating machinery

3. Ultrasonic watertight and airtight integrity indicator: to identify leak sites in compartments. To ensure that the protected space is able to withstand the pressure of the agent when it discharges

and that the compartment will hold that agent for the design concentration required to suppress a fire

The danger is shown in the statistics. Maintaining high standards of fire safety practice does not have to be expensive or time consuming. This is a call

for awareness of the problem and action to be taken now.

ea, fire poses one the of biggest threat to ships. Sailing alone and at sea throughout the year, and without the ability to call upon the emergency services as a land-based asset might.

The financial effects from onboard engine room fires can run into millions of dollars. Often, after an engine room fire, a ship can rarely proceed under its own power leading to salvage, repairs, downtime and cancellations, all highly costly. Not just financially, but engine room fires can be detrimental to the integrity of a shipping company when the life of the passengers and crew are threatened by a fire.

People are priceless

Given that 400 million European passengers every year entrust themselves to the safety of the ship that they travel on, any accidents on board are serious threats to the safety of those passengers. About 6 per cent of fires on ro-ro passenger ships have resulted in loss of life or serious injury and every year. In December 2014, 11 people were killed and several were injured in a fire aboard the Norman Atlantic ro-ro passenger ship. Chances must not be taken when lives are at risk, and when a vessel is at sea, this is all the time.

“All Aboard”: Fire safety onboard has to be taken up by us all across the industry

The UK P&I Club recommend that the high risk threat of engine room fires is recognised and that ship’s crew pay particular attention to training and the care, maintenance and correct operation of all fire fighting equipment. The issue goes further as the lack of knowledge of how to effectively control a fire has created difficulty in the past.

  1. In one case, fire fighting attempts were hindered by the ineffectiveness of the fire smothering system because of a lack of understanding of its correct method of deployment and lack of proper maintenance.
  2. In another occasion, a Chief Engineer did not operate the CO2 system release mechanism correctly and, as a result, only one cylinder (of 43) was discharged which had a negligible effect on the fire. It is possible that he released a cylinder from the main bank of cylinders instead of a pilot cylinder in the mistaken belief that this would trigger the release of the requisite number of cylinders.
  3. In other cases It was found that the filter cover bolts were improperly tightened and there was a lack of proper inspection routines.

3 key areas for regular inspection is important

The ungoverned space is the area where either the regulations or the protecting systems of the critical infrastructure are not effectively providing consistent and reliable safety. This life-threatening issue must be dealt with, with specific regard to loss of contents in fixed fire extinguishing systems and need for improvements to room integrity testing.

The neglect of the basic routine testing and maintenance of 3 key areas substantially increases the risk of an onboard engine room fire:

  1.  the cylinder agent content in the fire extinguishing installations, commonly CO2, FM-200®, Novec™1230, halons;
  2. the associated pipework;
  3. and the room integrity of the protected space into which the suppressant agent discharges;

Some smart Safeship® solutions

  1. Ultrasonic liquid level indicator: to identify the agent liquid level in under 30 seconds with 1 competent user*
    1. Compared to 15 minutes by laboriously weighing with 2 personnel, qho must be qualified in fire safety inspections, which most crew are not
    2. Complies with IMO SOLAS FSS Code 2.1.1.3 which requires crew to have the means onboard to test the installation agent content
  1. Ultrasonic thickness gauge, ultrasonic flow meter, acoustic emissions bearing indicator: all efficiently inspect and provide condition monitoring of
    1. metal work,
    2. pipework and
    3. rotating machinery

3. Ultrasonic watertight and airtight integrity indicator: to identify leak sites in compartments. To ensure that the protected space is able to withstand the pressure of the agent when it discharges

and that the compartment will hold that agent for the design concentration required to suppress a fire

The danger is shown in the statistics. Maintaining high standards of fire safety practice does not have to be expensive or time consuming. This is a call for awareness of the problem and action to be taken now.

Why the industry is failing to comply with ISO 14520

In the event of fire, lives depend on systems that are appropriately designed for their specific environments. Why then, asks Carl Hunter, is the industry failing to comply with regulations?

Would you enter a building if you were told as you stepped in that in the event of a fire there was a chance that the extinguishing system wouldn’t put it out because the fire couldn’t be contained?

No! People expect, and rightfully so, that in the event of a fire the extinguishing systems would be in full working order to do just that – extinguish. Given that the gaseous systems are designed specifically to the individual need of that room, building e.t.c, then a leak sites in the room could meant that the comparted area couldn’t withhold the fire.

The likelihood of the gaseous system effectively extinguishing the fire gets lower and lower as the protected area becomes larger than the size that the extinguishing system was designed for. This is not a game of chance. The lives of people depend upon it. Enough is enough. The technology exists right now to support Door Fan Testing in providing a holistic and thorough integrity test of critical infrastructure.

Key Facts

  • Compartmentation = fire stopping e.g. walls and floors
  • Every 7 seconds, a fire breaks out, worldwide
  • 700 fatalities caused by fire in the UK
  • £7bn is the cost of fire to the UK economy according to GovUK: every day £3.4m in costs by business disruption caused by fire - £1.3bn p.a.
  • 44% of all insurance claims are caused by fire
  • SOURCE: Aviva Insurance, 2012

SOURCE: Aviva Insurance, 2012

APPROVED DOCUMENT B (ADB)

The regulations demand that compartmentation is upheld for the safety of the individuals, who entrust their lives into its integrity. Approved document B, Fire Safety, Volume 2, Buildings other than dwelling house states that: 8.0 Every compartment wall should form a complete barrier to fire between the compartments they separate. 8.35 – any stairway or other shaft passing directly from one compartment to another should be enclosed in a protected shaft so as to delay or prevent the spread of fire between compartments. However, despite regulations best effort to promote the implementation of compartmentation and room integrity, the last review of the Building Regulations Approved Document B was made in 2006 (12 years ago) and its next review was not due to be completed until 2022 (which would then be a gap of 17 years), meaning that the attention that is deserved is often disregarded.

  • ADB B3-4 “the building shall be designed… so that the unseen spread of fire and smoke… is inhibited”
  • Appendix B Breaching fire separation “to ensure effective protection again fire, walls and floors providing fire separation must form a complete barrier, with an equivalent level of fire resistance provided to any openings such as doors, ventilation ducts, pipe passages or refuge chutes.”

ISO14520-1:2015(E)

We will lead with some extracts from the regulations which is why this paper argues that the industry is sometimes minimally compliant or even non-compliant due to a lack of understanding of fire systems and their connection to compartmentation. This paper calls for a more holistic approach to fire safety. The author suggests the need for a resident mathematician to assist the industry.

  • 9.2.1.3 The storage container contents shall be checked at least every six months. a) Liquefied gases: for halocarbon agents, if a container shows a loss of agent in quantity of more than 5 % or a loss of pressure (adjusted for temperature) of more than 10 %, it shall be refilled or replaced.
  • 9.2.4.1 At least every 12 months it shall be determined whether boundary penetration or other changes to the protected enclosure have occurred that could affect leakage and extinguishant performance. If this cannot be visually determined, it shall be positively established by repeating the test for enclosure integrity in accordance with Annex E.
  • 9.2.4.2 Where the integrity test reveals increased leakage that would result in an inability to retain the extinguishant for the required period, remedial action shall be carried out.
  • A.3.2 Engineered systems: need information and calculations on the amount of extinguishant;
  • Annex F - b) Every 6 months: Perform the following checks and inspections: 5) for liquefied gases, check weigh or use a liquid level indicator to verify correct content of containers; replace or refill any showing a loss of more than 5 %;
  • Annex F 6.2.4.2 Means shall be provided to indicate that each container is correctly charged.

The assumptions in these are that gaseous extinguishing/suppression systems do leak. The regulations that underpin the pursuit of them explore their leak identification every 6 months. Gaseous extinguishing/suppression systems however are installed to protect special hazards in critical infrastructure as their key objective. If the hazard is special and the infrastructure critical then this is the case for the constant monitoring of the suppression systems that aim to deliver the protection of them.

To understand how fire resistant a compartment is, an inspection of the overall condition of the existing fire compartments is needed, as well as an assessment of the condition and effectiveness of the sealing of wall/soffit interfaces and an inspection of existing fire seals applied to service penetrations through fire compartment lines. Issues in the quality of compartmentation walls can come from maintenance, minor works and refurbishments. Contractors carrying out such tasks can occasionally destroy the compartmentation integrity of the wall, floor or ceilings if they were unaware that the area is a comparted space (as shown in the below image). Therefore, following maintenance it is “good practice” to ensure the fire resistance of walls, floors and ceilings and to safeguard again if necessary.

Case Study: Oxygen Reduction System - Data Centre, England 2018

Oxygen Reduction System and Need for Monitoring: Oxygen Reduction system works by taking Nitrogen from the air outdoors and pumping this into the room consistently in order to suppress oxygen levels, down to the level where combustion can no longer occur. To ensure the system works safely and efficiently, room integrity is of utmost important for two reasons: (1) A properly sealed room will contain the Nitrogen for a longer period of time, therefore putting less work on the air compressor in order to save energy. (2) If Nitrogen starts to leak from the Server Room, there are safety concerns over where this Nitrogen would leak to as it has the potential to harm occupants in other rooms if the Nitrogen leaks into their room and the oxygen levels were unmonitored.

Testing of the Server Room: The Server Room had an area of about 91 metres square. Several areas were tested with an ultrasonic room integrity tester where leakage was probable and the readings were noted on the drawings. These were the doors, vents, cable penetrations and also sections of the wall where gaps were visible.

Results: The ultrasonic room integrity tester identified the main source of leaks for the room, the doors, where full readings were clearly detected. Multiple air vents in the room were also improperly sealed and some leakage was found into the external room. Cable penetrations leading to the area outside the Server Room were also found to be leaking. 

