Complement Door Fan Testing: Portascanner® 520

After years of utilizing ultrasonic technology to identify leak sites in marine applications to test for watertight integrity, Coltraco Ultrasonics realised the potential of harnessing ultrasonics to complement door fan testing with leak detection. The unit allows for easy and simple room integrity testing, which can be completed quickly by one person, without disrupting the building occupants. 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 must comply with NFPA 2001 and ISO 14520 standards demanding fast discharge in 10 seconds and fire extinguishing within 30 seconds, delivering confidence to the operator that it delivers “best fire safety practise”. As buildings age or their internal use is changed leak sites develop. It is perfectly positioned to work alongside Door Fan testing in order to meet the total requirements for fire safety regulations and ensure the continuous fire protection of rooms using Clean Agent Fire Suppression systems. As Door Fan Testing has been proven to be a trusted method of room testing by industry experts, it is expected that its dominance shall continue in the near future. The immediate use of the Portascanner™ lies in its improvement of the final stage of room integrity testing – the search for leak sites in the case of a leakage excess – for which it can vastly improve accuracy and operational efficiency

The Portascanner 520 is the most accurate unit of its type, locating a leak site via visual ad audible readings and suppling a definitive numerical results. The unit can test leaks as small as 0.06mm, which is unparalleled accuracy compared to the puffer test technology which is a purely visual inspection. The smoke puffer tests also involves evacuating a building or room whereas the Portascanner™ 520 is completely clean and damage free. The advantages of being able to accurately detect the exact leak locations and size are self-evident when considered alongside the importance of reaching Peak Pressure for clean agent fire suppression to be effective. In a case where there is too much leakage in a room (and thus insufficient Hold Time), the Portascanner™ is an unrivalled ideal for the rapid and accurate identification of these sites so that they can be sealed. It is the first of its kind, intuitive to use, non-invasive, and consequently, is of immediate use to the Fire Industry. The unit also has full Classifcation Society Approval with RINA & ABS.

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. This method increases safety, by allowing the user unparalleled leak detection. This leads to the user having superior control of the agent hold time and peak pressure, effectively guaranteeing the identification and extent of leak sites. The unit is also lightweight and hand-held, weighing only 419 grams. The unit can also be used as a pre-surveying inspection tool, prior to bringing in full door fan test equipment.

The White Heat of Fire Safety

Aluminium is used in hundreds of industries, especially in the fields of transportation, aerospace, packaging, building and construction. For this reason, the protection of the plants and development facilities is vital, to ensure competitive business continuity. The industry directly creates more than 155,000 jobs and is adding more yearly. With growing numbers of employees in the aluminium industry, their safety and well being has long been a commitment.

There is a need for comprehensive fire safety measures, specifically the fixed fire extinguishing systems in aluminium production and fabrication, in casthouses, foundries, recycling and reclamation plants. When aluminium is burned, it creates a very intense fire. Within the last four months alone there have been several serious fire incidences internationally, at aluminium plants. In Norton Canes, UK in August 2017, there was a serious fire which led to evacuation and over thirty firefighters tackling the blaze. In Wangara, Australia, just last month, there was a huge industrial fire at an aluminium factory, which spread and developed into a wild fire.  The protection of lives and assets against the dangers of fire is a priority for facilities managers and plant owners.

Gaseous extinguishing systems protect urgently important infrastructure against special hazards, fundamental for the safeguarding of critical facilities. However, gaseous extinguishing systems leak because they are active and dynamic systems and this threatens the consistent and reliable safety that they should offer to the space that they protect.

In fact, in the regulation ISO 14520, which is the “gold standard” of fire suppression systems, it is clearly stated that gaseous systems leak and need to be periodically checked to counter this issue:

9.2.1.3  - “if a container shows a loss of agent in quantity of more than 5 % or a loss of pressure of more than 10 %, it shall be refilled or replaced.”

Given that gaseous systems are designed specifically for a protected space or room e.g. one aluminium foundry factory floor, a 5% loss of extinguishing agent may mean that the system would not fully extinguish the fire.

Technology now exists to improve the reliability of fire suppression systems that affects the safety of all who occupies the building it protects in an event of fire.

To  ensure  that fire  suppression  systems  are  always   full and that no accidental discharge or leakage has occurred, Coltraco Ultrasonics have developed an ultrasonic liquid level indicator, the Portalevel® MAX and  the constant monitoring system the Permalevel ® MULTIPLEX. By testing and monitoring fire extinguishing systems for leaking, facilities managers and factory owners are able to exceed  standards and ensure that the gaseous extinguishing systems are able to extinguish in the event of the fire.

The easy to use Portalevel® MAX uses ultrasonic technology to pinpoint the liquid level of suppressant agent in the cylinders of the extinguishing system which makes testing is quicker and easier. Liquid level identification takes just 30 seconds, needing only one person. Combined with the Portalevel® MAX, the Portasteele® CALULATOR 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® CALCULATOR can convert an expected agent weight back to the required liquid level allowing users to anticipate where the level should be.

The Permalevel® MULTIPLEX is designed for permanent contents verification.  Using smart ultrasonic technology ,the Permalevel® MULTIPLEX continuously monitors fixed fire extinguishing systems for leaking agents, 24/7, 365 days a year. With guaranteed systems operations, adaptability for purpose, 24/7 remote access to the systems status, an interruptible power supply and remote real-time monitoring, the Permalevel® MULTIPLEX offers the efficiency that is now a requirement for encompassing protection.

Coupled with the danger of leaking agents, room integrity is often an overlooked aspect of a suppression system installation. Room integrity requires that in the event of a fire, the released fire extinguishant must meets the sufficient “Hold Time”, in order to properly extinguish fires. Buildings age and their internal use changes and because of this,  leak sites develop.  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.

Coltraco Ultrasonics have provided a smart solution for quick and easy assurance of compartmentation and leak detection. The Portascanner® 520 ultrasonic leak detector uses ultrasonic technology to not only pinpoint precise leak locations, but to determine their leak size as small as 0.06mm with a tolerance of +/-0.02mm, and is by far the most mathematically proven accurate device for this function.

With the continuing developments in smart ultrasonic technology, comprehensive fire safety measures are available to aluminium plant owners and facilities managers that are easy to use, affordable and an essential addition to any fire safety management system.

Coltraco Ultrasonics is a leading British company operating in 109 countries across multiple market sectors for over 30 years.

Markets Coltraco Ultrasonics Operate In Oil & Gas

We have units in operation 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. Portalevel® MAX provides drilling operators, contractors and owners, down to the OIMs and barge managers with the assurance and confidence that their fire suppression systems are operating under an enhanced safety management plan.

Marine

Coltraco’s history is steeped in the Marine sector and Today Ship Owners, Managers and Operators, Port Authorities, P&I Clubs, Towage & Salvage Operators, Shipyards and Service Stations and Marine Surveyors are among our key customers around the world. We have developed products and diversified our range to serve our customers’ needs and Portalevel® MAX is our latest upgrade.

Fire Protection

The Portalevel has been leading in the fire safety and protection sector since we first invented it in 1987 and with the 8th generation model Portalevel MAX, we are pleased to offer an enhanced means of testing and certifying fire suppression systems. This ultrasonic liquid level indicator uses safe and clean technology. Portalevel® MAX aims to reduce time and cost; it is a must-have tool for fire system protection and we have the technical know-how and credentials to verify this

Power Generation

Power plants, transmission sub-stations and distribution networks need to minimize the risks of fire at all costs. For safety critical areas such as nuclear power generation, and the conventional fossil fuel power generation, Portalevel® MAX provides a further means of improving the safety management and preventative maintenance procedures of the fire suppression systems.

