Portalevel® MINI

Coltraco Ultrasonics are delighted to release the smallest Portable Ultrasonic Liquid Level Indicator yet, the Portalevel ® Mini. With many thousands of the 7th Generation Portalevel™ distributed worldwide, the new “hands free” RINA Class Approved Portalevel® Mini offers the same level of excellence in safety, with added convenience and versatility. At the length of a pen (154mm), the Portalevel® Mini can be carried around the operator’s neck with an attached carrying strap, leaving both hands free to work on the reliable testing of CO2, FM-200® and NOVEC™1230 cylinders with up to +/-1.5mm accuracy. The non-intrusive Ultrasonic Liquid Level Indicator efficiently services a cylinder in under a minute. The LCD Numeric Digital Display with LED Bar Graph allows the equipment to be adaptable and successful in low light testing environments. Coltraco Ultrasonics as a Safesite® and Safeship® company have a commitment to go beyond regulations in supplying life and asset safety. Click here to learn more.

Case Study: Carnival Cruises sought Coltraco Ultrasonics’ expertise

Significance of FM 200 in fire extinguishing system on priority

“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.

Coltraco won  Seatrade Cruise Awards 2017, ‘Supplier of the Year’ thanks to supplying Carnival Cruises

  • Portalevel® MAX Marine is designed primarily for the vessels’ crew to 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.
  • 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. The Portasteele has widely been recognised by awards, as a finalist in the Safety at Sea Awards 2017 and the Tanker & Trade Awards 2016.

Improve Onboard Safety Management System with Portalevel® MAX Marine

The maintenance of installations must be a priority. It need not be expensive nor time consuming, Coltraco will support you in ensuring the safety of your crew and vessel. Tragic case studies of incidents such as MSC Flaminia prove that fire safety onboard must be a priority. Don’t minimally comply with regulations and thereby risk the effectiveness of your installations. Coltraco are proud that they can make your critical safety processes more effective.

Provide protection to your high value assets

Oil and Gas facilities are high value assets requiring maintenance and protection, which Coltraco Ultrasonics has strived to provide. With the ABS and RINA Approved Portalevel® MAX and the technologically advanced Portasteele Calculator™ a facilities manager can be supplied with the confidence that their fire suppression systems are operating under an enhanced safety management plan. Portalevel® Max units have been operating on rigs, platforms and offshore support vessels around the globe, notably on approximately 160 of the North Sea rigs overtime, as well as with onshore drilling, exploration and production operations. The UL-listed Portalevel® Max services a cylinder in 30 seconds with accuracy of up to +/- 1.5mm off the true liquid level indicator. The Portasteele™ Calculator then transforms the liquid level height of C02 NOVEC™ 123, FM-200™and other liquefied gaseous readings taken on the Portalevel® MAX device into weight/mass. As it is easy to learn how to operate, the Portasteele™ Calculator is a useful and accessible aid. Coltraco are delighted to share that the Portasteele Calculator has now been shortlisted for awards twice, once for the 2016 Seatrade Maritime Asia Safety Award, and recently for the Technical Innovation Award in the 2016 Tanker Shipping & Trade Conference Awards. The ease of use, portability and accuracy of the Portalevel® Max and Portasteele™ Calculator makes them an unbeatable duo in providing assured fire safety.

There exists much “ungoverned space” in the fire industry. Too often fire protection is seen as a cost rather than an investment and something vital to the overall business activity of the customer. High value assets such as Data Centres, Military Communication facilities, Power Generating, Electricity & Gas Sub-Stations, Mobile Networks - are critical infrastructure with catastrophic effects in the event of downtime or shutdown. We cannot rely on sprinkler systems as they can suffer leakage and gas systems can cause catastrophic effects given its physical pressure in the case of the uncontrolled release. Technologies exist now to far more efficiently test room integrity. Testing of room integrity is contained in NFPA 2001: Standard on Clean Agent Fire Extinguishing Systems and ISO 14520: Gaseous Fire-Extinguishing Systems, concerning enclosure design and testing. Coltraco Ultrasonics Portascanner™ ISO 14520 is the most mathematically accurate device available providing precise data concerning leak locations and aperture. Unrivalled in its precision, non-invasive methodology and ease of use, the first unit available to the Fire Industry. It is perfectly positioned to work alongside Door Fan testing in order to meet the total requirements for fire safety regulations ensuring continuous fire protection of rooms using Clean Agent Fire Suppression systems.

Address fire risk in tankers

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.  Further to this, equipment that must be used to test the protecting fire systems must be Intrinsically Safe, to protect the crew against the risk of explosion.

The risk of explosion on tankers means that ultrasonic technology utilised to inspect fire 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. 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 tragically lost their life. 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.

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, higher than a standard cup of water which is 1bar. It’s accepted that these systems are not passive but dynamic, thus requiring monitoring. 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 i.e. acoustic (sound) energy in the form of waves of high frequency that are above the human audible range.  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.

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. 

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.

UK technology for the constant monitoring

Misunderstanding exists across parts of Shipping regarding the application of a part of the IMO SOLAS FSS Code; the need for crew to test the contents of their CO2, FM-200® & Novec 1230 gas suppression system Gaseous Extinguishing Systems in between the periodic inspection, maintenance and certification intervals. These periodic inspections are conducted annually or biennially, and only by an Accredited Service Agent i.e. an external Marine Servicing Company. The reason IMO requires crew to test for contents in-between these is that the “ship sails alone”; it must act as its own emergency fire service.

IMO SOLAS FSS Code Chapter 5 Fixed gas fire extinguishing systems :

2.1.1.3 Means shall be provided for the crew to safely check the quantity of the fire extinguishing medium in the containers. It shall not be necessary to move the containers completely from their fixing positions for this purpose.

ISO 14520-1 : 2015 Gaseous Extinguishing Systems   and some key extracts from it follow for your general interest :

The assumptions in these are that gaseous extinguishing/suppression systems must be checked for 5% loss of contents against the risk of leakage or accidental discharge. The regulations that underpin the pursuit of them support their leak identification every 6 months.

Monitoring Gaseous Extinguishing Systems 

  • 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. 
  • We manufacture the portable liquid level indicator Portalevel™ used by fire technicians for the contents checking of CO2, old Halons, FM-200™ and NOVEC™ 1230.
  • Portalevel™ liquid level indicator readings are then converted to agent weight readings via Portasteele™ Calculator – the world’s first
  • Constant monitoring of the contents of gaseous systems are now enabled via the 24/7 system Permalevel™ Multiplex, but the fire industry is highly resistant to using technology to constantly monitor the pressurised systems which it installs.

Monitoring Room Integrity

  • Coupled to this is a  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.
  • Portascanner™ 520 is a hand-held product designed to identify leak-sites in Protected Spaces. it is simple to create from this the means to constantly monitor room integrity as the building ages or its internal use changes and leak sites develop.

We design the UK technology which enables  the continuous monitoring of both.

UK technology for the constant monitoring

Misunderstanding exists across parts of Shipping regarding the application of a part of the IMO SOLAS FSS Code; the need for crew to test the contents of their CO2, FM-200® & Novec 1230 gas suppression system Gaseous Extinguishing Systems in between the periodic inspection, maintenance and certification intervals. These periodic inspections are conducted annually or biennially, and only by an Accredited Service Agent i.e. an external Marine Servicing Company. The reason IMO requires crew to test for contents in-between these is that the “ship sails alone”; it must act as its own emergency fire service.

IMO SOLAS FSS Code Chapter 5 Fixed gas fire extinguishing systems :

2.1.1.3 Means shall be provided for the crew to safely check the quantity of the fire extinguishing medium in the containers. It shall not be necessary to move the containers completely from their fixing positions for this purpose.

ISO 14520-1 : 2015 Gaseous Extinguishing Systems   and some key extracts from it follow for your general interest :

The assumptions in these are that gaseous extinguishing/suppression systems must be checked for 5% loss of contents against the risk of leakage or accidental discharge. The regulations that underpin the pursuit of them support their leak identification every 6 months.

Monitoring Gaseous Extinguishing Systems 

  • 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. 
  • We manufacture the portable liquid level indicator Portalevel™ used by fire technicians for the contents checking of CO2, old Halons, FM-200™ and NOVEC™ 1230.
  • Portalevel™ liquid level indicator readings are then converted to agent weight readings via Portasteele™ Calculator – the world’s first
  • Constant monitoring of the contents of gaseous systems are now enabled via the 24/7 system Permalevel™ Multiplex, but the fire industry is highly resistant to using technology to constantly monitor the pressurised systems which it installs.

Monitoring Room Integrity

  • Coupled to this is a  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.
  • Portascanner™ 520 is a hand-held product designed to identify leak-sites in Protected Spaces. it is simple to create from this the means to constantly monitor room integrity as the building ages or its internal use changes and leak sites develop.

We design the UK technology which enables  the continuous monitoring of both.