Conclusions: Once the required maintenance was conducted and assuming no changes were made to the room, it is safe to assume that the room retains its integrity, thus comply and exceed current ISO 14520 regulations requiring periodic inspections of room integrity whereby visual inspection is usually specified and is not sufficient. The most suitable way to address periodic inspections is through the use of ultrasound.

Meeting minimum fire standards is not enough

Technology must solve industry problems. Not only to become a successful business in terms of profitability but in terms of sustainability and genuinely offering service to the industry in order to reduce risk, improve safety and hopefully have a small part in saving lives. We have provided a smart solution to quick and easy assurance of compartmentation using ultrasound to detect signal leaking through any apertures within the barriers.

Ultrasonic room integrity testers provide interpretation of the fire resistance of the desired locations, labelling them either airtight or giving an indication of the overall leakage of the room. The advantages of being able to accurately detect the exact leak locations and size are self-evident when considered alongside the resistance to collapse and transfer of excessive heat. In a case where there is too much leakage in a room, the ultrasonic room integrity tester is an unrivalled ideal for the rapid and accurate  identification of these sites so that they can be sealed. It is lightweight, fast and easy to use, allowing leak site detection to increase its operational efficiency and speed to a degree that has never been seen thus far in the Fire Industry.

The technology exists right now to solve this problem.  

In 2018 with the continuing developments in technology there is an expectation that safety should be all encompassing. We cannot let this expectation continue to be a fantasy.

See the Portascanner® 520 Here.

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Ultrasonic Room Integrity Testing for Compartmentation

Key Facts

  • Compartmentation = fire stopping e.g. walls and floors
  • Every 7 seconds, a fire breaks out, worldwide
  • 700 fatalities caused by fire in the UK
  • £7bn is the cost of fire to the UK economy according to GovUK: every day £3.4m in costs by business disruption caused by fire - £1.3bn p.a.
  • 44% of all insurance claims are caused by fire

To understand how fire resistant a compartment is, an inspection of the overall condition of the existing fire compartments is needed, as well as an assessment of the condition and effectiveness of the sealing of wall/soffit interfaces and an inspection of existing fire seals applied to service penetrations through fire compartment lines. Issues in the quality of compartmentation walls can come from maintenance, minor works and refurbishments. Contractors carrying out such tasks can occasionally destroy the compartmentation integrity of the wall, floor or ceilings if they were unaware that the area is a comparted space (as shown in the below image). Therefore, following maintenance it is “good practice” to ensure the fire resistance of walls, floors and ceilings and to safeguard again if necessary.

Not only to become a successful business in terms of profitability but in terms of sustainability and genuinely offering service to the industry in order to reduce risk, improve safety and hopefully have a small part in saving lives. We have provided a smart solution to quick and easy assurance of compartmentation using ultrasound to detect signal leaking through any apertures within the barriers.

Ultrasonic room integrity testers provide interpretation of the fire resistance of the desired locations, labelling them either airtight or giving an indication of the overall leakage of the room. The advantages of being able to accurately detect the exact leak locations and size are self-evident when considered alongside the resistance to collapse and transfer of excessive heat. In a case where there is too much leakage in a room, the ultrasonic room integrity tester is an unrivalled ideal for the rapid and accurate identification of these sites so that they can be sealed. It is lightweight, fast and easy to use, allowing leak site detection to increase its operational efficiency and speed to a degree that has never been seen thus far in the Fire Industry.

Standardisation in the Shipping Industry

Standardisation is required in the shipping industry to allow for confidence in technology by operators. Common standards ensures consistency, which promotes safety and efficiency. Standardisation is key to streamline processes and in the exchange of data – when utilised this will allow the shipping industry to embrace the huge potential that digitalisation has to offer the shipping industry.

Shipping needs to adopt an approach such as the aerospace industry, which is affected by international cooperation and strongly controlled by national and international regulations and standards in order to ensure safety, reliability, and cost-efficiency. In the aerospace industry, the Federal Aviation Administration and European Aviation Safety Agency generate the regulations and the airlines and  member state national civil aviation authorities, such as the UK Civil Aviation Authority and Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul services implement them. A failure to certify that they have been implemented will result in an aircraft not being certified to fly.

In shipping the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) generates many of the regulations and its member flag states, such as the UK’s Maritime and Coastgaurd Agency, are expected to implement them. Indeed, they are subject to interpretation by them. The single most useful thing that the UK could do for shipping globally is to lead at the IMO so that its regulations are implemented through standardisation.

Case Study:

Speaking in from the expertise of Coltraco Ultrasonics (in the monitoring of gaseous extinguishing systems), below is an example of how standardisation will allow the shipping industry to become safer and ensure the implementation of regulations.

The regulations that currently govern gaseous extinguishing systems are the IMO SOLAS Fire Safety Systems (FSS) Code and the BS EN ISO 14520 standards. These require that the liquefied gaseous cylinders be checked for an agent loss of more than 5%, at which point they should be refilled or replaced.

Standardisation means that the crew have a responsibility to implement the regulations via regular testing, which enabled through smart ultrasonic technology and Internet of Things (IoT) IoT, should be done continuously to avoid negligence and unnecessary risk.

Smart technology provides the crew and ship owners with ease of inspection and understanding their extinguishing systems. However, the crew will not be able to refill the gaseous extinguishing system, and instead must rely on notifying the marine servicing company when they arrive at a port, despite the fact that they may only be at the port for a very short amount of time. Due to time pressures, the risk of not being able to find a contractor in time to fill the cylinders in the event of leakage is one that could jeopardise the safety of the entire ship when it is time to set sail.

Continuously monitoring the cylinders with ultrasonic sensors that utilises IoT can avoid this, because the network contribution. Using IoT enables the advance notification of the crew and shore based services whilst at sea. Therefore, preparations to address the issues can be made prior to docking to ensure the issues are resolved given the minimum time they have.

Although the implementation of the IMO SOLAS FSS and ISO 14520 codes with continuous monitoring and IoT could drive up costs of purchasing and installation, the long-term savings and benefits far outweighs the initial cost.

But for this to work seamlessly, there must be a standardisation so that the data that is received by shore-based operators from the vessel, is understood and actioned upon as per the IMO regulations. As shown by a new paper from DNV GL standardisation can enable the effective collection, storage, exchange, analysis and use of data, while contributing to improved data quality and sensor reliability in the maritime industry.

FIRETEST SOLUTIONS TO DELIVER THE SAFESITE

ISSUE: Fire suppression systems at risk of accidental discharge which could affect the effectiveness of the overall fire protection system in the event of a fire.

SOLUTION: Permalevel® Multiplex, a fixed fire suppression monitoring system, designed for continuous contents verification

RESULT: With guaranteed systems operations, adaptability for purpose, 24/7 remote access to the systems status, an uninterruptible power supply (UPS) and remote real-time monitoring, the Permalevel® offers the efficiency that is needed in a wind turbine.

For regular inspection, the Portalevel® MAX is a handheld ultrasonic liquid level indicator, which can service a cylinder in 30 seconds (in contrast to 15 minutes by traditional manual weighing) with accuracy of up to 1.5mm off the true liquid level. Portalevel® MAX builds on Coltraco Ultrasonics’ 30 years’ experience in designing, manufacturing and supporting ultrasonic liquid level indicating equipment, in 108 Countries and numerous market sectors and environments. The development program was born out of the desire to further improve on Coltraco’s existing 8 designs and taking on board feedback and opinions of customers.

Coltraco Ultrasonics provide smart Firetest® solutions which enable wind turbine owners and operators to improve their fire safety management and reduce the risks to human life, business continuity caused by any downtime and thus minimise risk to reputation by delivering a Safesite®.

Protect tankers from the risk of explosion 

Addressing fire in tankers is critical, especially when all owners and managers are seeking to reduce risk, cut costs and surge on safety. The safety of tankers is integral for the continuation of their business success. Catastrophic risks to human life, vessel, reputation and revenue all result from a fire event onboard. One simple step towards improving fire safety onboard is ensuring all equipment is intrinsically safe approved, to protect the crew against the risk of explosion. 

The risk of explosion on tankers means that technology inspecting the fixed fire suppression systems must be designed for the atmospheres on tankers. LNG is only dangerous when it meets an ignition source. The International Maritime Risk Rating Agency (IMRRA) placed 12.5% of tankers it assessed in 2017 into the higher risk category for their fire safety. 

SPECIFIC AREAS OF RISK

The engine room, motor rooms and cargo compressor rooms on tankers carrying LNG & LPG are often protected by CO2 fire suppression systems. Fully operative fire systems on an offshore platform is paramount and demanded by ISO 14520 and PFEER codes. Gaseous extinguishing systems are highly pressurised, the risk of leaking and discharging is accepted as part of their use, shown in the regulations that demand their upkeep e.g. IMO SOLAS FSS Ch5. 2.1.1.3. The systems are pressurised approximately 50 bars, significantly higher than a standard cup of water, which is just 1bar. It’s accepted that these systems are not passive but dynamic, thus requiring monitoring. 

SERIOUS INCIDENTS

Serious cases of tanker fires and risks have been reported in the past years. In March 2017 there was an explosion on a Chinese Tanker, in which 3 crew members went missing and serious damage to the vessel was caused.  One of the most tragic incidents of 2018 was the Sanchi oil tanker explosion, on 6 January 2018. After the explosion on the tanker, tragically 31 crew members lost their lives. The Sanchi oil tanker was carrying 136,000 tonnes of natural gas condensate, and the estimate financial damage of the sinking of the vessel is estimated at $110 million.

 TRADITION VS TECHNOLOGY 

For the gaseous systems, the traditional method requires turning the system off, dismantling and manually weighing each cylinder on industrial scales. Routine maintenance is liable to be overlooked because the crew is unqualified to test or insufficient attention is given by the owner of the system. It’s neglected to the peril of the lives of occupants of the vessel and at the risk of crippling financial and reputational loss to the tanker.