Defence

Government organizations and Defense forces around the globe, particularly Naval Forces and Coast Guards, have been using Coltraco equipment for over 20 years. These capabilities are focused upon Safety & Survey applications such as monitoring Naval vessel and Fleet Auxiliary vessel Halon 1301, typically using Portalevel to monitor contents of FM-Halon, FM-200™, CO2 & NOVEC™ 1230 systems.

The Two Principles

If you are an end user, to provide an additional means to check your systems more frequently, outside the regulatory certification checks and enhance your safety management, this ultrasonic level indicator is the best choice.

If you are a servicing company, to conduct certified testing in compliance with regulations, the Portalevel is approved and certified with proven accuracy up to +/-1.5mm and to save 75% of the time to complete testing when compared to weighing cylinders. Moreover, data centres, telecommunications centres, High Rise Buildings, MTR rooms, and others are good for this device to measure the liquid levels.

Please Download PDF for further information or contact Coltraco’s Customer Service, if you want to know if Portalevel® MAX will work with your applications.

3 Reasons Why You Should Monitor Your CO2 systems

Here are 3 reasons why you should monitor your CO2 system:

  • CO2 leaks
  • A fire starts every 7 seconds around the world
  • Insufficient CO2 could mean failure of extinguishment in the event of a fire

How can you protect yourself and your facilities?

Here is a LOW COST constant monitoring device for CO2 & Marine CO2 Systems. It is called Permalevel® LOAD WEIGH. 

Why a Safesite® solution for you:

  • Easier – automatic alarm in the event of CO2 leakage
  • Better – don’t wait for one annual check, monitor 24/7, 265 days a year
  • Cheaper – highly competitive pricing

This is a must have because of this flexibility in the Permalevel® LOAD WEIGH’s applications, from data centres, tall buildings, museums, hotels to industrial sector. 

Discover more today:

How can you ensure the effectiveness of your fire suppression system?

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.

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 Ultrasonics have now developed a fixed fire suppression monitoring device, the Permalevel® MULTIPLEX ultrasonic level indicator which is 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 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.

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.

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

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

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

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

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

How does ultrasonic technology cut ungoverned space within the fire industry down?

  • Ultrasound is merely acoustic (sound) energy in the form of waves of high frequency that are above the human audible range.
  • Portascanner™ uses ultrasound to test the integrity of confined spaces and can detect leak sites as small as 0.06mm.
  • Portagauge™ uses ultrasound to test the internal and external corrosion on pipework and cylinder wall thickness to an accuracy of +/-0.1mm.
    • Globally we are known for the design and manufacture of 11 different model types of Portalevel™ liquid level indicators.  Accurate to +/-1.5mm for CO2, FM-200™ , NOVEC™ 1230, HFC-225 & 227, remaining Halon systems, FE-13™, FE-25™ and FE-36™.
    •  We can monitor these extinguishing systems 24/7 with the fixed, data-logging and autonomous monitoring system, Permalevel™ Multiplex & Permalevel™ Single Point. Signals from these fixed monitoring sites can be monitored centrally at the customer location and remotely globally.

Smart Solutions

This is the “ungoverned space”; but in it technology offers many solutions. Who today would object to vehicle safety restraint mechanisms? Who today would willingly replace a “chip and pin” credit card with one requiring only a signature? As the world changes, so must our industry integrate technological solutions to provide a bulwark against wider industry misinterpretation and minimal, even occasional and flagrant, disregard in the application of standards and good global engineering practise, creating standards which all can understand and apply.

The “white heat” of technology shines as a beacon of hope to our industry and so too enables justification for customers to actively engage in the monitoring of FM 200 fire suppression system
as an integrated and essential element to their business activity.

Why use ultrasound to test for watertightness?

Proper definitions of watertightness are crucial for proper maintenance of seals.

Watertightness and airtightness could be defined mathematically, using this formula for approximating the flow rate Q through an aperture: 

Q = the flow rate of fluid through the aperture (where the term ‘fluid’ here is taken to mean an ideal liquid or gas)
A = is the area of the leak aperture
g = the acceleration due to gravity acting on the fluid, and
h = the head of fluid.

This equation (which contains simplifications) is used to demonstrate how since no two meeting surfaces in a seal can ever truly be perfectly aligned, a leak aperture will always exist which will allow leaking of some rate under a head of water. Watertightness is hence defined as a maximum water leakage allowance per minute.
High pressure watertight doors are designed for pressures in excess of 100' (30.5m) (this is equivalent to to a pressure of 299 kPa/ or 3 bar). Typical applications include protection for ship power plants, high-pressure chambers, hydro-electric plants and diving/decompression chambers which are often found on oil platforms and support vessels. In these sensitive areas a small 1m2 watertight door is often expected to be able to resist the weight of 30 tonnes of water without buckling or allowing the protected compartment to flood, and as such the requirement for frequent and accurate preventative maintenance on these seals cannot be overstated.

Ultrasonic Testing of seals

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 compartment doors testing 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 indicators use safe and green technology; it that does not violate any environmental codes, which also means there are no IATA transportation restrictions

C.S.P. Hunter, G.H.C. Hunter, C.M.E. Hunter, S. Watson, J. O’Connor, ‘2016 sees hatch cover watertight integrity testing extended to 24/7 continuous monitoring&2020 look ahead to vessel system
Integration and shore-based data management’, RINA Smart Ships Conference, 2015

Portascanner® WATERTIGHT: What is in the package?

The Portascanner® WATERTIGHT is made up of a generator and receiver. The receiver is capable of receiving the signals and conversion is made which results into the indication of W/T integrity. Portascanner® WATERTIGHT is multiple cable transit areas testing device.

What is in the Portascanner® Watertight package?
It consists of extension rod connector, Gain 1,2,3, Volume Up and Down Buttons, LCD Visual Display, Mode, On and Off Buttons and Headphone Connection. It is tuned for detecting the particular frequency of ultrasound ways.

  • It possesses audio and visual outputs.
  • Sensor rod is attached to it, a user can scan the seal at close range.
  • LCD screen shows the visual output of detected signal.
  • The visual data received can be converted to decibels (dB) reading which is perfect to be tested to certification society standards.
  • Bar graph representation is also available.
  • With standard jack of 3.5 mm, a headphone is attached to the receiver to receive audio signals.

The operation of  the generator of the cable transit watertight areas testing is mentioned below:

  • It is placed on one side of the sealed compartment and turned on.
  • Sensor rod is utilized to scan the seal by user, standing on the other side of the compartment
  • Increased signal strength will be shown apparently for leak sites.
  • The numerical display and volume of audible signals can easily show the strength of the signals received by the receiver.

The Ungoverned Space of Marine Fire Safety

Over the last few decades cargo has generally been increasingly transported in containers rather than as open bulk cargo, thus mistakenly leading shipping companies to disregard the importance of fire protection systems, instead focusing on transporting greater quantities facilitated by the container system. However, this outlook is dangerous and misplaced. The risk of fire is significant with growing incidences of fire events exposed in the trade press, posing a risk both to expensive cargo and to human life on-board the ships. With a movement towards autonomous shipping systems and smart-ships, the importance of remotely monitored fire-fighting systems could grow exponentially, providing the opportunity to monitor vessels from an external location. Technological developments and companies such as Coltraco Ultrasonics, are working towards this end goal. The current on-board fire-fighting facilities remain inadequate in the face of the capacity of such large vessels. Fire therefore remains an ever-present risk on the high seas.