“Means shall be provided for the crew to safely check the quantity of the fire extinguishing medium in the containers”

  • In the UAE it is estimated by marine servicing companies that typical findings are that 10-30% of the ships CO2 cylinders have accidentally discharged or leaked.
  • Extract from IMO & FSS Codes: International Maritime Organisation (IMO) Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) International Fire Safety Systems (FSS) Code Chapter 5 - Fixed gas fire extinguishing systems 1. Application This chapter details the specifications for fixed gas fire-extinguishing systems as required by chapter II-2 of the Convention. 2. Engineering Specifications 2.1 General 2.1.1 Fire-Extinguishing Medium 2. 1. 1. 3 Means shall be provided for the crew to safely check the quantity of the fire extinguishing medium in the containers.
  • Annual certification checks cannot cater for the need to monitor suppression cylinders for the rest of the year. Annual inspections or unreliable mechanical pressure gauges leave the fire suppression system vulnerable between annual checks.

Solution?

  • The Portalevel’s credentials back up this success; proven accurate to +/-1.5mm by numerous different organizations, proven to save 75% of the time to complete testing when compared to weighing cylinders, it is the only Liquid Level Indicator to achieve full Classification Society Approval and there is currently over 11,000 units in operation worldwide.
  • Key Product
  • The equipment can work on a wide variety of cylinder types and typical agents include co2 and co2 marine system, FM200™, NOVEC 1230™, old Halon Agents, FE-13™, FE-25™, NAF S III™ and all core Clean Agent Systems.
  • The product checks contents of their fire suppression system so that they can crew their vessel knowing that their ships fire suppression system contains the correct contents – knowledge of safety
  • Portalevel™ MAX Marine – a version which is fitted with the Mini Marine Extension Rod - The Portalevel® MAX is also available as a Marine Package. As well as the standard set the unit comes with the Multi-bank Extension Rod which enables the Operator to monitor back to the 2nd, 3rd or 4th rows deep of cylinders in an installation. This is ideal for use onboard rigs, platforms, vessels, warships as a cost effective, time saving and regulation compliant tool for enhancing the fire safety management procedures onboard.

Minimise Risk in High Value Assets

What is the “Ungoverned Space”
ISO 14520 is the fundamental regulation for Gaseous Extinguishing Systems, referencing:

  • The need for pipework to be able to withstand the agent pressures on discharge;
  • The need to test that the room into which they discharge can hold the agent and that the room can withstand the peak pressure of its discharge;
  • The need to monitor contents of liquefied gaseous extinguishing systems.
  • The engineering reality that anything such as a cylinder under pressure needs its contents and its pressure to be constantly monitored
  • The under-reporting of accidental discharges or leakages of pressurised fire systems unless fatalities are its consequence
  • The over-reliance on contractors to maintain fire systems at periodic intervals rather than their operational and daily integration into an overall fire and security plan

Overall the assumption is that little needs to be done on a “pressurised, dynamic system” after it is installed and nor is the “protected space” constantly monitored for room integrity and this “agent hold time”. This leaves a clean agent gaseous extinguishing system un-monitored for 364 days a year. No essential machinery in defence, offshore oil and gas or power generating would be left un-monitored for 1 hour per day.  This is the “Ungoverned Space” which we invite you to work with us on to close the gap for your customers and provide added protection, minimising the risk of fire.
How? 

  • The constant and portable Monitoring of liquefied gaseous extinguishants such as NOVEC™ 1230 or FM-200™ with Permalevel™ Multiplex and Portalevel™ MAX respectively giving accuracy of +/-1.5mm
  • The conversion of ultrasonic liquid level indicator readings to ones of weight/mass with Portasteele™ Calculator
  • The portable and semi-fixed monitoring of room integrity with Portascanner™ 520
  • The development of constant monitoring capabilities of non-liquefied gaseous extinguishants such as Nitrogen or Inergen – with Permagas™. We estimate that we are in the final 6-8 months of a 2 year project aiming for 1-2% accuracy

What are the key benefits of Constant Monitoring of Gaseous Extinguishing Systems?

  • To critical infrastructure customers who need to integrate their fire systems into their operation in-between the maintenance intervals
  • Rather than to customers who are installing fixed systems for compliance reasons
  • The ability for high asset value customers to minimise risk, deliver business continuity and enhance resilience of their facilities
  • Such customers may include data centres, power generation stations and electricity distribution sub-stations

Who today in the security industry would consider installing an alarm system without monitoring its overall status and integrating the whole of it to the building management system with central monitoring being an essential part of it? This is a basic engineering principle: build redundancy into one’s systems and monitor critical systems, to protect people or a critical infrastructure or asset. 

How could the Portalevel® MAX INDUSTRIAL help you?

Customers in the manufacturing and process industries face problems ranging from difficulty in monitoring contents of tanks, IBC’s and transformer oil. In 2017 Coltraco Ultrasonics were presented with monitoring products presented by customers in four industries which they strived to resolve:

FOOD INDUSTRY PROBLEM: A food processing factory based in the South of the UK approached Coltraco facing difficulty in monitoring the contents of its mayonnaise and Coltraco offered a solution to this problem. The mayonnaise used for the coleslaw is contained in 2.2. metres high, 5mm stainless steel cylinders.

PHARMACUETICAL INDUSTRY PROBLEM: A British pharmaceutical company approached Coltraco for an innovative solution to aid a manufacturing plant,  where a mix of ammonia and water is delivered to the site in Intermediate Bulk Containers. Previously, the company had been monitoring the ammonia contents through a physical dip stick measurement on the tank, because of a lack of confidence in the internal IBC monitoring systems. However, the fumes given off by ammonia are irritating and posing a severe health risk for the engineers.

AEROSPACE MANUFACTURING PROBLEM: 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. Manually weighing cylinders proved inefficient, time consuming and risks damaging the system and injuring the personnel conducting the laborious test.

TRANSFORMERS PROBLEM: A Steel Production facility commissioned Coltraco for assistance with their transformers. 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.

<p?In response to these issues, Coltraco Ultrasonics implemented The Portalevel® MAX INDUSTRIAL which includes a range of liquid level testing applications across various sectors.

FOOD INDUSTRY SOLUTION: In the food processing factory the implementation of the Portalevel® MAX INDUSTRIAL, allows plants to run more efficiently and reduces risks by providing staff with a means of accurately and non-invasively monitoring the contents within the mayonnaise tank negating the need for physical inspection using ladders.

PHARMACUETICAL SOLUTION: The Portalevel® MAX INDUSTRIAL requires no input from the on-site engineer apart from the simple application of the sensor to the vessel wall. This protects the operator from the health and safety problems that were presented through manual monitoring, as well as increasing efficiency.

AEROSPACE MANUFACTURING SOLUTION: Portalevel® MAX INDUSTRIAL allowed for more efficient operations and reduced waste by ensuring partially empty cylinders were not returned to the gas supplier.

TRANSFORMER SOLUTION: With the Portalevel® MAX INDUSTRIAL, 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. Inspecting with increased efficiency, the oil inspections can now be conducted routinely saving overall maintenance and labour costs as only a single user is required to operate the equipment.

Coltraco Ultrasonics provide smart ultrasonic liquid level indicator solutions which enable business owners to improve their 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®.

What is the ungoverned space?

There exists much “ungoverned space” in the fire industry. Whether in regard to installation, commissioning or servicing there are too few qualified Engineers who may be considered subject matter experts. In terms of extinguishing systems there exist two broad categories: Sprinkler systems and gas systems. The former can suffer leakage but the latter can cause catastrophic effect given its physical pressures. Overall, the value of the assets that fire systems are protecting is increasing rapidly but the competitive nature of the free market in the fire industry places great pressure on it to deliver systems which comply with the regulations and deliver asset protection at the most economical cost. Too often fire protection is seen as a cost rather than an investment.

Anecdotes & Experience

Our experiences in the fire industry globally have included wonderful ones of professionalism and care from dedicated Fire Engineers and Risk Managers. Many of our products and systems today and others that we have under development are the direct result of advice and guidance that we have received from these very fine Fire Engineers. Set alongside these however are highly concerning anecdotal experiences:

  • Systems portrayed and installed by contractors as NOVEC™ 1230 but filled with sand or water.
  • High pressure gas systems without the means to actuate them.
  • Cheap pressure gauges sticking in position under humidity or mechanical fatigue.
  • Safety pins being retained in position in the cylinder valves after installation.
  • CO2 and 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.