Ultrasound should be harnessed by innovators in the safety of offshore platforms.  By utilising a sensor which acts as a transceiver, an ultrasonic liquid level indicator is capable of detecting liquid levels within any single-skinned container through transmitting an ultrasonic pulse and analysing the strength of the returned signal to determine the level of contents.  Importantly, due to the risk of explosion on the oil and gas tankers, ultrasonic liquid level indicators used on board to ensure fire safety, must be Intrinsically Safe.  

APPROVE THE APPROVAL METHODS

Intrinsically Safe is a design technique applied to electrical equipment and wiring for hazardous locations. The technique is based on limiting energy, electrical and thermal, to a level below that required to ignite a specific hazardous atmospheric mixture. 

LEADING OPERATORS LEAD ON FIRE SAFETY

At the request of Shell and similar Tanker Operators, Coltraco Ultrasonics have designed an Intrinsically Safe, ATEX Zone 1 Approved, ultrasonic liquid level indicator which offers unparalleled accuracy, speed and ease of use.  Using innovative methods of inspecting leaking cylinders with ultrasonics, enables identification in under 30 seconds using Portalevel® Intrinsically Safe with one person, instead of the traditional 15 minutes, with two people laboriously weighing. Using ultrasonic technology - to pinpoint the liquid level of suppressant agent in the cylinders of the extinguishing system- testing is quicker and easier.

Ensuring that the fire safety systems on board the gas tankers are operational, via smart ultrasonic technology, designed specifically for explosive atmospheres, is essential for protecting lives, the vessel and the cargo.

What is a watertight hatch and how should it be maintained?

A watertight hatch cover is designed to prevent the passage of water in either direction under a head of water for which the surrounding structure is designed.  Many mariners may think hatches are robust, monolithic structures, thereby failing to appreciate the small tolerances on panel alignment and gasket compression. It is better to think of hatches as complex, finely-made structures, to be handled with care.

Wrongly applied and poorly maintained cargo hatch covers tester and sealing systems increase the risk of cargo becoming damaged by water. The most common wet cargo problems include leaking cross joints, and compression bars, rubber gaskets, hatch coamings, drain channels and cleats in poor condition.
Proper weathertightness is a key factor in keeping cargo dry. To ensure that the hatch covers are weathertight the sealing system needs to be in a good condition. 

The Swedish P & I club recommend using Ultrasound for testing. As stated in their 2018 report “A much more effective method is to use an ultrasonic device, which is designed for this purpose and can pinpoint the area which is leaking, and if the compression of the gasket is sufficient. The advantages of using this type of equipment are evident, since ultrasonic tests can be carried out during any stage of the loading without risking cargo damage. The test can also be completed in sub-zero temperatures. The ultrasonic test should be carried out as per the class requirements.” 

Ultrasonic testing is a dramatically more sensitive, accurate and reliable method for testing cargo hatch covers, bulkheads and doors for watertight integrity on all vessels. A multi-directional ultrasound emitter is placed in a hold. The opening being tested is then sealed and the receiver switched on ready to receive any leakage of ultrasound via a set of headphones. An increased reading of ultrasound signal signifies an issue with the integrity of the door/hatch. Further, and closer inspection will allow identification of any specific leakage sight along with the severity. This test will take approximately 10 minutes and requires only one operator. 

Owners, managers, marine surveyors, third party servicing companies and other mariners have pledged their support for the Portascanner® WATERTIGHT for years. The Portascanner® Watertight is an Ultrasonic Test Kit for Cargo Hold Watertight compartment doors testing.

For 3 simple reasons: “it is faster, better, cheaper” than any competitor. But don’t take Coltraco Ultrasonics’ word for it, here are 3 customer testimonials:

We did some transit inspection work on one of our customers vessel using the Portascanner and we are very pleased with your instrument. We are looking forward extending our service offer using it.” – Techsol Marine, Canada

“The fleet was equipped with a unit per Bulk Carrier and the units are and working well, providing the confidence that there will be no problems with water damage claims.” Ship Management Company

“Our PORTASCANNER WATERTIGHT unit performed well during the entire period of use, proved rugged and we feel sure that if it had not required returning for mandatory calibration and certification, the unit would have performed well for many more years to come.” Captain J.F. Holmes, Botrans

Speaking volumes

Leakage of fire suppression agents from firefighting systems remains an ongoing, complex problem, and one that is often incorrectly attributed to system failure. OMT speaks to Coltraco Ultrasonics about the extent of such incidents and the solutions developed by Coltraco to combat undetected leakage

The offshore sector may still be mired in recession at present, but the need to retain a vigilant eye on fire safety remains as vital as ever.
To some degree, offshore oil and gas companies are still haunted by the blaze and explosion that destroyed the Piper Alpha oil production platform in July 1988, causing the deaths of more than 160 personnel aboard the structure – a tragedy that resulted in some much-welcomed ‘toughening up’ of offshore safety requirements.

All the same, fire-related incidents still occur aboard many offshore assets, putting the burden on owners and operators to ensure that safety standards do not slip. This burden becomes more onerous when one considers that the majority of offshore companies are scaling back their budgets at present, as well as warm-stacking and cold-stacking some of their most valuable vessels and rigs.

However, companies have a duty to ensure the protection of personnel, as well as a natural incentive to safeguard some of the most expensive assets to be stationed at sea – as well as their own reputations – and fire safety is a factor that simply cannot be neglected. This is not purely a problem for the offshore sector: a study conducted by the Finnish Transport Safety Agency has revealed that, between 2004 and 2010, 800 fires were logged in European waters, approximately 10% of which were classed as ‘serious’ and 25% of which required external assistance to successfully extinguish.
Part of this issue is to do with the maintenance of gaseous fire extinguishing installations. Typically, an offshore rig or platform will be equipped with a number of these installations, a typical 45Kg C02 cylinder measures 1800mm in height and 250mm in width. The number will be determined between the asset owner and the contracted firefighting system provider, and be tailored to the specific vessel area.

As such, the fire extinguishing installation may either contain CO₂ - which, as an oxygen-suppressing substance, is suited to unmanned areas aboard the vessel/platform, including machinery spaces – or FM-200® or Novec ™ 1230.

Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon for gaseous extinguishing agent to leak from these cylinders. “This is to be expected when such firefighting equipment is stored on land, let alone aboard a vessel for 365 days a year.

The result? A depleted cylinder, containing only half of its allocated agent, runs out of the substance before the fire is properly suppressed. Subsequently, the fire rages on, destroys the area and possibly spreads to other sections of the vessel – or even produces an explosion. Later, in the post-incident analysis, the cylinder is incorrectly judged as to have ‘failed’.

two particular tools specifically for this purpose: the PortalevelÒ MAX Marine and the PortasteeleÒ Calculator application. Used in conjunction by a single person, Hunter claims, these two products can enable crew to identify a leaking cylinder (or one that has previously leaked agent) within as little as 30 seconds.

The first step is to place the Portalevel MAX Marine against the side of the cylinder. This andheld unit fits in the palm of the hand monitor pings an ultrasonic signal into the cylinder, which allows the user to “pinpoint the liquid level of suppressant agent”, Hunter says. In this way, the liquid level height has been obtained under 30 seconds for a competent user.

However, it is not a given that the user will know how to convert this figure to determine the weight and mass of the extinguishing agent – nor that they will have the time to sit down and manually calculate hundreds of such readings. The second step, then, is to feed the data captured by the Portalevel MAX Marine into the Portasteele® Calculator app. The app is installed on a  ruggedised 7” tablet. The user inputs information related to: the extinguishing agent type [ie, CO2, FM 200 fire suppression system, etc]; the cylinder dimensions; the temperature of the agent; and the liquid level height. The Portasteele® app then instantly provides the agent’s weight.

Understand and Apply Standards in the Maritime Industry

Shipping, Naval and Oil and Gas are all safety critical sectors which can have catastrophic and expensive results in the event of fire.

The size of vessels and the on-board technology have been subject to a constant process of optimization. But safety measures, in particular in respect of fire protection, have been left lagging behind in the face of ever bigger, ever better container ships. Fire protection has been largely untouched due to the fact that cargo is more commonly being transported in containers rather than as bulk cargo, and has been for decades. The current firefighting facilities remain inadequate in the face of the capacity of such vessels. Fire therefore remains an ever-present risk on the high seas.

Are pressurised liquefied gases or non-liquefied gases that are pressurised on actuation. CO2 is permanently under 720 psi or 49 bar of pressure ie nearly 50 times atmospheric pressure (by comparison a cup of water at sea level exists at 1 bar or 14.5 psi). Its state changes under increased temperatures to one that is neither a liquid nor a gas. Gases under pressure are often effectively considered by the industry as single and passive cylinder columns of solid material from the perspective of their monitoring following installation. Whereas being under pressure and constantly changing under temperature they should be considered as active and dynamic systems requiring constant monitoring. These are not passive systems therefore; they are dynamic ones, and all dynamic systems under pressure need constant monitoring.

Anecdotal experiences –

  • Safety pins being retained in position in the cylinder valves after installation.
  • Marine CO2 systems with 20% of the CO2 cylinders installed on commercial shipping being empty or partially filled.
  • Over-filled and under-filled cylinders.
  • Pipework and cylinders freshly painted but with severe internal corrosion.
  • Room integrity testing with questionable results and with the room integrity remaining un-monitored after testing.
  • Liquefied extinguishants being confused by installers with Inert gas systems.
  • There exists a lack of understanding of the organic compounds of some liquid extinguishants and their corrosive effect on the cylinder in the event of condensate ingress.
  • Shipping companies not implementing the FSS code of the IMO SOLAS regulations.
  • We have been regularly asked how to operate portable Portalevel™ liquid level indicators on dry powder extinguishers.