Traditionally, the maritime industry treats fire protection systems as a necessary expenditure, rather than a means to safeguard valuable crew and cargo and maintain business continuity of the vessel. Owners focus on systems delivered at the most competitive rates rather than seeing fire protection as an investment.  The definition of a free market is an idealised form of a market economy in which buyers and sellers are allowed to transact freely based on a mutual agreement on price without state intervention in the form of taxes, subsidies or regulation. The competitiveness of the free market places great pressure on cost cutting: to deliver systems which often only minimally comply with regulations, and deliver asset protection at the most economical budget. With the value of assets, vessels and importance of business continuity growing, insurers are asked to underwrite almost incalculably high risk.  Unquestionably, the first priority of fire safety systems is to protect human life. Having said that, the economic benefits of a truly integrated, continuous, ultrasonic monitoring system in the future would be significant. Cargo damage remains an important negative result of on-ship fires, with 2 of the top 5 most expensive cargo claims on container ships in the last 10 years being fire-related according to the Swedish P&I Club Claims Analysis (2016). Fire protection measures should hence be understood as a worthwhile business investment. Yet we accept minimally compliant fire systems. Given both the crew lives and cargo are at stake, it seems unfathomable that regulations do not mandate fire systems should be permanently monitored rather than certified typically just once a year, if that, particularly since it is a regulatory obligation and or recommendation to ensure that crew can check these themselves.

Who would build a ship or offshore platform and install a power generating or auxiliary machinery without installing emergency power systems or monitoring their condition states? Who today would consider installing an alarm system without monitoring its overall status, not only its actuation, and integrating the whole system into the ship safety management system, with central monitoring being an essential part of it? These are basic engineering principles: building in redundancy and constantly monitoring critical systems. 

Traditionally, the industry cares little about this ungoverned space, with too few qualified engineers considered subject matter experts. Yet when it comes to marine fire maintenance, never mind continuous monitoring, of gaseous fire extinguishing systems, there is a lack of knowledge amongst the majority of the industry, regarding the potential risks. Awareness should exist about the huge expenses incurred by fire, both in terms of costs upfront from the damage and long-term due to reputation and unknown losses or damage to seafarers, vessel integrity, and cost of downtime and recovery. Above all is the risk to human life presented by fire. Poor maintenance of suppression systems risk accidental fatalities due to lack of training about the lethal properties of CO2 & Marine CO2 Systems (the predominant suppressant agent used on vessels, because it is the cheapest whilst being highly effective): when released it reduces oxygen levels to extinguish fire. Limited appreciation of the need for room integrity testing of protected spaces leads to minimal regulation compliance which could mean a failure of the fire system suppressing a fire because the room is unable to hold the discharged gas due to leaks of the space into which it actuates.

Gaseous extinguishing/suppression systems are installed to protect against special hazards in critical infrastructure at sea. They deliver the infrastructure resilience our advanced maritime society requires. If the hazard is special and the vessel is critical, then this is the case for the constant monitoring of the fire systems that aim to deliver their protection. There is a lack of knowledge of the characteristics of the various extinguishants and the types of fire for which they are suitable. For too many years the industry has been left to too few brilliant experts to determine safe outcome.

Two broad categories of ship and offshore extinguishing systems exist: sprinkler systems and pressurized gaseous systems. While the former can suffer leakage, the latter can cause catastrophic effect due to their pressures. These large gas cylinders are pressurised liquefied gases or non-liquefied gases that are pressurized on actuation. CO2 is permanently under 720 psi or 49 bar of pressure i.e. nearly 50 times atmospheric pressure (by comparison a cup of water at sea level exists at 1 bar or 14.5 psi). Its’ state changes under increased temperatures to one that is neither a liquid nor a gas. Gases under pressure are often effectively considered by the industry as single and passive cylinder columns of solid material from the perspective of their monitoring following installation. Whereas being under pressure and constantly changing under temperature they should be considered as active and dynamic systems requiring constant monitoring. These are not passive systems therefore; they are dynamic ones, and all dynamic systems under pressure need constant monitoring to ensure their effectiveness and longevity. An engineered marine fire system typically lasts 20 years, longer than some vessels! 

Calibrating your equipment annually or every 5 years? Regulation or recommendation?

Beware the Cost of Cheaper Price.

The argument goes that the cost of calibration should be in proportion to their acquisition price but this holds no inherent engineering logic as the reason for its calibration is contained in ISO 17025 which is an international standard. If manufacturers making measuring instruments base their calibration standards on laboratory ones then surety of safe practice will accrue to all its users globally. To dictate their own calibration standards as less regular than annually, as many do, is an indicator of potential doubt in their approach to delivering quality.

We are often asked about calibration, why it is important, how often it should be done and why. The reason we know calibration to be important, and recommend its annual frequency is because our equipment is designed to improve safety and best practice. Ensuring the equipment used by crew/technicians/engineers to conduct such inspections is accurate and calibrated is a necessary one. Our manufacturer’s recommendations are based on the best that exist in ISO 17025 – an international standard for the calibration of any monitoring or measuring equipment: it must be at least once a year.

Calibrating measurement instrumentation is vital for business continuity through improved maintenance procedures for all industries, yet the calibration of such equipment is not commonly discussed. All good companies will comply with calibration requirements, understanding the need to ensure their equipment works as designed. Yet negligence is commonplace due to lack of understanding of the value of calibrations and not knowing the regulations.

Here are some examples of best practice. At Rolls Royce the test cell for their Trent XWB engines are calibrated every 3 months. In the gas industry, customers are recommended to calibrate their detectors every 6 months, especially if they are using them in confined spaces, in order to ensure they are maintaining their accuracy as per technical specifications. There are serious consequences if customers do not value the understanding of their monitoring or measuring tools or equipment, which unfortunately renders them at risk.

But, what about 5 year calibration certificates? On calibration and as a manufacturer of quality, we are clear that it is unsound, unsafe and unprofessional to compete on calibration cost as some competitors offer 5 year calibration certificates. How can the manufacturer know its calibration will hold given the array of climate, humidity and environmental conditions that a product may go through 365 days per year ? We wish to uphold the best there is in ISO 17025. Nor do we wish customers to believe that it is the manufacturer who dictates calibration standards, which is not the case – the key here is that we will not issue calibration certificates beyond a year.

When you buy from any premier manufacturer, you have confidence in the longevity of your equipment, aided in our case by our Coltraco Customer Total Care Commitment, which includes life-time support. In addition, we have set up ODA Service Centers at major ports and centers worldwide, so our customers can send equipment for its calibration quickly and locally. We always do something “over and above” to enhance the unit for customers during its calibration and we have a wonderful reputation as a consequence.

So whilst we can enjoy the benefits of globalization that should not be limited to price attraction in isolation from the costs of cheaper prices. If you are buying something critical to your Safety Management System, forego the attractions of the cheaper price or scant regard for calibration standards that all too often accompany them.

Global trade depends on professionals across many industries to deliver it safely and to the highest standards, regardless of any cyclical down-turn. It is why we work so hard to develop our Safety Management Systems. They deliver Safe site® and Safe ship® practices, protecting life at sea, the vessel and its cargo. If we react to the cost advantages of poorly made and replicated equipment by buying them we should not be surprised if we also react to the allure those same manufacturers offer in regard to their servicing and calibration, and at that point the collective efforts of the governments, classification societies, trade associations and industry leaders striving for best practice will in itself be damaged.