SMART SAFESHIP SOLUTIONS

“Constant monitoring”. “Autonomous shipping”. “Unmanned vessels”. These are the terms of the moment, and for good reason. Data and safety are priceless, so new solutions are being implemented to secure these. In the ungoverned spaces of fire safety and watertight integrity, there will soon be innovative new systems providing continuous monitoring and remote diagnostics. At the vanguard of this, Coltraco have just launched the world’s first instrument to enable ships to monitor the compartment door “open/closed” access status when they enter the ship’s CO2 room. This is known as Portascanner™ 520 and is a dual-function unit that can also permanently monitor the “Protected Space” of the ship’s compartment to ensure that it will “hold” the CO2 or NOVEC™1230, should it be discharged into it. Coltraco are dedicated to developing semi-fixed systems with the Portascanner™ Watertight Compartment Door and Portascanner™ Multiple Cable Transit testing Area next year, so that shipping companies can test these structures at sea over varying load and weather states enabling them to calculate leak site aperture.

Vessel stability and vessel fire safety

Shipping professionals understand that any marine structure “turns and bends” as it sails, that its extent is affected by its sea, weather and its load states and that as a structure ages its integrity changes and worsens. They understand that a pressurised fire extinguishing gas is effected by temperature and that its cylinder holding structure and its associated pipework corrodes over time. They know well that a fire at sea can only be dealt with two ways - by the ships’ extinguishing system or the crew. Portalevel™ MAX Marine and Portascanner™ Watertight are therefore in service in over 20% of the world’s fleet of ships, across the leading 20 Navies and in most of the world’s Oil & Gas Platforms. They are at the heart of the IMO SOLAS FSS code enabling Officers and Crew to test in port and at sea either their fire systems or their watertight integrity.

Coltraco Ultrasonics designed the world’s first portable ultrasonic liquid level indicator which developed into the world’s first portable ultrasonic watertight integrity test indicator. These were designed respectively to give to Shipping safe, environmentally-friendly products and systems to replace existing labour-intensive and environmentally-damaging means to help secure these safety risks. In a Ships’ CO2 system, there may be 600 x 45KG/100 lb cylinders of CO2. The CO2 is a highly effective gaseous extinguishant designed to displace oxygen and suppress a fire in a ship. But they are under extreme pressure, often more than 50 Bar, and they can leak or accidentally discharge. If personnel are around when they discharge fatalities can occur. They must be physically dismantled, weighed and re-installed for maintenance, which the crew is not licensed to do so. 30 years ago, marine servicing companies used radioactive-sourced level indicators, but these were damaging to health and subject to IATA transportation, licensing and storage requirements. Coltraco Ultrasonics designed a portable ultrasonic liquid level indicator, now called the Portalevel™ MAX Marine and today it is the worlds most widely used liquid level indicator in ships’ CO2 and NOVEC™ 1230 systems.

A dynamic system needs 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 pressurized 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.

Benefits the crew with 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.” 

Ultrasonics is proven to be the quickest, easiest and most efficient method of testing watertight & weather-tight seals of hatch-covers, doors, multiple cable transits. The Portascanner® WATERTIGHT is the most accurate model of its kind – proven to 0.06mm (+/-0.02mm). This is designed primarily to enhance the ease and accuracy with which critical watertight, airtight or weather tight seals can be inspected for leak sites or areas of reduced compression in the seal. The ultrasound generator emits a modulated signal of a specific frequency of ultrasound (in most cases 40,000Hz). The receiver then picks up the signal and converts it into a result indicating watertight integrity. The easy to use Portascanner® WATERTIGHT allows crew member to check for failing seals whilst at sea which allows for prompt maintenance.  

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.

Fire Safety Improvements are Required

In a recent position paper, the International Union of Marine Insurance (IUMI) said it believed “further steps are required to improve fire safety”. In this article, Coltraco Ultrasonics break down why this is the case.

Why does fire safety need to be improved?

According to Lloyds List, almost 10% of all total losses at sea in the last decade were caused by a fire on board.

Statistics based on the VTT Technical research centre in Finland show there is expected to be 33 vessels a year with fire resulting in total loss.*

What risk does fire pose to the crew?

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 concerns have been voiced?

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

The general concern for IUMI is the growing size of ships and the inadequacy of fire prevention measures on board. 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.

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.

Why is this the case?

Time pressures.

Most marine servicing companies only have 4 hours on a vessel in a port to test up to 600 cylinders. It is known that it takes 15 minutes for a 2 person team to shutdown, dismantle and weigh a single CO2 cylinder, which is equal to 16 cylinders in 4 hours. Yet despite this, every CO2 cylinder on the vessel receives a “tested and certified sticker” and the marine CO2 system is certified and a certificate is issued.

As well as this, any vessel with a gaseous extinguishing system needs to consider 3 factors:

  • Unless compartmentation exists the gas (e.g. CO2) will not be able to concentrate
  • Unless the gaseous contents exists in sufficient designed amount, extinguishing will not occur
  • The pipework and flanges must be tested to be free of corrosion-generated particulates which block the nozzles and must be tested to be able to withstand the shock of gas discharge on actuation

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

How have seals 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. Various drawback come with this test, 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.

The accuracy of results is open to human error. The application of the chalk must be very accurate in order to avoid misdiagnosis. A false application of chalk could be construed as a compression issue.

In fact, the limitations of using chalk and water hose testing have been demonstrated in case studies from the Swedish P&I Club’s Recent Report:

CASE STUDY 1: 

Before loading with grain the cargo hatch covers had passed a water hose test. Once the vessel was fully loaded the cargo hatch covers were then sealed with tape. The cargo was mostly damaged underneath the cross-joints. During the voyage the vessel encountered heavy weather at Beaufort scale 10 with large waves and a swell which covered the hatch covers in water.  A visual inspection of the cargo hatch covers, rubber gaskets, securing devices, valves, ventilators and drainage channels found them to be in order. During the voyage the tape by the cross-joints between the forward and aft hatch panels of two holds had peeled off. A chalk test was carried out and this did not show any imprints on the rubber gaskets. At the discharge port it was found that part of the top layer of the cargo in a number of the cargo holds was damaged by seawater. Further investigation revealed that there was no contact between the compression bars and rubber gaskets on the cross-joint panels. In addition, an ultrasonic test identified that the cross-joints between the forward and aft hatch cover were also leaking. 

CASE STUDY 2:

A vessel had loaded wire coils. After loading was complete the crew taped across the transverse beams of all the cargo holds.  The vessel sailed through heavy weather that lasted for about two days. During this time the vessel was pitching and rolling heavily. The cargo hatch covers were covered in water.  When discharging at the destination port it was found that the steel coils in the top tiers were corroded. The coils below the centre line and folding seams were the most affected.  The surveyor tested the water integrity of the cargo hatch covers with an ultrasonic device which detected significant defects to the sealing arrangements. 

  • The surveyor found the following defects: 
  • The gaskets were in poor condition 
  • The non-return valves were clogged and the ball inside was not moving
    The transverse packing on the hatch covers was leaking
  • There were some cracked corners and leaking
  • The ventilation covers were leaking

What features does the Portalevel® Standard have?

  • Measurements:
  • Width: 95 mm (3.74 inches)
  • Height: 155 mm (6.10 inches)
  • Weight: 500 grams (17.63 ounces)
  • Profundity: 45 mm (1.77 inches)
  • Precision:

+/ - 1.5mm or 1/8 inch

  • Irrefutable Agents: FM 200™, CO2, H2O, NOVEC™ 1230, Halons, for example, FE-13™, HFC-225 and 2271, FE-36™, FE-25™, 1301 and 1211.
  • Sensor 2: TX/RX Dry Sensor, 14 mm in width containing polarized sensor implement and is associated by BNC connectors to 1 m length co hatchet – link.
  • Power Supply: It accompanies the power supply of 4 x AA 1.5 V batteries which work for 10 hours.
  • Display: The display demonstrating numeric advanced comes as LCD with LED Bar Graph.
  • Working Temperature: The working temperature for the accompanying gadget is - 20°C to +70°C or 68°F to 158°F) and Relative Humidity is - 5 % - 95 %.
  • Guarantee: 3 years guarantee for the primary unit and one year for the sensor.
  • Characterization: This liquid level indicator have two groups:
  • IP Rating 65
  • NATO Stock Number: 6680-99-275-5292.
  • Bundle Contents: The bundle Portalevel® Standard contains 1 Portalevel Standard unit, Ultrasonic Gel, 1 Wet Sensor, Calibration Certificate, 1 Hard Wearing Carrying Case and Operating Instructions.

What are bearings and how are they used?

Bearings are an integral device widely used in machinery that requires rotational, axial or linear movement to operate whilst restricting motion into a designed path, minimizing friction and stress. Many industries have machinery that requires some form of motion enabled by bearings. Such as:

Steel production facilities

Steel and iron use cold rolling mill machi-nery. The working rolls of the plant are the most extensively monitored. This is quite a challenging monitoring environment due to high temperatures, high and low-speed operation, as well as high contamination of water and debris.

Mining industry

Slow turning rolling element bearings require monitoring in this industry. Machinery such as crushers, stackers, conveyors, vibrating feeders, magnetic separators, slurry and vacuum pumps, classifiers, agitators and compressors.