Marine servicing companies bid to service a ships CO2 & marine CO2 systems; this can comprise 200-600 x 45KG CO2 cylinders per ship. These are under high 720 psi/ 50 bar pressure. They can discharge accidentally. One of the highest probabilities of discharge occurs during their maintenance. Some service companies estimate that at one time 20% of a ships CO2 cylinders have discharged or partially leaked their contents and there are over 55,000 commercial vessels at sea at any time. On average each cylinder will take 40 minutes to dismantle, weigh, record and re-install. Too many times therefore good servicing companies may not have the physical time to perform the inspection required.

Protect critical infrastructure at Sea

Coltraco Ultrasonics implemented the Safeship® initiative, to promote protecting critical infrastructure at sea. The two main causes of vessel loss are sinking and fire. A lack of proper servicing of watertight and weathertight seals can lead to deterioration which can endanger the ship, cargo and lives of the crew through flooding and the potential of capsizing. Secondly, bad industry practice is unacceptable when fire risk may have catastrophic results due to risk to life, downtime in operation due to ship safety and repair work and incalculable reputational damage. The crew, cargo and vessel must be protected when at sea because it is it’s own fire brigade without accessibility to typical emergency services.

As a result, Coltraco designed the FLEETSAFE: a package of innovative safety tools to combat the above and comply with regulations

With this package the hatch-covers, doors, MCTs, compartments, pipework, hulls, bulkheads, rotating machinery, pumps, sprinkler systems and gaseous extinguishing installations are protected. The package is based on integrity, from design, through to life-time support, and is accurate, reliable and easy to use for any crew members.

The initiative will continue to work over the longer term by ensuring regulations are implemented and encouraging operators, owners and managers to go above and beyond to secure the Safeship® through minimising risk. Coltraco Ultrasonics focus on benefitting the crew; designing innovative ultrasonic solutions which promote safety culture, which the crew will be happy to use by being easy to operate, quick, accurate and a better method to traditional techniques. This can be in-between the statutory annual maintenance and certification intervals provided by shore-based contractors. Thus, increasing the likelihood of tests being regularly conducted, in line with regulations and even going above and beyond for more frequent testing. By so doing, the crew will be creating a safer ship.

Portalevel® MAX Transformer – world leading Safesite® solution

Industries across the world use transformers across their facilities. These transformers come in a wide variety. It is imperative to check the oil levels inside to ensure they run smoothly and increase the long-term operation by improved maintenance. Testing oil levels is difficult to achieve traditionally. But today, ultrasonic technology enables non-destructive testing to be conducted by testing from the exterior, non-invasively.

The Safesite® solution is Portalevel® MAX, the world leading handheld ultrasonic liquid level indicator. The likes of utilities companies and hydro from London to USA to the Middle East are using this product to solve their needs and enhance their maintenance measures.

Background

Transformers are used in electric power transmission and distributions and are devices that transfer electric power at different voltage levels. The main components within the transformers are the core and windings which are oil immersed. An oil conservator and Buchholz relay is also commonly found to monitor oil levels. Their combined function accommodates expansion and contraction of the oil in the main tank due to temperature changes or fault and also to provide audible alarms when the oil level falls below the minimum due to any leakages.

As transformers age, they become more likely to lose internal oil. It is important for oil levels in the transformer main tanks to be full, as they act as an insulator and allows the transformers to function efficiently. For transformers that are not fitted with an oil conservator or Buchholz relay, few means of oil level inspection exist and traditional methods include inspection by opening the lid of the transformer.

Portalevel MAX application 1

Application – issues with traditional inspection methods: When the lid is opened, the insulating oil is exposed to the moisture in the atmosphere and will increase the rate of oil deterioration causing the life of insulating oil to shorten. Shortened life spans lead not only to more frequent oil changes, but also significant downtime to the system when an oil change is conducted. Moisture in oil accelerates oxidation which results in the formation of acids and contributes to the formation of sludge. Over time, the sludge settles on the windings and the inside structures causing transformer cooling to be less efficient and an overall increase in transformer temperature which lowers its efficiency. Therefore, traditional methods of oil inspection inside transformers are not only time consuming and cumbersome, they also contribute directly to increased maintenance costs.

Solution: The Portalevel MAX Transformer will be a safe, efficient and reliable solution to inspect oil levels in transformers non-invasively, typically in transformers that have no means of external oil indication. With the Portalevel MAX Transformer, oil level inspection can be done routinely without opening the lid of the transformer and thus prevent unwanted moisture from being absorbed by the oil which deteriorates the oil.

Results: This practice is capable of prolonging the life span of the transformer oil whilst reducing the cost incurred from frequent oil changes and significant downtime when a fault develops as a result of low oil levels or poor oil conditions.

Portalevel MAX application 2

Background Issue: High voltage transformer and switch gear units are often designed to be submerged in oil which act as an insulator, making sure any technicians working on the units are not at risk of potentially fatal shocks. As such, it is critical to know that the oil is still present and at a suitable level, before any maintenance or access to these units is undertaken.

Solution and Results: Many companies around the world are beginning to use the Portalevel MAX for checking the oil levels in Transformer & Switch Gear units. Since this equipment can non-invasively check the presence from the outside of the tanks, technicians can operate safely and with confidence.

The Portalevel MAX Transformer is an invaluable tool that has helped thousands of customers worldwide reduce their annual maintenance costs and contribute to a more efficient servicing routine.

Gas systems leak - it's official! The need for improving safety by continuous monitoring

Too often in the fire industry it feels like the certification is driving the maintenance, with its insurance consequence for the asset owner and service revenue for the contractor, rather than maintenance [for safety sake] driving its consequential certification. The ‘ungoverned space’ is the area in the fire industry where either the regulations or the protecting systems of the critical infrastructure are not effectively providing consistent and reliable safety.

People expect, and rightfully so, that in the event of a fire the extinguishing systems would be in full working order to do just that – extinguish. Given that the gaseous systems are designed specifically to the individual need of that room, building e.t.c, then a leak sites in the room could meant that the comparted area couldn’t withhold the fire. The likelihood of the gaseous system effectively extinguishing the fire gets lower and lower as the protected area becomes larger than the size that the extinguishing system was designed for. This is not a game of chance. The lives of people depend upon it.

Although many in the fire industry work towards meeting better standards, in their experience, Coltraco have numerous concerning anecdotes of non-compliance: systems portrayed and installed by contractors as NOVEC™ 1230 but filled with sand or water… room integrity testing with questionable results and with the room integrity remaining un-monitored after testing.

Technology now exists to improve the reliability of fire suppression systems that affects the safety of all who inhabits the building it protects in an event of fire. Regulations which often govern the quality of fire safety systems installed should hence reflect the latest advancement of technological innovations in its industry in order to uphold fire safety to its highest standards.

Gaseous Extinguishing Systems

The regulations are not extensive enough to deal with the risks presented in gaseous systems. In ISO 14520 which is the “gold standard” of clean agent fire suppression system, clauses 9.2.1.3 in the regulations explains that the storage container contents shall be checked at least every six months as follows. : a) Liquefied gases: for halocarbon agents, if a container shows a loss of agent in quantity of more than 5 % or a loss of pressure (adjusted for temperature) of more than 10 %, it shall be refilled or replaced. b) Non-liquefied gases: for inert gas agents, pressure is an indication of agent quantity. If a container shows a loss of agent quantity or a loss of pressure (adjusted for temperature) of more than 5 %, it shall be refilled or replaced. Essentially, the regulations highlight the need for periodic maintenance because it is known  that the gaseous systems leak and need to be  periodically checked. Given that the gaseous systems are designed specifically to the individual need of that enclosure, a 5% loss of agent may mean that they would not fully extinguish the fire.

Coltraco have developed a fixed fire suppression monitoring device, the Permalevel® MULTIPLEX which is designed for permanent contents verification. The continuous monitoring system  utilises ultrasound technology to detect the level of contents non-invasively and transmits the level information from the wired sensors to the main unit which is then processed and reported to the building’s BMS or local control panel wirelessly through TCP/IP. This is to  ensure  that fire  suppression  systems  are  always   stored at their designed concentration and that no accidental discharge has occurred, which could affect the effectiveness of the overall fire protection system in the event of a fire. The neglect of continuous monitoring - of the fundamental protection provided by the gaseous extinguishing systems - is to the peril of the lives of occupants of the premises and at the risk of  causing financial and reputational loss to the facility comprising the critical infrastructure.

The  system developed  utilises the Internet of Things (IoT) to achieve its full potential of visualising the monitored contents worldwide. IoT enables a worldwide transmission of data starting from sensor to sensor to the microprocessors and to the facilities manager or maintenance team. Instead of waiting for annual checks,  owners and building managers can now identify any changes to their installed fire suppression system contents in real time and dispatch their servicing or maintenance team as soon as notification is received about a change happening to the installed system. This is now entirely possible through the reliance on recent IoT developments.

Figure 1: The Permalevel® Multiplex which uses the Internet of Things to transmit data about the liquid level of fire suppression cylinders continuously.

 Conclusion

Thus, testing the liquefied gaseous extinguishing systems (commonly CO2, sometimes FM-200® or Novec®1230) and also the room integrity into which they are situated, will create a holistic approach to solving the problem of the Ungoverned Space. In order to comply with regulations outlined in the NFPA 2001 and the ISO 14520, regular room integrity tests have to be performed on rooms wanting to install Clean Agent Fire Suppression Systems, in order to ensure the continued effectiveness of non-sprinkler fire suppression. In both contents and room integrity monitoring, these collected data can be enabled to be transmitted wirelessly over TCP/IP, which results in true remote monitoring of the fire suppression systems and protected spaces being made possible anywhere around the world with the new technology available (currently from Coltraco Ultrasonics). 

As with many leaders in the fire industry, Coltraco are pushing for rapid action to be taken in protecting peoples lives. Constant monitoring of gaseous extinguishing systems and room integrity must be implemented, people’s lives depend upon it.