Save lives! How & why to improve water mist maintenance.

Despite the difficulty that shipping businesses are subjected to, fire safety standards on board cannot begin to slip. Fires on board ships can be devastating, to crew, vessel and cargo. There is a call to respond to regulations with a rigorous attitude, to go above and beyond, to provide security of life and infrastructure. Water mist FM 200 fire suppression system must be maintained so that they can provide the protection that they are intended for: protecting lives, assets and vessels whilst at sea.

Assessed by FM Global, one of the main causes of failure to water mist systems derives from human error, commonly the water tank being empty. If there is a lack of water supply, the system will be dysfunctional when required, such as failing to extinguish the fire and thus, resulting a significant risk in safety and high-asset applications. Organisations such as the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) have called for the correct installation and maintenance of Water Mist systems.

For a system that fully relies on the supply of pressurized water, if there is no availability of this source of water, there is no possibility of fire depletion exemplified by the MCA: “effective fire-fighting can only be achieved when the water mist is released promptly on demand.” This is demanded by the IMO regulations MSC.1/Circ 1432, Ch 5.4: “Verify that sprinkler pressure tanks or other means have correct levels of water”. Further to the NFPA 750 regulations state that “Water Storage Vessels must be equipped with a means of checking the level of water inside during a weekly or monthly inspection. Some high-pressure storage cylinders do not have a means to confirm water levels. If such cylinders are present in a system, extra measures should be implemented.” There is an industry wide recognition that these cylinders need monitoring for the safety of the crew and vessel. Ultrasonics is an innovative technology to answer this call.

To ensure that Water Mist systems are fully operational in the event of a fire, and to avoid the serious risk of empty cylinders, the liquid level of the cylinders should be checked non-invasively using ultrasound. One of the sciences being harnessed by innovators in the fire safety sector is that of Ultrasound: 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 measuring device 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. As sound behaves differently in air and liquid, so will the strength of the returned signal be different in the liquid allowing us to identify the level of contents accurately.

Better maintenance of water mist fire suppression systems will save lives. Innovative ultrasonic technology enables the crew to be in full compliance of the regulations at all time, delivering a Safeship to protect the lives of crew/passengers/cargo and vessel, quicker, better and more effectively than other traditional methods.

Why chose the Portalevel® MINI Nippon?

The Portalevel® Mini Nippon was created specially to serve the unique requirements of our Japanese Customer base. Using our well-proven 7th generation technological platform, it was specially adapted to manage the challenging Japanese manufactured cylinders. Providing users with hands-free operation for ease of use and highly reliable unit, it offers an ideal solution for inspecting CO2 Fixed Fire Suppression Systems.

Technical Specifications of Portalevel Mini Nippon

Here, we have enlisted technical specs available with this liquid level detector. Give it a look!

Dimensions

  • Height: 98mm
  • Weight: 45.5grams
  • Width: 158mm
  • Depth: 420mm

Accuracy

+/-1.5mm (1/8 inch)

Power Supply

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

Sensor

TX/RX Dry Sensor

  • Contained within a magnetized sensor applicator;
  • 14 mm diameter head
  • Connected by BNC connectors to 1 m length co-ax cable

Standard Extension Rod Sensor

  • Connected by bnC connectors to 1 m length co-ax cable.
  • 28mm in diameter
  • 1 meter in length

Verifiable Agents

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

Display

LCD Numeric Digital Display with LED Bar Graph

Classification

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

Certificates

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

Warranty

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

Operating Temperature

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

Portalevel Mini Nippon Content

  • 1 Hard Wearing Carrying Case
  • 1 Portalevel® Mini Nippon unit
  • 1 28 mm Extension Rod
  • Calibration certificate
  • 1 Wet Sensor
  • Ultrasonic Gel

Continuous Monitoring of Fire Suppression Systems

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

Coltraco have developed a fixed fire suppression monitoring device, the Permalevel® MULTIPLEX which is designed for permanent contents verification. The continuous monitoring system utilises ultrasound technology to detect the level of contents non-invasively and transmits the level information from the wired sensors to the main unit which is then processed and reported to the building’s BMS or local control panel wirelessly through TCP/IP. This is to ensure that FM 200 fire suppression systems are always   stored at their designed concentration and that no accidental discharge has occurred, which could affect the effectiveness of the overall fire protection system in the event of a fire. The neglect of continuous monitoring - of the fundamental protection provided by the gaseous extinguishing systems - is to the peril of the lives of occupants of the premises and at the risk of causing financial and reputational loss to the facility comprising the critical infrastructure.

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

Fire Innovation of the Year 2018: 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 level indication method to take account of the temperature affect on the agent height. PortasteeleÒ 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.

See the Portasteele® CALCULATOR Here:

Test Your Fire Suppression Systems

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

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

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

How can ultrasound protect your vessel against water ingress?

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

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

 Ultrasonic is proven to be the quickest, easiest and most efficient method of testing watertight & weather-tight seals of hatch-covers, doors, multiple cable transits area testing. 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 Ultrasonic 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.

Comply with ISO 14520: Check your Compartmentation

Current Situation:

Before installing Clean Agent fire suppression systems the integrity of the building structure commonly undergoes “Door Fan Testing’. This test determines the Peak Pressure and Agent Hold Time necessary for ensuring the effectiveness of these fire suppression systems. As required by NFPA 2001 and ISO 14520 standards to calculate the overall leakage of a room, this room integrity tester with ultrasonic technology is a great option.

Limitations:

Locating exact leak sites is currently done by a “puffer test” with smoke. However, such current methods do not provide precise, accurate results on leak location or size.

Solution:

Today, the industry can benefit from using the Portascanner™ Integrity Test Indicator alongside the Door Fan Testing for a complete and comprehensive regulatory room test. Ideal for precise leak detection, Portascanner™ is an exceptionally accurate (to 0.06mm) and fast method. It is the first of its kind, intuitive to use, non-invasive, and consequently, is of immediate use to the Fire Industry.

Package Offered with Portascanner 520:

Portascanner 520 is an ultrasonic room integrity tester introduced by Coltraco. It offers some great content in a pinned packaging. Coltraco Limited, UK, offers following contents:

  • Receiver Rod:

The user directs the rod at areas they will to survey. Any escaping ultrasound if received by the rod and sent to the main unit is recorded.

  • Generator:

The generator is an ultrasonic generator with three transducers. These transducers emit a strong signal in one direction that fills that room/space with pulses of ultrasound.

  • Receiver:

The receiver processes and displays any ultrasound that emitted from a leaking space. The results are visually presented to the user on the internal screen as well as outputted to external headphones.

  • Headphones:

Any ultrasound that is identified by the unit is outputted as audible readings via external headphones.

Why do you need to calibrate?

Like an annual MOT on your car, calibrations service your equipment to ensure it is as accurate and reliable as when you first purchased it.

How often? In accordance with ISO 17025 for testing and measuring equipment, annual recalibration is recommended for companies complying with this regulation. Whilst there are some companies who offer 5 year calibration certificates, Coltraco Ultrasonics believe that we should follow the guidance set out in the regulations and thus offer 1 year calibration certificates.

Where can you calibrate your unit? Calibrations must be conducted in a Coltraco approved centre: either with us in the UK at the above address or with our ODA (Organisational Delegated Authority) Service Centres overseas.