Paper processing Industry

Papermaking machine bearings operate under very high temperatures and can be vulnerable to fractures of the inner ring, causing stoppages in production. Monitoring is done to determine the condition of the rolling-element bearings of the rolls, roll alignment, balance, and the condition of the electric motors and gearboxes.

Cement industry

Many machines in this industry require monitoring of bearing condition, inclu-ding crushers, mills, separators, roller presses, separators, conveyors, feeders, air compressors and fans. Most of which use rolling-element bearings powered by electric motors.

Thermal power industry

Gas and steam turbine generators and combined cycle plants require their most critical machines monitored. Dynamic rotating machines use high-speed rotating parts. The cost of failure in this industry is far-reaching.

Maritime industry

Diesel engines, gas turbines and nuclear reactor powered ships utilize bearings in all areas, from crankshafts to pistons and pumps. Also, gearboxes fans and other motors onboard, such as alternators used to generate electricity.

Many aspects of ship engines utilize bearings, from crankshafts to pistons and pumps. Also, gearboxes fans and other motors. Almost all machinery that moves requires bearings. However, they are liable to degradation over time and many factors influence this. According to studies conducted by the Mobius Institute defects are encapsulated in the chart below.

We are not investigating these particular categories in detail but we can exclude the handling/Installation section for our purpose, as this is not applicable nor possible to prevent through direct monitoring. The remaining 84% accounts for issues occurring once installed. Monitoring is essential for the detection of faults caused by fatigue or stress due to excessive load or use. Incorrect lubrication, as well as insufficient levels, can cause friction which can lead to fractures among other defects. Also, contamination, both in the bearing housing or the lubrication can damage and reduce the life of bearings.
Monitoring can detect abnormalities caused by these and allow preparations for maintenance or replacement. Ultimately avoiding failure and saving money. The cost of bearings is highly variable and depends on position and if any associated damage has occurred as a result of the initial bearings then figures can rise quickly. In severe cases when bearing monitoring has been limited and total failure has occurred then the cost can be tremendous.

All of the above contain bearings and if not monitored, or repaired when needed. The results could be catastrophic failure. This is just the cost of the replacement machinery, of course, this varies, especially when only small replacements are needed. A failure of a bearing is not just the part itself, the cost to a- vessel owner is repair, fitting and downtime in dock and loss of earning whilst not operational. Needless to say, the process can become extremely expensive.

Why do bearings fail?

Bearings will fail for a number of reasons but the key take away is that ALL bearings will degrade at some point and if they are left unchecked, maintained or replaced WILL fail. Bearing failure can have overwhelming consequences for a business. Appropriate monitoring matters because false diagnosis can result in undue downtime, wasted time, money and resources. The correct diagnosis is also extremely important but can be challenging. Knowing the root cause of damage can help prevent future failures. According to ISO 15243, damages left undiagnosed can actually mask the underlying cause if left too long [ISO 15243]. Below is an example showing the progression of bearing damage that has become more severe, thus hiding the root cause:

Case studie(s)

Many cases of catastrophic failure in bearings have occurred throughout the industry that could have been avoided if effective condition monitoring and maintenance had been in place. The following case study of bearing failure has been taken from the Australian Transport Safety Bureau:

On 7 March 1997, the Polish flag general cargo vessel Lodz 2 was using one of its own cranes, discharging a general cargo of steel products, including bundles of steel pipes, from no. 2 hold and tween deck. At about 0740, the sixth load of steel pipes, for that morning, was being discharged onto the wharf by no.1crane, a 12.5-tonne capacity crane situated on the aft end of the forecastle on the ships centreline. The load, weighing approximately 8.6 tonnes, consisted of 18 lengths with diameters varying up to 273 mm. As the load reached the side of the ship, there was a violent jolt and a bang as the slew bearing failed, then the crane fell from its pedestal into the port tween deck of no. 2 hold.

The jib struck the port bulwark, setting it down and out from the ships side, while the body of the crane hit the inboard edge of the port hatch coaming, before rotating through 180∞ and finishing up, upside-down, in the tween deck. The driver had fallen with the cab of the crane, approximately 17 metres into the tween deck from the cranes position on its pedestal. The crane was severely damaged and the badly twisted jib had to be cut up to remove it from the ship.

https://www.atsb.gov.au/publications/investigation_reports/1997/mair/mair110/

Vibration Analysis

Many devices make use of vibrational analysis for monitoring, for instance, accelerometers. Traditional accelerometers are seismic transducers and rely on piezoceramics, either lead zirconate titanate or single crystals (e.g. quartz, tourmaline). Measuring acceleration via its piezoelectric crystals which convert vibration into an electrical signal is known as the piezoelectric effect. 

These devices function based on the crystals’ natural frequency and can sense a wide range of defect frequencies [typically Hz-20 kHz].

Accelerometers are designed to pick up vibrations as an indicator of defects. Excessive vibrations can indicate a serious problem that requires maintenance before a catastrophic failure occurs. Complex software is then used in conjunction to diagnose machinery faults. This is the basis of VA.

Acoustic Emission

AE is used for effectively monitoring different machine conditions; balanced, unbalanced, misaligned and defecting bearings. Monitoring equipment using AE works on the principle of using transient elastic waves to detect the rapid release of strain energy caused by deformations or damage within the surface of materials. Strains, stresses and impacts produce transient stress (elastic) waves which can be effectively detected and occur in the very early stages of bearing degradation. 
Although traditional acceleration and AE techniques are both used for condition monitoring they apply different methods, cover different aspects of the same problem. They are both reliable within a specific operational range and have significant overlap in capability. In some cases, it is less clear which is more capable. However, extensive studies in both areas have been conducted and each has unique benefits but also various limitations. Both of these aspects will be considered in this paper. The table below summarises some common defects that occur in bearings:

Comparison

Operationally Effective Ranges: Accelerometers have an operational effectiveness within a low to high-frequency range ~ 10 Hz - 30 kHz.

This is suitable for displacement, velocity and acceleration measurements for general vibrational analysis. AE is based on frequencies much higher and with a larger range than what’s capable with VA, AE will operate within ~20 kHz-1 mHz , but more usefully around ~20 kHz-1 mHz.

The immediate advantage of this is that mechanical noise is no longer present in this range. Although frequencies of this level mean that AE is slightly less effective for general monitoring because defects in the advanced stages produce lower frequencies and can sometimes saturate the AE signal, it does mean that the ability to detect defects at a very early stage is possible.

Defect frequencies are highly dependent on machinery designs and component geometry and are also a function of bearing geometry, pitch, roller diameter and the relative speed between raceways. Fortunately AE is less geometrically sensitive. It is important to be able to distinguish between machine noise and defect noise. In order to establish defects using VA, a “base-line” needs to be established from the initial conditions of the machinery and used to indicate an irregular condition by monitoring an overall trend that should highlight anomalies.

This is not an easy task and requires highly technical knowledge as well as being very time-consuming. One drawback when monitoring the general condition of the entire machine is that the overall trend level may not show any significant change if the machine fault is not severe, or the signal is insensitive to the fault. With AE the detection of acoustic pulses are usually independent of any machine noise interference, especially at the high operating frequencies which is ideal when baseline frequencies are not known. This gives confidence that defects will not be missed.

Moreover, experiments conducted to test bearing operation at low speeds s [10-100 rev 〖min〗^(-1)] found that AE is sensitive to loading conditions [McFadden, 1984]. A change in load at constant speed causes an increased output of AE signals. The experiment concluded that typical AE transducers are less suitable to general purpose monitoring, whereas, VA  is very suitable in this area.

However, it has been shown that AE is still effective at low speeds [Alshimmeri, 2017] and can effectively detect bearing defects when previously it was assumed that AE was mainly effective at high speeds. It seems that excessive loading will cause disruptions in the obtained signal as it can affect signal attenuation. It has been found that the attenuation of signal remained constant at higher loads and can now be distinguished fairly easily. The effects of attenuation can vary, as with 3d structures, in general, the amplitude of a propagating acoustic wave will decrease by about 50% every time the distance is doubled from the source. 

Signal output will depend on a few design factors. Distance between bearings and sensor placement, including an air gap can also affect output signal. Acoustic waves propagate significantly slower compared to metallic materials within the air gap. The result is a damped signal which may fall below the sensors detection threshold. This will depend on the strength of the source, distance, material and even sensor placement.

Defects

Bearing defects are essentially random but occur in natural stages and will usually worsen due to dynamical strains on the bearing components. Generally speaking, advanced stage defects will produce high intensity but low-frequency signals. The very early stages of wear occur as a result of minuscule abnormalities, such as very small contaminants in lubrication, or small stresses and deformations in the material. Defects at this stage can only be detected in the very high-frequency range which is covered by AE monitoring.