Address the two main causes of vessel loss

 “Ships sink; fires happen”. Addressing these two main causes of vessel loss are critical, especially when all owners and managers are seeking to reduce risk, cut costs and surge on safety. Carnival Cruises chose to protect their fleet by improving fire safety. One aspect of this is that they chose Coltraco Ultrasonics to be their supplier for the Portalevel® MAX Marine which tests the CO2 fire installations onboard for leaks in content. The Portalevel ® MAX Marine is designed primarily for the vessels’ crew to themselves inspect large fire suppression systems of up to 600 cylinders. The ease of operation in comparison to weighing, increases the ability of more regular and frequent checks, improving fire safety management onboard. Coltraco’s innovative method of inspecting leaking cylinders with ultrasonics, enables identification in under 30 seconds using Portalevel® with one person, instead of the traditional 15 minutes, with two people laboriously weighing. Coltraco have recently been shortlisted for the Seatrade Cruise Awards, ‘Supplier of the Year’, because of our supply to Carnival Cruises. The safety of their ships is integral for the continuation of their business success and it can be for yours too.

Using ultrasonic technology - to pinpoint the liquid level of suppressant agent in the cylinders of the extinguishing system- testing is quicker and easier. Available anywhere worldwide with 7 service stations to support you for the lifetime of the equipment as part of Coltraco Customer Care (CCC); details on coltraco.com/portalevel-max-8th or in the MSG IMPA p/n: 652776.

Combined with the MAX Marine, The Portasteele® Calculator is an advanced calculator application, that converts the liquid level height of C02, NOVEC™ 1230 and FM-200® liquefied gaseous extinguishant agent readings taken on an ultrasonic non-destructive liquid level indicator device into the agent weight/mass.  Furthermore, the Portasteele® can convert an expected agent weight back to the required liquid level allowing users to anticipate where the level should be.

Who are Coltraco Ultrasonics?

Coltraco Ultrasonics is a world leading British designer and manufacturer of ultrasonic fire and watertight integrity safety instrumentation.

Our core Safesite® and Safeship® technologies, which comprise the FLEETSAFE and FIRETEST packages are in the monitoring of:

  • Fire extinguishing systems, primarily pressurised liquefied gaseous ones as well as sprinklers, by our flagship UL and ABS approved Portalevel® MAX range of products and our unique fixed monitoring system, Permalevel®.
  • Watertight integrity of marine structures such as hatch-covers, multiple cable transit areas and watertight compartment doors with ABS Type-approved Portascanner® Watertight.
  • Compartmentation testing in buildings and civil engineering structures to supplement Door Fan Testing  with Portascanner® 520.
  • Condition monitoring through bearing monitoring, thickness gauging and flow monitoring.

We operate in multiple market sectors: Shipping, Fire, Naval, Offshore, Power Generating, Electricity Distribution, Data Centres, Banks, Telecommunications, Marine Surveying, Rail, Mining, Pharmaceuticals and Food Processing and most recently in Renewable Wind Energy.

We are supported by our global network of Strategic Partners, ODA Service Centres and Distributors.

Exporting is at our core and a consequence of conducting fine science and manufacturing in the UK.

Great science is based on the integrity of it, and that distinguishes how we compete.

RINA welcomes Coltraco Ultrasonics’ CEO to the Board of Trustees

Coltraco Ultrasonics  Chief Executive, Carl Stephen Patrick Hunter, has been welcomed onto the Board of Trustees at  The Royal Institution of Naval Architects   (RINA), an internationally renowned professional institute at the heart of surface and sub-surface ship design. 

Formed in 1860 and established by Royal Warrant RINA occupies a central and essential role at the heart of British and global maritime with 70% overseas members and Consultative Status at the International Maritime Organisation.

Commenting on the appointment, RINA Chief Executive, Trevor Blakeley says:

“The Royal Institution of Naval Architects is very pleased to welcome Carl Stephen Patrick Hunter as a member of its Board of Trustees. Carl brings a wealth of experience in the maritime community. Such experience, together with his commitment to the Institution, will be invaluable in the governance of the Institution and in developing its standing as an international professional institution, responsive to the changing needs of the global maritime industry. Carl is a prime example of the adage, ‘If you want something doing well, give it to a busy man’. The Institution is grateful for his time.”

Coltraco Ultrasonics’ CEO, Carl S P Hunter is a Fellow of RINA and of IMarEST, an Associate Fellow of the  Nautical Institute and is also a Council Member for the Maritime & Defence Security Group. Carl also sits on the Society of Maritime Industries  BMEA Council, is a member of the Honourable Company of Master Mariners and a Council Member for the Europe Technical Committee, American Bureau for Shipping (ABS).

Carl Hunter said:

"I am delighted to join the Board of Trustees of the Royal Institution of Naval architects. RINA is at the heart of who we are as a maritime nation. It began as a learned society in London in 1860 and was soon established under Royal Warrant. Today 70% of its members are from overseas. I warmly welcome the opportunity to support the Board and President and the continued growth of RINA under the able leadership of its Chief Executive, Mr Trevor Blakeley. This is the maritime century and RINA will continue to play its essential role at the very centre of ship design and construction."

Fire in Wind Turbines are a Critical Safety Issue

With the size of turbines increasing, the wind industry needs to learn about the importance of fire safety in wind turbines. Fire is the second leading cause of accidents in wind turbines after blade failure. As our reliance grows on wind turbines, keeping them fully operational and at reduced levels of risk becoming more important, and as a result, so does safety management.  10-30% of all loss-of-power-generation incidents in wind power plants are due to fire. Fires in wind turbines not only lead to a loss of business continuity and a negative impact on the company’s reputation but also, most importantly, are a critical safety issue.

With predictions of much taller and more powerful turbines and thus fewer per project, ensuring that the they are in working order is essential, because the larger and fewer the turbines, the more costly they will be to operators in the event of fire damage. Due to the height and location of wind turbines, classic firefighting methods come up against their limits and therefore fire extinguishing systems that use gases such as carbon dioxide, inert gases or clean agents such as FM-200® and Novec™1230, which are especially appropriate for dealing with fires in electrical systems because they extinguish the fire quickly whilst not damaging the electrical systems or the compartment in which they are being discharged. 

However, it is important to note that such fire extinguishing systems require maintenance to ensure they are fully operational and ready in event of a fire. ISO 14520-1:2015(E) assumes that these systems accidentally discharge and leak. 6.2.4.2 Contents indication: “Means shall be provided to indicate that each container is correctly charged.” Followed by “9.2.1.3 The storage container contents shall be checked at least every six months as follows. a) Liquefied gases: for halocarbon agents, if a container shows a loss of agent in quantity of more than 5 % or a loss of pressure (adjusted for temperature) of more than 10 %, it shall be refilled or replaced.”

Focused on continued advancement of safety technology, Coltraco have now developed the Permalevel® Multiplex, a fixed fire suppression monitoring system, designed for continuous contents verification. Permalevel® is designed to ensure that fire suppression systems are always fully operational and that no accidental discharge has occurred, which could affect the effectiveness of the overall fire protection system in the event of a fire. With guaranteed systems operations, adaptability for purpose, 24/7 remote access to the systems status, an uninterruptible power supply (UPS) and remote real-time monitoring, the Permalevel® offers the efficiency that is needed in a wind turbine.

For regular inspection, the Portalevel® MAX is a handheld ultrasonic liquid level indicator, which can service a cylinder in 30 seconds (in contrast to 15 minutes by traditional manual weighing) with accuracy of up to 1.5mm off the true liquid level. Portalevel® MAX builds on Coltraco Ultrasonics’ 30 years’ experience in designing, manufacturing and supporting ultrasonic liquid level indicating equipment, in 108 Countries and numerous market sectors and environments. The development program was born out of the desire to further improve on Coltraco’s existing 8 designs and taking on board feedback and opinions of our customers.

Coltraco Ultrasonics provide smart Firetest® solutions which enable wind turbine owners and operators to improve their fire safety management and reduce the risks to human life, business continuity caused by any downtime and thus minimise risk to reputation by delivering a Safesite®.

“Safely check the quantity of the fire extinguishing medium in the containers.”

Sailing alone and at sea throughout the year, and without the ability to call upon the emergency services as a land-based asset might. This is recognised with marine insurers and especially with the International Union of Marine Insurance (IUMI): “Fire protection on board is not unlike fire protection in buildings: If a fire breaks out and is not quickly brought under control, all that is left is a ruined shell, fit only for the wrecking ball. In turn, in the case of ships, a total write-off. To better protect the cargo on container ships, with a value running into many millions, it makes sense to modernize the on-board facilities for containing and extinguishing fires.”

As vessels become larger and more sophisticated, a greater financial interest is tied up into one ship, meaning that the risks are magnified if the vessel would get into difficulties e.g. a fire. From a marine insurer's perspective, it is a simple equation: the larger the vessel, the more cargo it will carry, and hence the greater the sum insured.

Posed threat of loss of crew, vessel and the cargo guidance by the German Insurance Associations has set out an ‘improved concept’ for firefighting facilities on container ships. Vice Chair of the IUMI Loss Prevention Committee, Uwe-Peter Schieder, explained: “We believe a new technical solution is needed to improve current firefighting practice on container vessels, particularly as these ships are continuing to grow in size

The regulations that currently govern gaseous extinguishing systems are the IMO SOLAS Fire Safety Systems (FSS) Code and the BS EN ISO 14520 standards.

IMO SOLAS & FSS Code Chapter 2.1.1.3 - “Means shall be provided for the crew to safely check the quantity of the fire extinguishing medium in the containers.”

Coltraco Ultrasonics is aware of that there is failure to fully implement the regulations. Coltraco supply Marine Servicing companies globally share anecdotes - that at any one time the average merchant vessel in non-UK port visits has over 20% of its CO2 cylinders empty on inspection plus another 10-20% which have contents loss and also know that occasionally marine “servicing companies” unintentionally leave it disabled.

THE SOLUTION?