How long will it take? We will always ensure that the turn-around-time is as short as possible. We aim to have the unit returned to you within a maximum of 10 working days, no matter where in the world our customers are. If required, replacement loan units can be made available for the duration that your unit is away for recalibration.

If your unit has been damaged whilst operating, we can repair it for you. Factory level repairs for the electronics, display module and membrane control panels have to be carried out in our facilities in the UK. Time scales for unit returns may vary depending on the severity of problem. If your unit has been damaged please contact our Support Department with a brief description of the problem and we will organise this for you as quickly as we can.

Fire at Sea: What do the marine insurers say?

The general concern for marine insurers 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.

Much research has been conducted in the statistics of fires at sea. According to the VTT technical research centre in Finland the frequency of fires resulting in a total loss is 〖10〗^(-8) nmi (nautical miles). This is based on the average vessel travelling 60,000 nmi each year. This would mean that if there was only one vessel in the world, it would need to travel 100 million nmi for it to ‘statistically’ have one occurrence of fire resulting in total loss. However, given that there are roughly 55,000 commercial vessels over 1,000 dwt at sea it can be calculated that there is expected to be 33 vessels a year with fire resulting in total loss (calculations below).

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

FIRE EXAMPLES

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 system 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 .

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

Solutions for any vessels marine gaseous extinguishing system exist:

  • Portalevel® MAX Marine liquid level indicators used by the crew weekly to test for contents
  • 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
  • Compressed air testing of the pipework and flanges to test the pipework system’s ability to withstand the pressures of the gas on actuation (and this is the only test which recommended to be solely the responsibility of a  “responsible” shore-based contractor)

Fires Happen: it’s Time to Act

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.) 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.

Taking CO2 & Marine CO2 Systems through as an example, 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 oxygen levels during an accidental discharge may allow a situation to spiral out of hand.

“CO2 bottles leak”

Yet although this poses high levels of risk to the service companies and the crew, 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 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.

A Call for Crew to Inspect Fire System Cylinder Contents

Using an ultrasonic liquid level indicator is the only way that the crew can safely test their CO2 without disturbing them. If marine companies implemented the IMO SOLAS FSS codes by testing safely and quickly (just 30-60 seconds per cylinder) by using liquid level indicators and marine servicing companies were able to do their work without allowing for time pressures, then marine safety would be far safer.

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.

How have seals been tested traditionally?

The Swedish Club has released a report warning bulk carrier operators to pay attention to water damage. The 2018 Swedish Club report, Wet Damage on Bulk Carriers, which has been prepared in cooperation with DNV GL, and MacGregor, identifies heavy weather and leaking hatch covers as the most common and the most costly type of wet damage claim. With the average cost for a wet damage cargo claim being almost $110,000, this is alarming.

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

 As stressed in the report, proper weathertightness is a key factor in keeping cargo dry. To ensure that the hatch covers are weathertight the sealing system needs to be in a good condition. 

 Chalk testing is used traditionally for visual inspection of the compression integrity of doors and hatches on vessels that hold the potential for flooding. Chalk is applied evenly around the knife edge, coaming compression bars or panel cross seams of doorways. The door/hatch is then closed and sealed. Once re-opened the rubber gasket which pushes against the knife edge is visually inspected for the chalk line. Any breaks in the chalk line indicate a lack of compression in that area. It must be noted that chalk testing is NOT a leak test, but only provides an indication of potential compression issues
 The International Association of Classification Societies states that a chalk test must be followed by a hose test. The hose test is used in conjunction to determine the weather tightness of doors and hatch covers. The spray from a nozzle of 12mm diameter is sprayed from a distance of 1 to 1.5 meters with a water jet pressure of 0.5  This test should help identify any leakage from the hatch joints, although the exact location of the leakage sight cannot be pinpointed. 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 cover testing 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

How does ultrasonic technology cut ungoverned space within the fire industry down?

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.
  • Marine CO2 & 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.

So how does ultrasonic technology cut ungoverned space within the fire industry down?

  • Ultrasound is merely acoustic (sound) energy in the form of waves of high frequency that are above the human audible range.
  • Portascanner™ uses ultrasound to test the integrity of confined spaces and can detect leak sites as small as 0.06mm.
  • Portagauge™ uses ultrasound to test the internal and external corrosion on pipework and cylinder wall thickness to an accuracy of +/-0.1mm.
  • Globally we are known for the design and manufacture of 11 different model types of Portalevel™ liquid level indicators.  Accurate to +/-1.5mm for CO2, FM-200™ , NOVEC™ 1230, HFC-225 & 227, remaining Halon systems, FE-13™, FE-25™ and FE-36™. 

The Main Cause of Vessel Loss is Sinking

As the main cause of vessel loss is sinking, the maintenance, testing and monitoring of watertight hatches, doors and multiple cable transits on vessels is essential. A watertight hatch cover tester is designed to prevent the passage of water in either direction under a head of water for which the surrounding structure is designed.  Many mariners may think hatches are robust, monolithic structures, thereby failing to appreciate the small tolerances on panel alignment and gasket compression. It is better to think of hatches as complex, finely-made structures, to be handled with care.

SOLAS Reg II-1/11.1  it states that hatches and watertight seals must be regularly tested: “Where a hose test is not practicable [sic] it may be replaced by [sic] an ultrasonic leak test or an equivalent test. In any case a thorough inspection of the watertight bulkheads shall be carried out.” The tragedy of the El Faro has exemplified why it is crucial for the watertight integrity of vessels to be regularly and easily tested by the crew. The importance of continually maintaining seal integrity must take a more prominent position in ship maintenance scheduling.

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 compartment doors testing, 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.  <

Comply with regulations the easy way: ultrasonic

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. Today it is possible to continuously monitoring the state of hatch-covers whilst at sea thanks to Coltraco who are developing the first fixed and semi-fixed watertight integrity monitoring systems with remote diagnostics and alarm relay.  Just as the vessel is in a dynamic state, so too a pressurised fire extinguishing gas is affected by temperature and that its cylinder holding structure and its associated pipework corrodes over time. Regular and frequent inspections, above any beyond the regulatory inspections can aide condition monitoring and preventative maintenance. Over 20% of the world’s commercial ships, over 20 leading Navies and many oil and gas platforms and rigs recognise these issues and use Portalevel™ MAX Marine and/or Portascanner™ Watertight as part of their safety management systems. It is the responsibility of the Master to ensure that the vessel is watertight integrity testingthe fire systems in working order, but it is the responsibility of the Owner or Operator to ensure that the Master can achieve this.

These two safety solutions are at the heart of the crew’s ability to comply with regulations. The IMO regulates for the safe operations of ships. The Flag States enforce these. The Classification Societies & PSC inspect these, but it is for the Ship Owners & operators to implement this. Suppliers provide the solutions. Enabling ship owners and operators to access marine technologies to deliver a safely-operated ship and prevent its detention by Port State Control (PSC) Inspection Agencies for non-compliance, is the Safeship® mission from Coltraco Ultrasonics.

For example, the IMO SOLAS FSS code enabling Officers and Crew to test their fire systems or their watertight integrity in port and at sea. The IMO SOLAS FSS Code states that every ship “must have the means for the crew to check the contents of the CO2 & marine CO2 systems. The crew cannot dismantle and re-install a CO2 system. The Portalevel™ MAX Marine means they can check each cylinder in 30 seconds without disturbing it. Thus, there are IMO codes, Class regulations, Port Authority suggestions which are all well known within shipping. And yet there is one regulatory body which is totally neglected: the BS EN ISO 14520 Gaseous Extinguishing Systems is the global standard for a ship’s fire system. It specifically states that if a gaseous system loses 5-10% of its contents then it is not “safe”.