Contaminants in lubrication will cause mechanical impacts that would traditionally be checked separately using other methods such as listening to frequency changes in conjunction with structural monitoring or with post-processing, such as the Shock Pulse Method (SPM). This will pick up the mechanical shock wave produced when mechanical contact has occurred. This method uses slightly more complicated processes and again needs specialist knowledge.

It has been found that lubrication containing contaminants as small as 500 μm, which would ordinarily be missed using traditional methods produces an AE pulse, detectible by AE monitoring. This is a clear indication of its usefulness of AE in this area compared to traditional methods
Although sources of defects are random in nature, the most important AE source is in the form of cracks because they produce some of the highest frequencies. Cracks cause a displacement of the surrounding material which increases in magnitude and will usually evolve into more serious problems. It has been shown that vibrational analysis will not pick up defects at this stage, as it is beyond the frequency range. Other aspects of monitoring are arguably just as important as crack formation for the prevention of total failure but usually, occur in the later stages when the damage has already occurred.

Post-Processing

Once raw data has been obtained using data-acquisition systems, post-processing takes place in order to clarify findings. A significant difference between the two techniques in question happens at this stage. VA requires the signals to be processed downstream, manually or semi-automatically where complex post-measurement data needs to be interpreted by a specialist. Raw data is commonly analysed using Fast Fourier Transforms (FFT) to determine the sine wave frequencies and respective amplitudes. The peaks in frequencies define the type of fault whilst the amplitudes indicate the severity. This seems unnecessary complex in comparison to the automatic processing at sensor level provided by AE devices.

AE devices commonly use algorithms to derive acoustic emission parameters of Distress® and db levels which give an indication of bearing health and overall noise respectively. This provides immediate clarification of defects and is easier to interpret. AE requires approximately 10 seconds of continuous monitoring at a consistent running speed, whereas FFT based vibrational analysis typically requires 60 – 120 seconds of measurement to establish the same level of knowledge about the defect.
Although analysis of the frequency spectrum using vibrational data appears to be more in-depth and possibly even the best indicator when looking at overall machine conditions, the defect frequency may be close to the frequency excited by the components of the machine, which can lead to misinterpretations.
The totality of information provided by vibrational analysis exceeds that of AE and can be very useful when trying to determine the precise location and nature of advanced defects, however, data acquired using AE can also be analysed in a similar way in order to gain more information, but is usually unnecessary considering AE devices automatically derive vital information automatically at sensor level.

When using AE and more advanced post-processing a detection threshold needs to be established which is based on the number of times the amplitude (determined from the wavelet) exceeds a pre-set voltage within a given time. This threshold (voltage limit) can be adjusted, or floating, depending on the circumstances and machine specifications. Signals below the threshold are discarded allowing faster processing with less data storage. In reality, there are a variety of rotating machines with an even larger variety of operating conditions making the decision to set a lower limit a challenge for AE monitoring.

However, studies have shown that varying values of this threshold that lie within the range of 20%, 30% and 40% of the signal amplitude, are insensitive and doesn’t affect results significantly. Tests have been conducted and show that the probability of misdiagnosis is proved to be very remote, indeed. This indicates that the threshold is mainly effective at removing excess data, thus reducing processing time.

Conclusion

Operationally speaking, both of these monitoring systems can be complementary. However, vibrational analysis can be influenced significantly by the natural frequency of the machinery and VA  is only useful when combined with data acquisition systems and complicated post-processing. Both VA  and AE is useful when investigating low rotational speeds but AE is very effective at detecting deformation due to the formation of cracks or friction which occur in the very early stages that are independent of the machines dynamics. It has been shown that defects give off an AE pulse well before they can be detected by vibrational analysis.

Due to the general evolution of defects in machinery, damage must have already occurred for it to produce a detectible vibrational anomaly which sits in the operational frequency of suitable for VA.  VA is very useful for detecting more advanced stages of defects and for general monitoring of rotational and non-rotational machinery but, is clearly limited when damage occurs beyond the detectable limit and for defects in the very infant stages. Ultimately AE provides the longest period of monitoring.

The importance of being able to operate at very high frequencies is paramount for early detection of defects and for detecting defects when noise levels are high [as is always the case]. Using AE operating at very-high-frequency levels ensures very early detection and enables detection even with high operational noise from the machinery. This allows maintenance teams to schedule appropriate action that minimises operational disruption whilst avoiding catastrophic failure.

Extensive research has been conducted over the past few decades into vibrational analysis and more recently into AE. Overall, it is apparent that VA coupled with complex post-measurement data analysis is useful for general degradation monitoring but can only detect defects that are in the advanced stages, effectively missing arguably the most important stages of defects. VA also requires experienced operators to use and interpret raw data, an unnecessary expense to a company.

AE technology and post-processing has effectively been de-skilled due to its simplicity, meaning it can be used by most operators with relative ease, again reducing the cost for training/hiring specialists, but also, empowering current monitoring staff. I think the research is compelling and clear, early detection and simple diagnosis is key to avoiding catastrophic failure, which is what AE monitoring provides.

Looking forward, it’s clear that AE is far superior for monitoring, it is now a well-established, tried and tested method of defect detection, proven time and time again. Preventative maintenance and early warning systems work and have shown to be more effective. AE is a technology that is making headway in the industry and is a smart choice when it comes to time-saving cost-effective monitoring. The earlier we know that a problem exists the better equipped we are at solving it. AE has a proven track record and can give practitioners and companies confidence that they have the greatest protection in place.

Who are Coltraco Ultrasonics?

Choose Coltraco Ultrasonics for world-leading ultrasonic technology to test your fire suppression systems. With handheld inspection products and constant monitoring systems, you can be confident that your CO2/clean agent/sprinkler systems, etc. will extinguish a fire when needed. Know when your cylinders/pipes are empty/rusting.
We deliver the Safesite®: a holistic approach to save time and cost - improving safety of life, asset and infrastructure. Operating in 109 countries since 1987, this leading British manufacturer of inspection tools and constant monitoring system

  1.  liquefied gaseous agent contents through the most ergonomic and accurate contents indicators (Portalevel® range) and the only capability to convert level readings to agent weight (Portasteele® Calculator); and 24/7 constant monitoring (Permalevel® range);
  2.  pressure of non-liquefied gaseous agent contents;
  3.  the compartment and room integrity into which the agent discharges to ensure the agent can be held and so extinguish the fire event (Portascanner® 520);
  4. their associated pipework
  5. to complete the new FIRETEST™ range of fire products to provide the fire servicing engineer a “basket” of easy and accurate instrumentation across the gaseous, sprinkler and deluge sectors.

Coltraco Ultrasonics are proud exporters, exporting 89% to 109 countries: 40% to Asia, 10% to the Middle East, 15% to Europe, 17% to North America and the balance to South America and Africa. Coltraco Ultrasonics exporters are supported by our global network of Strategic Partners, ODA Service Centres and Distributors. Exporting is at Coltraco’s 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 Coltraco compete.

Coltraco Ultrasonics 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:

  1. Faster: our ultrasonic technology is designed to be the simplest, most effective method to inspect quickly
  2. Better: we are committed to integrity throughout our company from design, manufacture, supply and after sales support to make sure we are world-leaders
  3. Cheaper: we offer cost effective solutions as well as offering a “never beaten on price guarantee”

What features does the Permalevel® Multiplex have?

Permalevel Multiplex is the first system worldwide that is capable of monitoring the liquid level of critical fire suppression cylinder systems on a constant basis. It gives a facility total visibility on the real-time status of all their critical fire systems.

Modern fire suppression systems have transformed industry safety across all sectors. However, the development of their servicing and monitoring equipment has remained stagnant, with many very advanced systems relying totally on annual inspections, or on unreliable mechanical pressure gauges. These methods leave the status of fire suppression systems completely vulnerable between annual checks.

Coltraco are raising awareness that annual certification checks on a fire system cannot cater for the need to monitor its contents for the rest of the year.
The Permalevel MultiplexTM 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 that it is required for use.

Features of Permalevel Multiplex

MULTIPLE ALARM OPTIONS: a Master Alarm output. The multiplex has an RS232/485 output allowing communication with a central monitoring system or PC

STATUS OF EACH CHANNEL SHOWN BY LEDs: A set of green and red LED lights indicate the status of each cylinder.

TEXT/EMAIL ALERTS: Provide an instantaneous and convenient form of data communication.

UNINTERRUPTABLE POWER SUPPLY: Backup system provides power in the event of mains power failure.

DATALOGGING ABILITY: The software keeps logs of the system activity, errors and alarm trigger on a monthly basis.

STRONG MAGNETS: Hold the sensors in place with additional space for adhesive or a strap to ensure sensors are not accidentally removed. SENSORS: Each monitoring point has its own dedicated sensor which is connected to the cylinder it is monitoring.

REMOTE REAL-TIME MONITORING SCREEN: Displays information about the current status of the cylinders, and when last contact was made.

COMPATIBLE WITH MULTIPLE CYLINDER TYPES: Each channel can be individually tuned, therefore each cylinder can be different from the last in size, weight, pressure and agent type.