Using an ultrasonic liquid level indicator is the only way that the crew can safely test their CO2 without disturbing them. Coltraco Ultrasonics designed the Portalevel® MAX Marine & Portamarine® ultrasonic liquid level indicators, as radioactive units were being phased out. If shipping companies implemented the IMO SOLAS FSS codes by testing safely and quickly (just 30-60 seconds per cylinder) by using liquid level indicators and marine servicing companies were able to do their work without allowing for time pressures, then marine safety would be far safer.

The main cause of vessel loss is sinking

As the main cause of vessel loss is sinking, the maintenance, testing and monitoring of watertight hatches, doors and multiple cable transits on vessels is essential. A watertight hatch cover testing is designed to prevent the passage of water in either direction under a head of water for which the surrounding structure is designed.  Many mariners may think hatches are robust, monolithic structures, thereby failing to appreciate the small tolerances on panel alignment and gasket compression. It is better to think of hatches as complex, finely-made structures, to be handled with care. All types of seals, experience dynamic stresses as part of their operational lifetime. For example, 4mm wear on the steel-to-steel contact is sufficient to damage rubber sealing gaskets beyond repair; 5mm sag along the cross-joint can cause a large gap between the compression bar and gasket. The importance of continually maintaining seal integrity should take a more prominent position in ship maintenance scheduling.

The future of watertight integrity testing is with continuous monitoring. A lack of proper servicing of seals can lead to deterioration which endanger the lives of the crew, vessel and cargo.  The large issue here is that ships are only tested before and after one or perhaps several journeys; yet a leak could occur at any point in between testing and continue unnoticed until the next inspection. A vessel generates its leak sites due to load states, sea states, wind states, and dynamic movement. The severity is amplified within a vessel structure constantly changing by varying sea, wind, load states, cargo types and dynamic stresses. There is a great deal of bending and deformation that naturally occurs in ships during travel. It was found that a comprehensive, autonomous continuous monitoring system for the watertight integrity of a ship’s cargo hatches, weathertight doors and other seals is possible to be developed. One that is capable of automatically detecting emerging leak sites, alerting officers and crew of the location and severity of the leak site and logging all data for future review. The developments in continuous monitoring technology being undertaken by Coltraco Ultrasonics will drive the industry towards ensuring that watertight integrity is never left to chance.

The case study of the Emma Maersk exemplifies the danger of improper servicing. A severe leakage occurred on the container ship in February 2013 when it was loaded with 14,000 containers. The leakage was caused by the mechanical break-down of a stern thruster, creating the shaft tunnel to flood, as well as leading to severe ingress of water in the aft part. This led to flooding of the main engine room. This was caused by non-effective cable penetration sealings: in a sudden blast, four cable penetration sealings in the watertight bulkhead gave way to the water pressure followed by a massive ingress of seawater. Shortly after this, the other three cable penetration sealings also failed, resulting in an even larger ingress of water into the engine room. This led to approximately USD 45 million worth of damages and towage cost.

Fire system incident offshore: technician struck by high pressure extinguishing cylinder 

Reinforces need for non-invasive FSS servicing

06 August 2018

SHELL UK Limited has been fined for health and safety breaches after a technician was struck by a cylinder and left severely injured on the Brent Delta offshore installation. 

Aberdeen Sheriff Court heard how, on 10 November 2014, technicians were required to replace a gas cylinder within a system used to extinguish fires. When one of the technicians rolled what he thought was an empty cylinder along the floor and took off the protective cap, he realised that it was a fully charged cylinder. The trigger mechanism on the cylinder was activated causing a loud bang and the instantaneous release of the cylinder contents in a white cloud of concentration.

The force of the gas release caused the technician to drop the cylinder to the floor causing a valve to shear. This resulted in both cylinder and valve becoming projectiles which struck and severely injured a second technician.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found the company failed to take suitable and sufficient steps to ensure risks associated with handling of pressurised cylinders were eliminated. The company also failed to remove pressurised cylinders which were not suitable for use in a safe and secure manner and also failed to ensure the provision of appropriate information and instruction in respect of the handling and use of energised gas cylinders.

Shell UK Limited of Shell Centre, London pleaded guilty to breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and was fined £60,000.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector David Josiah said, “This incident could so easily have been avoided by simply carrying out correct control measures and safe working practices.

“Companies should be aware that HSE will not hesitate to take appropriate enforcement action against those that fall below the required standard.”

6 times award winning company, Coltraco Ultrasonics, core Safesite® and Safeship® technologies, which comprise the FLEETSAFE and FIRETEST packages, are in the monitoring of fire extinguishing systems, primarily pressurised liquefied gaseous ones as well as sprinklers, by their flagship UL and ABS approved Portalevel® MAX range of products and unique fixed monitoring system, Permalevel®. Using Coltraco Ultrasonics contents monitoring, Portalevel® MAX, would have alerted the technician at once that he was managing a highly pressurised and filled CO2 cylinder.

World leading Coltraco Ultrasonics, are at the forefront in providing highly accurate and easy to use technology, to ensure that safety of technicians lives, assets and infrastructure are always achieved and required standards are met and exceeded.

Water Ingress Must Become a Thing of the Past

In a recent position paper, the Swedish Club warned bulk carrier operators to pay attention to watertight integrity, as the average cost for a wet damage cargo claim is almost $110,000. In this article, global British ultrasonics experts, Coltraco Ultrasonics, break down why this is the case.

Why is watertight integrity an issue?

In 1989 IACS introduced its guidance to owners concerning the care and survey of hatchcovers as follows:

Loss of weather-tight integrity continues to be a constant factor leading to cargo damage which could result in a threat to the safety of the crew, the ship and its cargoes, despite advances in modern shipbuilding technology, construction, navigation and means of preventing ingress of water into hold spaces.”

Little appears to have changed over the intervening years.

What risk does water ingress pose to the crew?

Lives are at stake. This is unacceptable.

As the main cause of vessel loss is sinking, the maintenance, testing and monitoring of watertight hatches, doors and multiple cable transits on vessels is essential.

The case study of the 2015 El Faro disaster exemplifies the danger of water ingress. SS El Faro was a United States-flagged, combination roll-on/roll-off and lift-on/lift-off cargo ship crewed by U.S. merchant mariners. All 33 crew members tragically died in the sinking, when El Faro sailed from Jacksonville into Hurricane Joaquin, while heading to Puerto Rico. The wreckage was discovered more than 15,000 feet below the sea surface, Northeast of Acklins and Crooked Island, Bahamas. The NTSB have concluded that gaps in safety management contributed to the sinking of the El Faro. One of the significant issues was “poor watertight integrity which allowed seawater into the ship” stating that this accident may have been avoided if “crew had more information about the status of the hatches”. The tragedy of the El Faro has exemplified why it is crucial for the watertight integrity of vessels to be upheld.

Coltraco Ultrasonics strongly believe that tragic incidences such as these must become a thing of the past. Safety of life at sea is paramount when pushing forward with the implementation and development of regulations.

What concerns have been voiced?

Water ingress on board ships can be devastating, to crew, vessel and cargo.

The Swedish P&I Club have recently stressed that proper weathertightness is a key factor in keeping cargo dry and crew safe. To ensure that the hatch covers are weathertight the sealing system needs to be in a good condition. 

The North of England P&I Club state that defective hatch cover maintenance is an “expensive problem with a low-cost solution”.

What are hatch covers?
A watertight hatch cover is designed to prevent the passage of water in either direction under a head of water for which the surrounding structure is designed.  Many mariners may think hatches are robust, monolithic structures, thereby failing to appreciate the small tolerances on panel alignment and gasket compression. It is better to think of hatches as complex, finely-made structures, to be handled with care.

How are we failing to protect the crew by maintaining hatch covers?

Wrongly applied and poorly maintained cargo hatch covers tester and sealing systems increase the risk of cargo becoming damaged by water. The most common wet cargo problems include leaking cross joints, and compression bars, rubber gaskets, hatch coamings, drain channels and cleats in poor condition.

The importance of continually maintaining seal integrity must take a more prominent position in ship maintenance scheduling as demanded by regulations:

SOLAS Reg II-1/11.1  it states that hatches and watertight seals must be regularly tested: “Where a hose test is not practicable [sic] it may be replaced by [sic] an ultrasonic leak test or an equivalent test. In any case a thorough inspection of the watertight bulkheads shall be carried out.”

How have hatch covers been tested traditionally?

Chalk testing is used traditionally for visual inspection of the compression integrity of doors and hatches on vessels that hold the potential for flooding. Chalk is applied evenly around the knife edge, coaming compression bars or panel cross seams of doorways. The door/hatch is then closed and sealed. Once re-opened the rubber gasket which pushes against the knife edge is visually inspected for the chalk line. Any breaks in the chalk line indicate a lack of compression in that area. It must be noted that chalk testing is NOT a leak test, but only provides an indication of potential compression issues

The International Association of Classification Societies states that a chalk test must be followed by a hose test. The hose test is used in conjunction to determine the weather tightness of doors and hatch covers. The spray from a nozzle of 12mm diameter is sprayed from a distance of 1 to 1.5 meters with a water jet pressure of 0.5 

 This test should help identify any leakage from the hatch joints, although the exact location of the leakage sight cannot be pinpointed.

Why are these methods no longer recommended by P&I clubs?

 Various drawback come with chalk and hose testing, for instance;

  • The hold is required to be empty as cargo can be damaged by water. This is not always possible and certainly poses more issues once the ship is laden with goods. 
  • The test requires drains to be opened posing a genuine pollution risk. 
  • Two people are required to carry out the test effectively. 
  • Cannot be performed in sub-zero conditions.
  • Water pressure and distance can affect results.
  • Time-consuming.

Both of these tests are time-consuming and sometimes completely impractical. Some circumstances have been highlighted that prevent this test from being conducted such as the hose test if dry cargo is within the hold being tested but these tests conducted at port or in dry dock will never reproduce conditions when the ship is at sea and therefore cannot expect to achieve the same standard. Claims resulting from water damage due to leaking hatch covers still contribute a huge part of the overall loss figures on dry cargo ships. This method is neither accurate nor time effective.