There exists so much “ungoverned space” in shipping, so many unnecessary losses of seafarers, vessels and cargoes too. Shipping may be very proud of its safety record, but it should do more itself rather than wait for the regulators to impose themselves upon it.” Rounding off this examination into the ungoverned space in shipping, Coltraco’s CEO states: “We remain the global centre of shipping and I wish us to lead that to a new future of Safe Shipping too.”

Overview of the Portascanner® Watertight

What is it?

The most mathematically accurate handheld ultrasonic watertight integrity tester indicator in the market to 0.06mm (+/-0.02mm).

What does it do?

The main purpose of the equipment is to identify the exact location and severity of leak sites in any watertight, weathertight or airtight seal.

Why is it the best?

The focus in developing the equipment was to make this process as simple, quick and accurate as possible.

Who needs to use it?

Commonly used to test leaks in hatch-covers, doors, bulkheads, hatches, Multiple cable transit areas testing device and NBCW (nuclear, biological, chemical warfare) seals in shipping, oil and gas and defence.

Generator

  • Maximum Range of 100meters, making it more than capable of measuring even the largest holds on modern bulk carriers
  • Magnet fitting allows easily positioning on the hatch combing during testing, saving significant time and no the need to climb down into the hold
  • Disposable 9V batteries so no reduction in battery effectiveness over lifetime of the equipment
  • Highly durable case for longevity of use
  • Very lightweight and compact for easy of transportation, storage and movement around the vessel. Weighing just 430 grams

Receiver

    • Two methods of reading: Linear Readout – _Very simple – _larger the reading = larger the problem. Easy to calculate Weathertight value (10% of OHV & explained below)

Decibel Readout – _Preferred method by Surveyors to report in and provides option for logarithmic scale

    •  
    • SPA Feature – _Allows the operator to increase the sensitivity of the reading to operate over larger distances
    • Highly directional – _Designed to make it especially sensitive to identify the exact location of any leak site
    • Accuracy – capable of detecting leak sites as small as 0.06mm
    • Hard aluminium case for longevity of operation and protecting the internal electronics
    • Receiver components can also be used for use with the Permascanner® Dynamic in the event operators want to inspect the impact of the hatch cover seals whilst the vessel is at sea.

“Safety First” should not simply be a tag line

The competitive nature of the free market places great pressure on the fire industry to deliver systems which minimally comply with, rather than exceed, the regulations. Too often fire protection is seen as a cost - not a vital investment for business continuity.

In the event of downtime or shutdown to fire, there could be catastrophic effects to high value assets, such as critical infrastructure. The risk far exceeds the risk of choosing minimal compliance, instead of advanced real-time monitoring systems. The cost or damage to reputational integrity as a result of this downtime far exceeds the cost of integrating a real-time monitoring system.

Fire safety is still an “ungoverned space”

In terms of fire extinguishing systems there exist 2 broad categories: sprinkler systems and liquefied gaseous systems such a clean agents, FM 200 fire suppression system ®, Novec™1230, CO2.  The former can suffer leakage but the latter can cause greater damage given its physical pressures. Regulations require that the extinguishing agent stored in cylinders must be checked annually. The traditional method requires turning off the system, dismantling, and weighing each cylinder. Thorough testing can take hours and several qualified, trained personnel.

Anecdotes of bad practice

  • Low labour rate servicing crews being unskilled, unreliable and untrained
  • Disreputable companies randomly checking a few cylinders and placing “tested stickers” on the rest of the untested ones
  • 20% of marine CO2 cylinders installed empty or partially-filled 

Innovation offers Smart Solutions

New Safesite™ technologies offer great opportunity to the mining industry - enabling confidence that the fire system is safeguarded. For example:

  • Portalevel® MAX world leading handheld ultrasonic liquid level indicator for testing most common extinguishing agents
  • Portasteele™ Calculator tablet based app converting the liquid level indicator into agent weight/mass with ease, simplicity and ability to record and download the results
  • Permalevel® Multiplex for 24/7, 365 autonomous, continuous monitoring of fire suppression systems, with remote relay, remote diagnostics and alarm capability to alert in case of agent leak/discharge

People are priceless

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

Protecting the merchant fleet

Research coordinated by IMO has indicated that between 30% and 50% of all fires on merchant ships originate in the engine room and 70% of those fires are caused by oil leaks from pressurised systems. There are generally two types of engine room fires: oil or electric. Engine room fires are one of the most common fires on ships due to the running machinery, and sources of fuel and ignition within them. Oil fires are the most serious. Mechanical issues such as fracture, fatigue failure and also under-tightened components or seals may result in catastrophic occurrences.  Furthermore, it was noted, that high pressure fuel delivery pipes should be covered with jackets capable of containing leaks in case of pipe failure. There is a call to respond to regulations with a rigorous attitude, to go above and beyond, to provide security of life and vessel.

Contain the risk of fire

Vice Chairman’s of the International Union of Marine Insurance (IUMI) stated that to global shipping, major fires on container ships are among the worst hazards. Part of the problem is as container ship sizes have increased, the firefighting equipment on board has not experienced the same development. In their 2015 annual report, the USCG identified that the greatest deficiency onboard ships was its firefighting appliances.  An example of where the risk has become a danger is the CCNI Arauco. On the CCNI Aruco, 300 firefighters were needed after an unsuccessful seal and flood of the vessels hold with CO2. The hatch had to be flooded and then foam was used to bring the fire under control. The main difficulty comes from the inadequate equipment which the crew had to tackle the fire and as a result there has been calls for the technology to change.

3 key areas for regular inspection is important

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

The neglect of the basic routine testing and maintenance of 3 key areas substantially increases the risk of an onboard engine room fire:
 the cylinder agent content in the fire extinguishing installations, commonly CO2, FM 200 fire suppression system®, Novec™1230, halons;

  • the associated pipework;
  • and the room integrity of the protected space into which the suppressant agent discharges;

Some smart Safeship® solutions

  • Ultrasonic liquid level indicator: to identify the agent liquid level in under 30 seconds with 1 competent user*
    • Compared to 15 minutes by laboriously weighing with 2 personnel, qho must be qualified in fire safety inspections, which most crew are not
    • Complies with IMO SOLAS FSS Code 2.1.1.3 which requires crew to have the means onboard to test the installation agent content

 

  • Ultrasonic thickness gauge, ultrasonic flow meter, acoustic emissions bearing indicator: all efficiently inspect and provide condition monitoring of
    • metal work,
    • pipework and
    • rotating machinery

3. Ultrasonic watertight and airtight integrity indicator: to identify leak sites in compartments. To ensure that the protected space is able to withstand the pressure of the agent when it discharges
and that the compartment will hold that agent for the design concentration required to suppress a fire.

Safety first

The maritime industry treats fire protection systems as a necessary expenditure rather than a means by which to safeguard valuable crew and cargo

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.

“This attitude feels in direct opposition to that in the aerospace sector, where if a fault occurs on an aircraft, that information is quickly and openly shared with airline operators, civil aviation authorities and engineering organizations. In shipping, unless a fatality occurs, it is left un-reported,” says Carl Hunter, CEO & MD of Coltraco Ultrasonics. With multiple ships sailing with partially-filled, over-filled or empty cylinders and many unshared instances of accidental discharges or slow seepages there is real cause for concern – and impetus to change.