Stay ahead with preventative maintenance by using Portamonitor™ Bearing Indicator

Stay ahead by improving your preventative maintenance thanks to including Portamonitor® Bearing Indicator in your management regime. This effective kit provides insight into planning of future repairs. It identifies sites which are contaminated or lacking lubrication so they can be easily fixed before any further damage occurs. Above and beyond that, the Portamonitor® identifies varying levels of damage to prevent excessive and extremely dangerous damage.

 The miniature Portamonitor® has been designed to test bearings and rotating machinery on board ships and naval vessels. Portamonitor® aids in the identification of mechanically deteriorated bearings and bearings with inadequate/contaminated lubricant. It does this by detecting high frequency (ultrasonic) stress waves associated with friction and other faults with machinery in poor condition (impacts etc.). It can be used to monitor bearings in motors, pumps, fans, gearboxes and other rotating machinery applications. It has two outputs – a decibel (dB) reading and a Distress® level which are both measured and displayed simultaneously by the Portamonitor®

 It is extremely sensitive to detecting faults and is easy to use: measurements can be taken both for land-based applications as well as offshore on vessels and platforms. It is quick and reliable, allowing for problem bearings to be checked quickly if damage is suspected. The repeatable results allow the operator to compare logs of past measurements which can help identify even small changes in the functioning of the bearing. The non-destructive and non-intrusive technology will not affect the function of the bearing.

www.coltraco.com/news

Ensure your compartmentation

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

Regulatory Requirements un-Ravelled

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.

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.

BOX OUT – 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.

Maintain Seal Integrity

Ultrasonic Technology is being rapidly adopted as a safe, easy and accurate method of identifying seal leak sites and has been quickly adopted by the Royal Navy to quickly identify any incorrectly installed MCT's. UT equipment has now been in service for 3 years aboard HMS Albion and HMS Bulwark, and has also recently been adopted this year by the Indian Navy, and Indian Coast Guard.  

Different models of equipment vary, but in general UT equipment consists of two main units; a generator and a receiver. The generator produces an ultrasonic modulated tone, usually at a round 40kHz which is positioned on one side of the seal. The receiver is then used by the operator from the far side of the closed seal. If at any point the seal is imperfect, the ultrasonic signal will be able to pass though the seal through the leak, which can then be detected by the receiver. Some models of ultrasonic watertight integrity tester are capable of detecting leak apertures as small as 0.06±0.02mm in size. UT testing seals can provide the sensitivity to detect the smallest leaks, and can give two different types of readout scale: linear and decibel. The linear scale provides an intuitive measurement of the leak size, whereas the decibel scale allows for comparison of standards set by international classification societies. Use of UT is far more efficient that the methods described above, taking less time, requiring no clean up and is used 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. Moreover, the accuracy of this method is unrivalled, and leak sites can be identified and specifically located quickly for the operator. Furthermore, ultrasonic level indicators use safe and green technology; it that does not violate any environmental codes, which also means there are no IATA transportation restrictions.

Weather, water and airtight seal integrity has be shown to be of vital importance to the crew of all marine vessels, but they play an especially significant role for warships that are subject to especially harsh and sensitive conditions. The importance of continually maintaining seal integrity has been extremely undervalued, and should take a more prominent position in ship maintenance scheduling. Traditional means of integrity testing has been exposed as insufficient and ineffective, putting crew members and marine operational activities at risk. Ultrasonic Technology has been proven as the most practical and accurate form of leak site detection and seal testing, and equipment such as Portascanner® II can alert crew to failing seals early. Coltraco is constantly pushing the boundaries of scientific research to ensure the safety of operators around the world, and is developing continuous and automatic UT testing for real time ship analysis.

How does the use of ultrasonic solutions compare to use of traditional systems in the ferry and cruise market? 

The traditional means of testing CO2 cylinders is to shut-down, dismantle, weigh and re-install them –a time consuming and dangerous task. It takes a 2-man team a minimum of 15 minutes to do this. A ship may have 600 cylinders.

 Using Portalevel™ means a service technician can test for cylinder contents in 15 seconds per cylinder whilst the cylinder stays in position.

 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. 

 Coltraco Ultrasonics also won the Seatrade Cruise Award “Supplier of the Year 2017” for their supply of the Portalevel® MAX Marine to Carnival Cruises. Carnival Cruises chose to protect their fleet by improving fire safety. Using ultrasonic technology - to pinpoint the ultrasonic liquid level indicator of suppressant agent in the cylinders of the extinguishing system- testing is quicker and easier. Portalevel® MAX Marine enables its users to go above and beyond minimal regulations compliance e.g. IMO SOLAS FSS Code.

What is the Safeship concept?

In short, delivering the Safeship® is Coltraco Ultrasonics’ commitment to our mission of improving safety of life, asset and infrastructure at sea.
 Coltraco Ultrasonics implemented the Safeship® concept, to promote protecting critical infrastructure at sea. Bad industry practice is unacceptable when fire risk may have catastrophic results due to risk to life, downtime in operation due to shipsafety 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. This is a call to respond to regulations with a rigorous attitude, to go above and beyond, to provide security of life and infrastructure.

 The Safeship® has been nominated as the Safety Initiative of the Year 2018 by Seatrade Maritime Asia Awards. 

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

  • An ultrasonic watertight integrity tester
  • An ultrasonic thickness gauge
  • A bearing indicator
  • An ultrasonic liquid level indicator
  • A calculator which converts liquid level readings to weight.

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 Award Winning Portasteele® CALCULATOR:

Traditionally cylinders are manually weighed by turning off and dismantling each one, which may be risky and takes on average two people 15 minutes per cylinder.
To solve this problem, Coltraco Ultrasonics developed the innovative 8th generation Portalevel® MAX:  handheld ultrasonic liquid level indicator to inspect CO2, clean agents and more liquefied gaseous agents, by one person in just 30 seconds. Combined with the Portasteele® CALCULATOR these liquid level heights are converted into the weight of agent. This tablet based advanced calculator application is the first in the world to provide agent weight readings without physically weighing the cylinders to comply with regulations.

It is the first liquid level indication method to take account of the temperature affect on the agent height. Portasteele® CALCULATOR provides instant real-time results which can be recorded then emailed directly for datalogged audit trail. By replacing the use of manual calculation and formulae, Portasteele® CALCULATOR makes the whole process of fire suppression system servicing simple and effective.
This is a safer, more efficient and cost saving method to service fire cylinders. The technological innovation ensures an entirely user friendly and industry leading device.

What is the Portalevel® MAX NIPPON?

  • Fast Operation
  • Three Years Warranty
  • Lifetime Support
  • Class Approved
  • Ultrasonic clean innovation
  • Not radiation
  • Specially intended for Japanese Market
  • Measures multibank columns 2-3 profound
  • Service a chamber in less than 30 seconds

Specialized Specifications of Portalevel Max Nippon: Here, we have enrolled specialized specs accessible with this ultrasonic liquid level indicator. Give it a look!

Measurements:

  • Height: 160mm
  • Width: 82mm
  • Weight: 300grams
  • Depth: 30mm

Undeniable Agents:

CO2, H20, FM-200™, NOVEC™1230, old Halons, for example, 1301 and 1211, FE-13™, FE-25™, FE-36™, HFC-225 and 2271

Precision:

+/ - 1.5mm (1/8 inch)

Sensors:

TX/RX Dry Sensor:

  • 14 mm distance across head
  • Contained inside a charged sensor implement
  • Connected by BNC connectors to 1 m length co-hatchet link.

Smaller than normal Extension Rod Sensor:

  • 1 meter long
  • 14mm in distance across
  • Connected by bnC connectors to 1 m length co-hatchet link.

Display:

Layer control worked, LCD illuminated Display estimating 55 x 28 mm

Power Supply:

4 x AA 1.5V Batteries (battery life 10 hours)

Working Temperature:

  • 20°C to +70°C (68°F to 158°F)
  • Relative Humidity - 5 % - 95 %

Declarations:

  • Classification Society Approved-RINA
  • CE
  • ISO 19011 Registered

Order:

  • IP Rating 65
  • NATO Stock Number: 6680-99-275-5292

Guarantee:

  • Main Unit: 3 Years Warranty
  • Sensor: 1 Year Warranty
  • Lifetime Customer Support

Portalevel Content:

  • Portalevel® MAX Nippon unit
  • 1 Wet Sensor
  • 1 14 mm Extension Rod
  • Ultrasonic Gel
  • 1 Hard Wearing Carrying Case
  • Calibration declaration

Examples: Fire at Sea

There are numerous example of fire at sea, with just a few included below:

(a) MSC Flaminia, 2012

In July 2012, the container ship was exposed to an uncontrollable fire which tragically lead to three fatalities and two severely injured crew members, as well as dire damage to the ship structure and its cargo. In this example, the actuation of the CO2 and Marine CO2 Systems failed when it actuated without instruction in the engine room, although the discharge was intended for cargo hold 4, which turned off the auxiliary boiler and auxiliary fan for the main engine. This led to an out of control fire which required three salvage tugs to deal with the effects of the explosions and fire. However, the extent of the fire meant that the salvage teams could not enter the vessel for 4 days. Cargo areas 3-7 in the ship were significantly damaged and the ships structure was weakened, requiring replacement. Under the pressures, the hatch covers lost their integrity and bulkheads were severely damaged which led to water ingress in all the cargo. The ruling from this event has stated that $280 million of liability will be shared as a result of the incident .