What is the alternative?

Ultrasound.

The Swedish P & I club recommend using Ultrasound. As stated in their 2018 report “A much more effective method is to use an ultrasonic device, which is designed for this purpose and can pinpoint the area which is leaking, and if the compression of the gasket is sufficient. The advantages of using this type of equipment are evident, since ultrasonic tests can be carried out during any stage of the loading without risking cargo damage. The test can also be completed in sub-zero temperatures. The ultrasonic test should be carried out as per the class requirements.” 

Ultrasonic testing is a dramatically more sensitive, accurate and reliable method for testing cargo hatch covers, bulkheads and doors for watertight integrity on all vessels. A multi-directional ultrasound emitter is placed in a hold. The opening being tested is then sealed and the receiver switched on ready to receive any leakage of ultrasound via a set of headphones. An increased reading of ultrasound signal signifies an issue with the integrity of the door/hatch. Further, and closer inspection will allow identification of any specific leakage sight along with the severity. This test will take approximately 10 minutes and requires only one operator. 

Which is the best ultrasonic test kit for hatch cover testing?

Owners, managers, marine surveyors, third party servicing companies and other mariners have pledged their support for the Portascanner® WATERTIGHT for years.
For 3 simple reasons: “it is faster, better, cheaper” than any competitor. But don’t take Coltraco Ultrasonics’ word for it, here are 3 customer testimonials:

We did some transit inspection work on one of our customers vessel using the Portascanner and we are very pleased with your instrument. We are looking forward extending our service offer using it.” – Techsol Marine, Canada

“The fleet was equipped with a unit per Bulk Carrier and the units are and working well, providing the confidence that there will be no problems with water damage claims.” Ship Management Company

“Our PORTASCANNER WATERTIGHT unit performed well during the entire period of use, proved rugged and we feel sure that if it had not required returning for mandatory calibration and certification, the unit would have performed well for many more years to come.” Captain J.F. Holmes, Botrans

The Portascanner® WATERTIGHT is:

  • Faster: designed for ease of use from poorly educated crew up to chief engineer – no need for extensive and expensive training courses, simply read the operating instructions in the kit and away you go
  • Better: most mathematically accurate to 0.06 (+/-0.02mm) to identify leak integrity quickly and easily allowing prompt maintenance if required
  • Cheaper: never beaten on price guarantee from Coltraco Ultrasonics who are used to serving the world’s leading fleets for 30 years

Coltraco Ultrasonics’ mission delivering Safeship® solutions to improve safety of life, assets and vessels at sea. They do  by manufacturing high quality British instrumentation, supplied to over 100 countries worldwide, since 1987. Coltraco Ultrasonics focus on benefitting the crew; designing innovative ultrasonic solutions which the crew will be happy to use by being easy to operate, quick, accurate and a better method to traditional techniques. Thus increasing the likelihood of tests being regularly conducted, in line with regulations and even going above and beyond for more frequent testing. By so doing, the crew will be creating a safer ship.

Discover more about Coltraco Ultrasonics’ commitment to customer care and safety on www.coltraco.com.

Passenger ship fire safety push:ropax and passive protection

Giorgio Lauro (Promat): Current standards should be revised to reach a more feasible time elapse for evacuation in case of fire.

There is currently a big push to improve the fire safety of ropax ferries and to drive passive fire protection. Rebecca Moore reports 

Work to improve ropax fire safety has become a major area of activity following several high-profile incidents in recent years – and this has been underlined by industry association Interferry’s work in this area.

Interferry attended the fifth annual session of the IMO's Ship Systems and Equipment (SSE) Sub-Committee, which took place 12-16 March.

Among several fire-related issues, the European Commission (EC) presented proposals arising from its Fire Safe 1 studies, primarily on electrical connections and alternatively powered vehicles.

Interferry chief executive Mike Corrigan explained “We argued that while technically robust, some proposals such as fitting earth fault breakers are practical for newbuilds but not necessarily for existing ships, which the EC also plans to include.” He said that any requirements on existing ships “must be more generic in nature”, allowing for adaptations to the ship's current systems.

He added “Our concern is that good ideas for new ships could be killed off by the EC because the proposals simultaneously push for retrospective application, albeit with a fairly substantial delay to conform to new regulations.” For instance, positioning of vehicle deck sprinkler and nozzles could be optimised for new ships, but would be “very cumbersome” to address for existing ships.

Japan and China also submitted several potential risk-mitigation options, many of which were very reasonable proposals, Mr Corrigan commented. But he warned that Interferry emphasised “the need to avoid working with a general wish list”.

“After the Costa Concordia accident, the IMO spent several years trying to remove items of a less defined nature and we maintained that such generalities should be avoided regarding ropax fire protection.”

Mr Corrigan said the “most concrete” outcome of SSE5 was the development of a structure for interim guidelines, to be further developed in a correspondence group between now and the SSE6 sub-committee meeting.

Peejay V sinking

In 2016, the ferry Peejay V caught fire and sunk off the coast of Whakatane, New Zealand. Fifty-three passengers were on board at the time of the incident, one person suffered smoke inhalation and there was a total loss of the vessel.

The New Zealand Transport Accident Investigation Commission has investigated the cause of the incident and concluded that a lack of understanding of the CO2 fixed fire-fighting system contributed to the sinking of PeeJay V. One of the significant issues was “the CO2 fixed fire-fighting system installed in the engineroom could not be fully effective in extinguishing the fire because the space it was protecting could not be fully closed down” and this was partly because “the builder and operators of the vessel did not fully appreciate the principles of how the CO2 fixed fire-fighting system operated”.

Coltraco Ultrasonics chief executive Carl Stephen Patrick Hunter told Passenger Ship Technology that such an incident could happen again. “The risks remain. So unfortunately, another incident could happen again. For as long as ships do not check and maintain the contents of their CO2 fire extinguishing systems against the risk of accidental discharge or slow leakage, there will remain high risk of the fire system being unable to deliver the design concentration of CO2 required to extinguish the fire event.”

He commented that currently the industry services its systems, “often from the lowest bidder” to gain its certificate which enables its insurance. He explained “This inevitably leads to situations in which the CO2cylinders are not individually checked, since the lowest bidder will often be under time pressures that inhibit their ability to service them properly.”

Elaborating on why he thought there is a lack of understanding and servicing of fixed fire-fighting solutions, Dr Hunter said “Designing, installing and maintaining fixed gaseous fire-fighting systems is more complicated than commonly thought and requires scientific understanding to ensure they remain fully operational at all times. The race to the bottom in price means that fire engineers and servicing teams do not always have the training required. Better respect for the industry and fire safety needs to be adhered to, to ensure safety of life, assets and infrastructure.”

Gaseous extinguishing systems are highly pressurised, he said, and the risk of leaking and discharging is accepted as part of their use, shown in the regulations that demand their upkeep. IMO SOLAS FSS Ch5. 2.1.1.3 states that ‘means shall be provided for the crew to safely check the quantity of the fire extinguishing medium in the container’.

But Dr Hunter said “Often this is misunderstood, this code specifically states that the crew must test their extinguishing installations in between the periodic inspection, maintenance and certification. Only having the annual inspection by accredited marine servicing companies is not enough – the crew must take responsibility for its own fire protection.”

He warned that the crew are “often not trained or certified to shutdown, dismantle, weigh and reinstall the gaseous cylinders – the traditional method [of testing fire suppression systems]”.
Highlighting how Coltraco’s testing system benefited crew, he said that its Portalevel Max ultrasonic liquid level indicator – designed primarily for the vessels’ crew to themselves inspect large fire suppression systems of up to 600 cylinders – enables one person to test the contents of a cylinder in 30 seconds, compared to traditional manual weighing with two people testing the cylinder contents in 15 minutes.

“The ease of operation in comparison to weighing, increases the ability of more regular and frequent checks, improving fire safety management on board,” he said.

Coltraco Ultrasonics has launched its Safeship concept to prevent PeeJay V-type incidents occurring again. Dr Hunter said Safeship promotes protecting critical infrastructure at sea.

He said “This is a call to respond to regulations with a rigorous attitude, to go above and beyond, to provide security of life and infrastructure.”

 As a result of SafeShip, Coltraco designed FleetSafe, a package of safety tools to comply with regulations, which includes:

With this package, hatch covers, doors, compartments, pipework, hulls, bulkheads, rotating machinery, pumps, sprinkler systems and gaseous extinguishing installations are protected. “The package is based on integrity, from design, through to lifetime support, and is accurate, reliable and easy to use for any crew members,” said Dr Hunter.

Passive fire protection push 

Belgium-based Promat is pushing forward its case for passive fire protection. Tests carried out with Promaguard – a new generation product used for passive fire protection and thermal insulation, based on microporous technologies – are said to have demonstrated a level of performance which, the company claims, would enable a modification of the Solas A60 standards, which require a 60-minute safe evacuation time, to A180 standards, with evacuation enabled within three hours.

Explaining why he felt it necessary to change the regulations, Promat marine segment manager and naval architect Giorgio Lauro told Passeger Ship Technology “The actual highest passive protection standards are A60, meaning 60 minutes of structural fire protection and insulation to allow persons on board to follow escape routes and abandon the ship in case of fire.”

But he pointed out such standardisation refers to the first safety regulation established at the time when SOLAS came into force in 1974. “We have to be aware that, at that time, ships’ dimensions and number of passengers were very small compared to the actual giant cruise ships, where more than 6,000 people are hosted in 350 m long vessels,” he said. “Should it be the case to revise such a standard to reach a more feasible time elapse for evacuation in case of fire?”

Along with Interferry members, Mr Lauro attended the IMO SSE5 sub-committee meeting in March, where the fire protection sector discussed, among other issues related to fire on the roro deck, the enhancement of passive fire protection for fire containment, as requested by the document MSC 97/19/3. Mr Lauro said this would allow a discussion on enhancing the passive fire protection standards to be raised. “All of this process, if successful, will take at least another two years,” he observed.