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 & marine CO2 systemscomprises 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 ships CO2 cylinders have discharged or partially leaked their contents at some point in their lifetime.

This makes high quality servicing particularly important, which requires not just a company that is properly resourced (rather than simply the lowest bidder) but also an appropriate amount of time. In many cases, marine servicing contractors often have to get to the ship using a launch and only have access to the vessel for about four hours. “If using the historical method of servicing the vessel’s fire system, the service crews would shut down the ship’s CO2 & marine CO2 systems, dismantle it and weigh each cylinder. This takes about 40 minutes to dismantle, weigh, record and re-install, meaning that it would take 400 man-hours to achieve on a 600 cylinder marine installation – completely impossible in a four hour visit,” Hunter informs.

Coltraco offer Portalevel brand liquid level indicators and Portascanner (which uses ultrasound to test the integrity of confined spaces and can detect leak sites as small as 0.06mm) and Portagauge (which uses ultrasound to test the internal and external corrosion on pipework and cylinder wall thickness to an accuracy of +/-0.1mm). “We can monitor these 24/7 with the fixed, data-logging and autonomous monitoring system, Permalevel Multiplex & Permalevel Single Point,” says Hunter. “Signals from these

fixed monitoring sites can be monitored centrally on the bridge and in the ship’s technical office concurrently. We see a day when products and systems will be designed that will monitor gas vapour above the liquid level and inert gases too.”

Why chose the Portalevel® MINI Nippon?

The Portalevel® Mini Nippon was created specially to serve the unique requirements of our Japanese Customer base. Using our well-proven 7th generation technological platform, it was specially adapted to manage the challenging Japanese manufactured cylinders. Providing users with hands-free operation for ease of use and highly reliable unit, it offers an ideal solution for inspecting CO2 Fixed Fire Suppression Systems.

Technical Specifications of Portalevel Mini Nippon

Here, we have enlisted technical specs available with this liquid level detector. Give it a look!

Dimensions

  • Height: 98mm
  • Weight: 45.5grams
  • Width: 158mm
  • Depth: 420mm

Accuracy

+/-1.5mm (1/8 inch)

Power Supply

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

Sensor

TX/RX Dry Sensor

  • Contained within a magnetized sensor applicator;
  • 14 mm diameter head
  • Connected by BNC connectors to 1 m length co-ax cable

Standard Extension Rod Sensor

  • Connected by bnC connectors to 1 m length co-ax cable.
  • 28mm in diameter
  • 1 meter in length

Verifiable Agents

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

Display

LCD Numeric Digital Display with LED Bar Graph

Classification

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

Certificates

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

Warranty

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

Operating Temperature

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

Portalevel Mini Nippon Content

  • 1 Hard Wearing Carrying Case
  • 1 Portalevel® Mini Nippon unit
  • 1 28 mm Extension Rod
  • Calibration certificate
  • 1 Wet Sensor
  • Ultrasonic Gel

Continuous Monitoring of Fire Suppression Systems

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

Coltraco have developed a fixed fire suppression monitoring device, the Permalevel® MULTIPLEX which is designed for permanent contents verification. The continuous monitoring system utilises ultrasound technology to detect the level of contents non-invasively and transmits the level information from the wired sensors to the main unit which is then processed and reported to the building’s BMS or local control panel wirelessly through TCP/IP. This is to ensure that FM 200 fire suppression systems are always   stored at their designed concentration and that no accidental discharge has occurred, which could affect the effectiveness of the overall fire protection system in the event of a fire. The neglect of continuous monitoring - of the fundamental protection provided by the gaseous extinguishing systems - is to the peril of the lives of occupants of the premises and at the risk of causing financial and reputational loss to the facility comprising the critical infrastructure.

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

Mine fires and explosions : the most devastating industrial disasters.

Fires and explosions pose a constant threat to the safety of miners and to the productive capacity of mines. Mine fires and explosions traditionally have ranked among the most devastating industrial disasters. The prevention and control of fire and explosion in mines is fundamental. On a mine site, fire hazards may occur in and around process plants, underground conveyors, static and mobile plants, draglines, workshops, substations, monitored control rooms and switch rooms. All mines have highly expensive and mission critical equipment that typically operate day and night under extreme hostile conditions, in vast, remote and difficult to access environments, especially on underground equipment. In many cases non-gaseous and gaseous fire suppression systems are the preferred systems installed to protect the high value assets, safeguard operators and processes so as to guarantee business continuity. However, it can be argued that the competitive nature of the free market places great pressure on the fire industry to deliver systems which minimally comply with, rather than exceed, the regulations. Too often fire protection is seen as a cost - not a vital investment for business continuity. High value assets such as critical mining infrastructure, may have catastrophic results in the event of downtime or shutdown due to fire. The risk far exceeds the risk of choosing minimal compliance, instead of advanced real-time monitoring systems. The cost or damage to reputational integrity as a result of this downtime far exceeds the cost of integrating a real-time monitoring system.

Regulations for fire protection/p>

The Health and Safety Executive clearly outlines that in 213. Regulation 9 of the Coal and Other Mines (Fire and Rescue) Regulations 1956 there is a requirement of managers of coal mines to put in place arrangements to ensure that: 35 • All fire-fighting equipment is inspected by a competent person at intervals not exceeding 30 days; • Each fire extinguisher is discharged and refilled by a competent person, at intervals not exceeding those specified by the manufacturer or supplier. The Fire Protection Association Australia states that the entire area should be a completely enclosed structure of fire resistant construction. This is particularly important for mines with intended for use longer than 6 months. If such an arrangement is not possible, then the area should be protected throughout by an automatic fire suppression system. In coal mines it is critical to minimize any potential fire source. In many underground mines, mobile equipment is typically diesel-powered, and a large percentage of the fires involve the fuel used by these machines. These fire hazards are compounded by the presence of coal, coal dust and methane.

What is a gaseous suppression system?/p>

Gaseous fire suppression systems typically encompass extinguishing agent stored in pressurised cylinders that are connected to a network of discharge pipework and nozzles that deliver the extinguishing agent to an enclosure to be protected.

Among the commonly used gaseous fire suppression systems are Carbon Dioxide (CO2) and Clean Agent systems which are both non-conducting fire extinguishants safe for use when dealing with delicate electrical and electronic equipment unlike water-based systems. Both CO2 and Clean Agent systems vaporise easily and do not leave a residue upon evaporation.

Clean Agents consist of two types which are halocarbons that are stored as liquefied gases and inert gases that are stored as non-liquefied gases. Halocarbon is a name given to compounds containing both carbon and at least one of the halogens (fluorine, chlorine, iodine or bromine). In the case of Halon 1301 and Halon 1211 which contain bromine, they possess strong ozone depletion potential that has been banned under the Montreal Protocol in 1989. Replacement halocarbons has since been developed using safer halogens such as fluorine and among the popular ones are NOVEC™ 1230 by 3M™ and FM-200™ by The Chemours Company. On the other hand, inert gases are clean agents that consist purely of inert gas such as Nitrogen, or a combination of gases in the case of Inergen which contains CO2, Nitrogen and Argon.