2.4 (b) Barzan, 2015

On September 2015, a fire was detected inside one of the cargo holds of Barzan, a Maltese registered container ship. The fixed CO2 system was used but due to a number of leaks in the CO2 line, the required amount of gas did not reach the cargo hold to be effective to smother the fire. The starboard fire main line then developed a large leak at a joint in the under deck passage way and had to be isolated. This restricted the fire-fighting efforts to only the port side, and rendered the starboard side water drenching system unusable. The safety investigation concluded that although the CO2 system and fire mains had been tested satisfactorily prior to the vessel’s delivery in May 2015, the quality of the workmanship had contributed to the subsequent failure of both systems .

2.4 (c) CCNI Arauco, 2016

A major fire broke out in an after hold of the container ship CCNI Arauco at Hamburg’s Burchardkai terminal in September 2016. A fire department spokesman said that over 100 emergency services personnel, four fire engines and two fire boats were on site to fight the blaze on the day of the incident. Early efforts focused on cooling the hull to prevent structural damage. An initial attempt to smother the fire with CO2 was not effective, and firefighting operations continued through night. The depth of the fire’s location within the hold added complexity to the response. Repeated CO2 discharges from the ship's own fixed firefighting system were not sufficient to halt the blaze in the Arauco's hold, and a major shore-based intervention was required instead . 
In each of these examples, the actuation of the CO2 and Marine CO2 Systems failed to control the fires on the vessels, some with devastating results. If gaseous extinguishing systems were at their full concentration at all times, then in the event of a fire, they would be able to extinguish the fire which quite clearly above, they were not able to. In every fire marine accident report they nearly always say the CO2 discharged on actuation. If it did the fire should have been extinguished.

Why is fire safety still being ignored

The UK P&I Club have suggested that extended periods of time on board a ship without a fire incident can lead to complacency and therefore a failure of prioritizing prevention methods and fire incident practices. It is impossible to prepare for all eventualities on a vessel, and it is often easier to influence the prompt detection of fires and their effective extinguishment, and these factors therefore play a key role in minimizing fire damage aboard vessels.

The Ungoverned Space is the area where either the regulations or the protecting systems of the tankers 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. Even in 2017, gaseous fixed fire extinguishing systems are often overlooked, and are misunderstood at all levels: owners, managers, chief engineers and crew.

Look after your installations or pay the price of fire

Tankers extinguishing installations are its essential defense against the risk of fire at sea. The main factor that needs to be understood is that they must be able to actuate, or release their gas, in the event of a fire. Gaseous extinguishing systems are highly pressurized, 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:

“Means shall be provided for the crew to safely check the quantity of the fire extinguishing medium in the container”
Adding to this, the details of their leakage within the regulations which is troubling. ISO 14520-1 clearly states that:

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

Given that the gaseous systems are designed specifically to the individual need of the tanker then a 5% loss of agent may mean that they would not fully extinguish the fire. Manual weighing is not only laborious, but also dangerous to the crew conducting the servicing.

Innovative Solutions

  • Portalevel® MAX Marine is designed primarily for the vessels’ crew to 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.

The Portasteele® Calculator is an advanced calculator application, that converts the liquid level indicator 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. The Portasteele has widely been recognised by awards, as a finalist in the Safety at Sea Awards 2017 and the Tanker & Trade Awards 2016.

Addressing fire at sea is critical, especially when all owners and managers are seeking to reduce risk, cut costs and surge on safety. Owners and managers, to servicing companies and insurers - use Coltraco Ultrasonics.

Constant Monitoring of Gaseous Extinguishing Systems

A data center is expensive to build and maintain. It generates significant heat. Every bank with a branch network has hundreds of them. The value of them are very high but the value of their inability to sustain business continuity is far higher than their physical assets. Almost incalculable. And yet Insurers are asked to underwrite them and the fire industry to deliver their protection at the cheapest price. Who today in the security industry would consider installing an alarm system without monitoring its status not only its actuation and integrating the whole of it to the building management system with central monitoring being an essential part of it ? Who would build a ship or offshore platform and fit it with say power generating auxiliary machinery without installing emergency power systems or monitoring their condition states? These are basic engineering principles.

All good engineering demands the monitoring of dynamic structures and a highly pressurized cylinder is a dynamic structure. It is designed to protect a critical infrastructure or asset. Without constant monitoring a risk is generated in the very environment for which it is designed to reduce risk. The risk is not only to the asset, but to the people who work in the asset and their ability to enable business continuity in the high value asset under risk. We aim to be the lead technical authority in the constant monitoring of gaseous extinguishing systems during the life of the system once it is installed and commissioned.

Why is an ultrasonic solution better than a tradition technique and why does it increase the likelihood of tests being carried out? 

In short, the Portalevel® MAX ultrasonic liquid level indicator enables one person to test the contents of a cylinder in 30 seconds, compared to traditional manual weighing with two people to test the cylinder contents in 15 minutes. Ultrasonics is better, faster and cheaper – therefore increases safety because the crew are more likely to be happy conducting the tests more frequently.

 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:

 “Means shall be provided for the crew to safely check the quantity of the fire extinguishing medium in the container”

 Often this is misunderstood, this code specifically states that thecrew 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.  However, what must be noted is that the crew are often not trained or certified to shut-down, dismantle, weigh and re-install the gaseous cylinders – the traditional method.

 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.

 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.

 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. 

Implement Constant Monitoring

Gaseous extinguishing/suppression systems are installed to protect against special hazards in critical infrastructure as their key objective. They deliver the infrastructural resilience our advanced society requires. 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 their protection.

The assumptions in the installation, commissioning and maintenance of gaseous extinguishing systems is that they are highly pressurised but risk leaking and discharging. The regulations that sensibly underpin this assumption aim to identify their leak identification at an interval of every 6 months. A cup of water stands at 1bar pressure – approximately 14.5 psi. Gaseous systems vary in pressure from FM-200® or NOVEC™ 1230 at 25-30 bar, CO2 at 50 bar or 720 psi to Inergen at 300 bar or 4,500 psi. These are very highly pressurised systems. In engineering terms, they are “dynamic” systems, not passive ones.

So why then does the fire industry not constantly monitor them?

The core regulation enshrined in BS EN ISO 14520 -1:2015(E) and we should be proud it exists. But let us examine what it says.

BS EN ISO 14520 -1:2015(E) reasonably assumes that the execution of its provisions is entrusted to people qualified and experienced in the specification, design, installation, commissioning, testing, approval, inspection, operation and maintenance of systems and equipment, and who can be expected to exercise a duty of care to avoid unnecessary release of extinguishant. Attention is drawn to the Montreal Protocol on substances that deplete the ozone layer. It is important that the fire protection of a building or plant or any other critical infrastructure be considered as a whole. Gaseous extinguishant systems form a part of the available facilities, but it should not be assumed that their adoption necessarily removes the need to consider supplementary measures, such as the provision of portable fire extinguishers or other mobile appliances for first aid or emergency use, access by a Fire Rescue Service or any other measures that can be applied as part of a wider fire protection plan.

Gaseous fire systems deliver the very resilience we need. But resilience means the permanence of capability and functionality. That permanence can only be delivered by constant monitoring of the systems that enable it.

The science of a gaseous extinguishing system is a complex one. The mathematics that underpin its science are demanding ones. But in simple terms gaseous systems are pressurised and in that they are dynamic not passive ones. They are there to protect critical infrastructure in a a safe and expeditious manner in the only way that a gaseous system can. We would not imagine an alarm system exists without monitoring it 24/7, but why are we still leaving unattended the very automatic gaseous clean agent extinguishing systems that protect us when even the core regulations of its installation and maintenance specifically allude to its potential to accidentally discharge or leak its contents ?

Fortunately lead elements of the critical infrastructure community are asking the same question. So are the world’s insurance companies.

But should our own fire industry not answer the question by implementing constant monitoring 24/7/365 before it is asked of them by the very people it is helping protect ?

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.” 