There have been other developments within the drive for passive fire protection. Class society RINA last year launched a service called Fire Risk Mitigation, which includes periodical onboard checks such as passive fire protection verification throughout the ship’s life, hot spot assessment in machinery spaces, and electrical equipment verification and maintenance in specially categorised spaces and other areas classified as hazardous. “The scope is to verify that the likelihood of a fire occurring in machinery compartments is as low as possible,” commented Mr Lauro.

In terms of its Promaguard solution, Promat has tested solutions and achieved certification with performance in excess of one hour. Mr Lauro said that Promaguard A240 Plus, for example, can achieve more than four hours insulation in case of fire. “We are still focusing on extra fire insulation performance by extending the interest to the naval sector where the survivability of ships is a must and ship’s evacuation is the last option,” he commented.

Commenting on the benefits of using Promat lightweight passive fire protection alongside non-combustible furniture, Mr Lauro said that it saves insulation and outfitting weight compared to chipboard or mineral wool, and boosts the ship’s energy efficiency design index.

“Although initial cost seems higher, savings for logistic must be taken into account (four to five times less volume for transportation, storage and handling on board),” he said, adding that the ship’s survivability of fire can be achieved with a reduced use of active fire protection, leading to less weight, complexity and through-life maintenance costs.

Improve Safety Management Systems with the Portasteele® CALCULATOR

A key elements of the offshore protective system is the fixed fire suppression system. These are made up of a number of cylinder points that will release the suppressant agent when a fire incident is detected.  One of the key challenges with fixed fire suppression systems has been monitoring the individual cylinder points liquid level. Cylinder points can suffer from leakage and accidental discharge over time. Often, cheap systems only minimally comply with the regulations and there are very few qualified engineers who may be considered experts on the subject matter. Routine maintenance is liable to be overlooked because it is difficult, the crew are unqualified to test and may be given insufficient attention by the rig owners. No longer necessary to use the laborious  weighing method to monitor the contents of suppressant agents, now ultrasonic technology offers a better method. The Portasteele® Calculator is an advanced calculator application, that converts the liquid level height of CO2 & marine CO2 systems, NOVEC™ 1230 and FM-200® liquefied gaseous extinguishant agent readings taken on an ultrasonic non-destructive liquid level indicator device into the agent weight/mass. The cylinder database function means often tested cylinder types, such as 45kg CO2, commonly found on supply vessels, rigs and platforms, can be recalled reducing testing time, providing an incredibly quick to use tool. Plans to incorporate additional functionalities, such as agent type indication, are already in their final planning stages. In the long term, the acquisition of Portasteele® Calculator into offshore platforms, oil tankers etc. will improve overall Safety Management Systems and reduce cost associated with the maintenance of fire suppression systems. When these fire systems are properly maintained, the cost associated with fire damage is likely to reduce dramatically as we know fire damages on these hazardous offshore environments are generally catastrophic to lives, asset, environment and company reputation.

The Mathematics of Monitoring Gaseous Extinguishing Systems & Room Integrity

Applying Mathematics

The fire industry calling is a noble one. It is uses scientific principles to enable its very existence. The fire industry, however, calculates fire engineering designs based on formulas that its technicians have no way of understanding or verifying are accurate. The industry needs a Resident Mathematician to ensure that the formulas they use are correct. Fire engineers do not always understand the physical properties of the clean agents they use. Some do not wholly appreciate the impact of temperature on the state of an agent or its pressures. Novec™ 1230 for instance is an organic compound which deteriorates quickly to a point of non-effectiveness if poorly handled and stored. These problems and many more can be solved in the fire industry by the application of fundamental scientific and engineering principles. But they can only be proved by the application of the mathematics of them. Coltraco are at the vanguard of this in the fire industry.

Clean Agents

Are pressurised liquefied gases or non-liquefied gases that are pressurised on actuation. CO2 is permanently under 720 psi or 49 bar of pressure ie nearly 50 times atmospheric pressure (by comparison a cup of water at sea level exists at 1 bar or 14.5 psi). Its state changes under increased temperatures to one that is neither a liquid nor a gas. Gases under pressure are often effectively considered by the industry as single and passive cylinder columns of solid material from the perspective of their monitoring following installation. Whereas being under pressure and constantly changing under temperature they should be considered as active and dynamic systems requiring constant monitoring. These are not passive systems therefore; they are dynamic ones, and all dynamic systems under pressure need constant monitoring.  

We achieve this

By our ability to establish the liquid contents of liquefied clean agents – through UL-approved Portalevel™ MAX and the constant monitoring system, Permalevel™ Multiplex. Once we do this we can establish their weight and mass – through Portasteele™ Calculator (the world’s first product capable of this). If we can monitor their pressure too then we can monitor both the pressure of the gas above the liquefied agent such as in Novec 1230 gas suppression system and the pressure of non-liquefied gases such as Inergen or Nitrogen.

Case Study: Oxygen Reduction System - Data Centre, England 2018

Oxygen Reduction System and Need for Monitoring: Oxygen Reduction system works by taking Nitrogen from the air outdoors and pumping this into the room consistently in order to suppress oxygen levels, down to the level where combustion can no longer occur. To ensure the system works safely and efficiently, room integrity is of utmost important for two reasons: (1) A properly sealed room will contain the Nitrogen for a longer period of time, therefore putting less work on the air compressor in order to save energy. (2) If Nitrogen starts to leak from the Server Room, there are safety concerns over where this Nitrogen would leak to as it has the potential to harm occupants in other rooms if the Nitrogen leaks into their room and the oxygen levels were unmonitored.

Testing of the Server Room: The Server Room had an area of about 91 metres square. Several areas were tested with an ultrasonic room integrity tester where leakage was probable and the readings were noted on the drawings. These were the doors, vents, cable penetrations and also sections of the wall where gaps were visible.

Results: The ultrasonic room integrity tester identified the main source of leaks for the room, the doors, where full readings were clearly detected. Multiple air vents in the room were also improperly sealed and some leakage was found into the external room. Cable penetrations leading to the area outside the Server Room were also found to be leaking. 

Conclusions: Once the required maintenance was conducted and assuming no changes were made to the room, it is safe to assume that the room retains its integrity, thus comply and exceed current ISO 14520 regulations requiring periodic inspections of room integrity whereby visual inspection is usually specified and is not sufficient. The most suitable way to address periodic inspections is through the use of ultrasound.

Hatches leak for a variety of reasons, but mainly because of poor maintenance or failure to seal them properly after loading.

 A watertight hatch cover is designed to prevent the passage of water in either direction under a head of water for which the surrounding structure is designed.  Many mariners may think hatches are robust, monolithic structures, thereby failing to appreciate the small tolerances on panel alignment and gasket compression. It is better to think of hatches as complex, finely-made structures, to be handled with care. All types of seals, experience dynamic stresses as part of their operational lifetime. For example, 4mm wear on the steel-to-steel contact is sufficient to damage rubber sealing gaskets beyond repair; 5mm sag along the cross-joint can cause a large gap between the compression bar and gasket.

The risk is worsened by the ageing nature of many bulk carrier ships in particular. There is also a degree of bending/deformation that naturally occurs in ships during travel, which puts pressure on hatch covers and can damage sealing. A recent wave of inexperienced crew members has swept across the shipping industry as a cost-saving mechanism, leaving vessel maintenance and hatch cover testing to decrease in quality. While hatch covers are often perceived as indestructible due to their large size and bulky exterior, in reality they are complex, finely made structures that need to be handled with care, a point that many mariners do not realise.

The case study of the Emma Maersk exemplifies the danger of improper servicing. A severe leakage occurred on the container ship in February 2013 when it was loaded with 14,000 containers. The leakage was caused because of a mechanical break-down of a stern thruster, creating the shaft tunnel to flood, as well as leading to severe ingress of water in the aft part. Eventually there was flooding of the main engine room. This was because of non-effective cable penetration sealings, in a sudden blast, four cable penetration sealings in the watertight bulkhead gave way to the water pressure followed by a massive ingress of seawater. Shortly after this, the other three cable penetration sealings also failed, resulting in an even larger ingress of water into the engine room. This led to approximately USD 45 million worth of damages and towage cost.

The use of UT is far more efficient than the traditional methods described in the previous section, taking less time and requiring no clean up while being in a portable, light-weight model for ease of use. Due to its convenience, UT tests can be conducted more frequently and can contribute to safety management and preventative maintenance procedures on board.

hatch covers testing

For further information, contact Coltraco Customer Service

Kit for Cargo Hatch Cover Protection

The Portascanner® Watertight is used onboard bulk carriers for inspecting the Watertight or Weather tight hatches for leak sites. The magnetic generator can be positioned just inside the hold, on the hatch combing, removing the need to climb down to position the generator at the bottom of the hold on the tank top.

This hatch cover tester is used by the crew for regular maintenance to dramatically reduce the risk of cargo damage from water ingress, and by Marine surveyors for carrying out P&I, Classification Society or Insurance surveys.

Multiple Cable Transits (MCTs) with Hatch Cover Tester

Cable Transit Seals provide a key element in maintaining the integrity of bulkheads and watertight seals onboard Naval, Offshore Oil & Gas and Marine assets. As one of the most neglected areas onboard, having the means to quickly identify the exact location and severity of issues in MCTs can dramatically assist Contractors and Fleet Operators to enhance the flood, fire & smoke protection that a correctly installed MCT seal provides.

Watertight Doors with Hatch Cover Tester

Watertight Doors on offshore Oil & Gas Rigs, Naval and Marine Vessels are regularly inspected & maintained to ensure the integrity of the Bulkheads and watertight barriers are secure. If these areas are neglected, there can be drastic impacts on flood prevention in the event of a major incident, which is exactly what the Portascanner helps to avoid.

Removing old fashioned and inaccurate chalk testing, the Portascanner® Technology provides a very quick and accurate method to identify problem areas and fix the issues that exist within these seals.

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