 Ultrasonics is proven to be the quickest, easiest and most efficient method of testing watertight & weather-tight seals of hatch-cover tester, doors, multiple cable transits. The Portascanner® WATERTIGHT is the most accurate model of its kind – proven to 0.06mm (+/-0.02mm). This is designed primarily to enhance the ease and accuracy with which critical watertight, airtight or weather tight seals can be inspected for leak sites or areas of reduced compression in the seal. The ultrasound generator emits a modulated signal of a specific frequency of ultrasound (in most cases 40,000Hz). The receiver then picks up the signal and converts it into a result indicating watertight integrity. The easy to use Portascanner® WATERTIGHT allows crew member to check for failing seals whilst at sea which allows for prompt maintenance.  

 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.

Where can the Portascanner® WATERTIGHT be used?

Portascanner Watertight is a portable Ultrasonic Hatch Cover Tester and Watertight Integrity Indicator for testing watertight and weather-tight seals. It is ideal for checking the hatch-covers, doors, cable transit areas, scuttles, flanges, shell doors, steering gear hatches and others. Coltraco has designed this product to enhance the ease and accuracy with which critical watertight, weather tight and airtight seals can be inspected for leak sites or areas of reduced compression in the seal.

Application Hatch Cover Tester

Ultrasonic hatch cover tester is best for the following applications:

Bulk Carrier Hatches

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.
It 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.

Watertight Doors

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.

Multiple Cable Transits (MCTs)

Cable Transit Seals provide a key element in maintaining the integrity of bulkheads and watertight seals onboard Naval, Offshore Oil & Gas and Marine assets. Portascanner being a multiple cable transit areas testing device is efficient in checking the condition of this main element. 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.

For further information and inquiries, leave a message for Coltraco Customer Service.

The Fleetsafe® Package

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:

“Means shall be provided for the crew to safely check the quantity of the fire extinguishing medium in the container”

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.  However, what must be noted is that the crew are often not trained or certified to shut-down, dismantle, weigh and re-install the gaseous cylinders – the traditional method.

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.

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.

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.

Coltraco Ultrasonics implemented the Safeship® concept, to promote protecting critical infrastructure at sea. 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. 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, Coltraco designed the FLEETSAFE: a package of innovative safety tools to combat the above and comply with regulations

  • An ultrasonic watertight integrity tester
  • An ultrasonic thickness gauge
  • A bearing indicator
  • An ultrasonic liquid level indicator
  • A calculator which converts liquid level readings to weight.

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.

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 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 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.

Wind turbines require an active fire protection system

It is estimated that 0.3-0.5 fire incidents occur per 1000 wind power stations (onshore and offshore) every year (Technical Research Institute of Sweden). 10-30% of all loss-of-power-generation incidents in wind power plants are due to fire.

Potential ignition sources are mainly inside the nacelle where there is fast moving machinery (generators, gearboxes e.t.c) which creates heat and combustible oil and solid material in the. Even with the incredible engineering and safety measures in place, a fire can ignite and develop, leading to the possible complete destruction of the turbine.

Wind turbines require an active fire protection system, which includes but is not limited to detection (of flames, heat, gas, and smoke), alerting personnel and rescue services, and activating systems for fire suppression or extinguishing. 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 gas suppression system, 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.

Regulations demand maintenance of the systems to ensure that they are operational in the event of a fire: ISO 14520-1:2015(E) assumes that these systems accidentally discharge and leak. 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.”

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.

Coltraco have now developed the Permalevel® Multiplex, a fixed fire suppression monitoring system, designed for continuous contents verification. Permalevel® is designed to ensure that FM 200 fire suppression system 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.

Fire Safety Onboard

In terms of ships’ extinguishing systems there exist two broad categories: sprinkler systems and gas systems (CO2). While the former can suffer leakage but the latter can cause catastrophic effect given the high physical pressures. An average ship’s CO2 system comprises between 200 and 600 cylinders each containing 45KG of CO2 under high 720 psi/ 49 bar pressure. One of the highest probabilities of discharge occurs during their maintenance. 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.

Although random checks may be suitable in some sectors, it is worth remembering that because the normal design concentration of CO2 of 34-72-v/v % is above the nearly immediate acute lethality level, these systems have an extremely narrow safety margin. As these systems work through oxygen dilution rather than the chemical disruption of the catalytic combustion chain (which is the case with other clean agents), insufficient CO2 levels during an emergency may allow a situation to spiral out of hand. Gaseous extinguishing systems protect urgently important infrastructure against special hazards, fundamental for the safeguarding of critical facilities. Yet, because gaseous extinguishing systems are highly pressurized, the risk of leaking and discharging is accepted as part of their use and this is shown in the regulations that demand their upkeep so it is always recommended to possess ultrasonic level indicator onboard.

Moreover, with fewer, even lower-skilled crew and greater dependence on autonomous machinery, the dependence on fire systems being checked from shore, let alone on the ship in person, will only become greater. Manual weighing is not only laborious, but also dangerous to the crew conducting the servicing. Numerous accounts of incidents have been reported related to manual weighing, but two of the most significant are the injury to 22 US Marines when a Halon-containing fire extinguisher went off in 2015, California and the death of 20 people in an accident on a Russian nuclear submarine when a Halon extinguishing system was activated by mistake.

Without the means to manually check and with the threat to the crew, constant and remote monitoring becomes vital. It can be argued that the existence of regulation (such as that set by the IMO and other authorities) guides – and occasionally curbs – the direction taken by the free market. This then means that the current state of the market, where ‘price is king’ is either due to unwillingness on the part of the regulators to create an environment where safe engineering is rewarded or because the industry itself is unaware of new technology that will help them meet both the spirit and letter of the regulation.

Cost Cutting, Lack of Experience and Increasing Risks

Although the value of the marine assets that fire systems protect is increasing rapidly, the competitiveness of the free market places great pressure on cost cutting. Often, cheap systems only minimally comply with the regulations and, in fact, there are very few qualified engineers who may be considered experts on the subject matter. This creates an environment in which a ‘safety first’ culture remains both un-pursued and unrewarded.

Routine maintenance is liable to be overlooked because it is difficult and the crew unqualified to test or given insufficient attention by the owner of the system. 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 ship and at the risk of crippling financial and reputational loss to the tanker owner. It is usually the case of systems like these that they are out of sight and out of mind, and they are often located in some plant room, which only the maintenance contractor visits, if at all. The most modern technology is integration of ultrasonic technology in monitoring devices.

Operating Method of Ultrasonic Technology

Sound is, in itself, vibrations that propagate as a mechanical wave or pressure and transmit through solid, liquid or gaseous mediums. Coltraco is one out of a number of companies using these fundamental physical principles to design and manufacture products and systems that can be used by fire engineers and their customer installations. It has a huge range of products, which are all integrated with ultrasonic technology such as ultrasonic liquid gas level indicator. Ultrasound is merely sound beyond our audible range. Dolphins and whales can communicate at sea over long ranges as sound travels more efficiently through liquids than air. We use this principle to identify that difference in a cylinder containing liquefied agent. Consider one’s ears as “the receiver” and one’s mouth as the “transmitter”. Sound will arrive at the ears at different times. The reason though that we hear a unitary sound is that our brain processes it to one. This is what we do by processing the returning ultrasound. In the air bats navigate by airborne ultrasound. We can do the same for contents and room integrity monitoring in the fire industry.
In terms of contents monitoring of single walled fire suppression cylinders in the fire industry, a sensor is utilized as a transceiver to transmit ultrasonic pulse through the walls of the cylinder and to analyze the strength of the returned signal that determines the level of contents. As sound behaves differently in air and liquid, so will the strength of the returned signal be different in the liquid and air allowing us to identify the level of contents accurately.
To make any inquiry, please contact Coltraco Customer Service.

Watch our YouTube Video to show how the Portalevel® MAX works

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8XaG7oM5aHA&t=48s

  1. Place the sensor on the cylinder & press ‘CAL’. This sets the unit up on each cylinder.
  2. The bar will go to 100%. Full bar graph indicates gas, no bar graph indicates liquid
  3. Move the sensor down the cylinder in small steps
  4. Look at the graph. When it disappears, you have reached liquid. 

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.

Gas systems leak - it's official! The need for improving safety by continious 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 gas suppression system but filled with sand or water… room integrity testing with questionable results and with the room integrity remaining un-monitored after testing.

Gaseous Extinguishing Systems

The regulations are not extensive enough to deal with the risks presented in gaseous systems. In 9.2.1.3 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, it is known in regulations that the gaseous systems leak and need to be maintained. Given that the gaseous systems are designed specifically to the individual need of that room, building e.t.c, a 5% loss of agent may mean that they would not fully extinguish the fire.

Coltraco have now developed a fixed fire suppression monitoring device, the Permalevel® MULTIPLEX which designed for permanent contents verification. The continuous monitoring system 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. 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 and reputational loss to the facility comprising the critical infrastructure.

The device uses the Internet of Things (IoT). 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, it would improve safety to have these cylinders constantly monitored using ultrasonic sensors. Now, by coupling with IoT developments, this enable their status to be visible to safety managers and building owners.

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

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