How Gaseous Systems combat the Fire Triangle

At the heart of clean agent extinguishing properties is the commonly used “Fire Triangle” that represents the three components required to start a fire which are oxygen, heat and fuel. When one or more of these components are missing, the fire will be extinguished. Halocarbon clean agents such as NOVEC™ 1230 and FM-200™ remove the heat component which effectively prevents the material from reaching its ignition temperature. CO2 and inert gases works differently by removing the oxygen component but equally as effective to extinguish a fire.

The clean agent systems function on a total flooding principle and are highly relied on due to their quick detection of a fire event, rapid suppression and extinguishment capabilities. Typical applications include chemical storage areas, clean rooms, communications facilities, robotics, emergency power facilities and in mining sites as well. Depending on the site, the installed clean agent systems are located in or around the fire risk areas such as control rooms, data centres, electrical switch rooms, and process control rooms.  All fire equipment and systems including gaseous fire suppression systems need to be regularly tested, serviced and maintained to help ensure that they will be ready to operate as intended at the event of a fire.

Why should we monitor them?/p>

Clean agent fire extinguishing systems of this type are governed by BS EN ISO 14520 Gaseous Fire Extinguishing Systems. They are designed to provide a supply of gaseous extinguishing medium for the extinction of fire. It is essential that gaseous extinguishing systems are carefully maintained to ensure instant readiness when required. Routine maintenance is liable to be overlooked or given insufficient attention by the owner of the system.  These are very highly pressurised systems often stored at pressures of 725 psi (50 bar) and above. In engineering terms, they are “dynamic” systems, not passive ones. Inspection preferably by a third party, should include an evaluation that the extinguishing system continues to provide adequate protection for the risk (protected zones, as well rooms built for room integrity, can change over time as they age or are modified).  There exist very few engineers in our industry who fully understand the design, installation, testing, maintenance and safety of gaseous firefighting systems in buildings, plants or other structures, and the characteristics of the various extinguishants and types of fire for which they are a suitable extinguishing medium.  The HSE states that, in mines, continuous monitoring and protection of machinery and equipment can significantly reduce the likelihood of a fire occurring by detecting abnormal operating conditions and generating a warning and/or stopping the machinery or equipment before it becomes a hazard. The same should therefore go for the gaseous systems.

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

Anecdotes of bad practice across all safety critical industries/p>

  • Low labour rate servicing crews being unskilled, unreliable and untrained
  • Disreputable companies randomly checking a few cylinders and placing “tested stickers” on the rest of the untested ones
  • 20% of marine CO2 cylinders installed have leaked or partially discharged during the course of their lifetime  

These anecdotes represent observations across multiple safety critical industries such as shipping  and could very highly be applied across the mining industry. These issues would risk the integrity of mining operations, because in the event of fire, there may be insufficient agent to extinguish it. For such safety critical operations, leaving fire safety systems unsupervised and unmonitored 364 days a year until their annual certification check is just too risky.

Industry trend to govern “the ungoverned space” /p>

Safety is becoming recognised as an area which must no longer be overlooked. The industry is beginning to opt for more regular inspections and even, continuous 365/24/7 monitoring. The ability to monitor autonomously, with remote diagnostics and remote relay which provide an alarm to the Fire Safety Officer or Facilities Manager, provides confidence in the integrity of the system. Minimising the risk of fire in the long run can improve business continuity. It also saves downtime and saves the potential costly pay-out which fire damage entails. Carl Hunter, having coined the term “the ungoverned space” as CEO of Coltraco Ultrasonics is proud to be at the forefront of the industry trend towards increased safety.

What methods are available now?

Ultrasonic technology holds the key. Coltraco Ultrasonics have developed a system capable of constant monitoring fire extinguishing cylinders with their Permalevel™ Multiplex. Currently, protecting similarly high value and critical infrastructure, such as electricity sub-stations, power generating stations and data centres, Permalevel™ Multiplex will provide the asset owner with complete 24/7 visibility of their system’s contents. This Safesite® solution enables mining sites to go above and beyond minimal regulatory compliance to develop their own best practice safety management system that may lead to better protection of asset and human life, as well as show their insurers their commitment to safety.

What is ultrasound?/p>

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 ones ears as ”the receiver” and ones mouth as the “transmitter”. Sound will arrive at ones 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.

By utilising a sensor which acts as a transceiver, an ultrasonic measuring device 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. As sound behaves differently in air and liquid, so will the strength of the returned signal be different in the liquid allowing us to identify the level of contents accurately. Similarly, leaks can be effectively detected through an ultrasound generator placed in an enclosure and an ultrasound receiver outside of the enclosure to measure the amount of ultrasound that leaks from the seals and cracks which has the potential to affect the ability for a clean agent to extinguish fires due to the retention time it needs upon discharge to function at its best. Taking these collected data and transmitting them wirelessly over TCP/IP, true remote monitoring of your fire suppression systems is possible anywhere around the world. 

Is bad engineering being rewarded?

Despite the technological advances in monitoring systems, the industry still approaches the installation of a dynamic and pressurised fixed gaseous extinguishing system as if it needs no integration into a Building Management System (BMS)/Safety Management System (SMS), except alerting on actuation. Nor does it think it needs constant monitoring, lest it reveals the underlying engineering risk of them. Can this be because good engineering is left unrewarded in fire safety matters? Or might it be that the fire industry is more concerned to negate customer awareness of its need lest it reveals that pressurised systems do discharge and leak? These are needless concerns. All good engineering demands the monitoring of dynamic structures and a highly pressurised 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.

CASE STUDY: ultrasonic technology offers quick, safe & reliable solutions/p>

The importance of ultrasonic technology to the mining industry has been demonstrated by its use thus far. NRG Energy have been using the Portalevel™ Max since 2015 at the Morgan Town Generation Plant in Morgantown, Charles County in Maryland, US. The Morgan Town Plant is a coal powered power station based in Maryland. NRG own the USA’s largest and more diverse power generation competitive portfolio. NRG are dedicated to smart and reliable energy sourcing, and emission reductions although coal is a significant part of the electricity generation. The Portalevel™ Max is an example of the technologically advanced techniques that the company are implementing to lead the way in safe and sustainable coal sourcing.   After witnessing fire service experts undertaking ultrasonic liquid level indication in just minutes, they were keen to change from their previous method of weighing. As a safety critical asset, the Morgan Town Plant saw the necessity in investing into their fire safety. This was the same as at the Vales Point Power Station at Delta, Australia.  The power station is at the southern end of lake Macquarie. This power station was built in the 1960’s as a four-unit station, but now operates two 660 MW generating units. The Power Station is owned and operated by Power International, with the capacity of around 1,320 megawatts, providing 24 hours electricity. In 2013 they bought Coltraco Ultrasonics’ Portagauge® 3 thickness gauge for testing normal structure and stainless steel.

How to inspect liquefied gaseous systems with ease and speed/p>

Utilising ultrasound technology, Coltraco Ultrasonics have been manufacturing a range of ultrasonic portable liquid level indicators known as the Portalevel®. The Portalevel® MAX is the latest generation of the Portalevel® line and is designed to provide enhanced speed, operation and performance, especially for high intensity testing requirements and works brilliantly for testing cylinder contents of fixed fire extinguishing systems like CO2, NOVEC™ 1230, FM-200™ and other clean agents. The device has UL, RINA and ABS Type Approval, building further on their history of over 27 years manufacturing this equipment and showcasing the commitment to the marine and shipping industry. The Coltraco Safesite™ technology suite includes Portalevel ® MAX; a “world leading handheld ultrasonic liquid level indicator for testing most common extinguishing agents”; the Portasteele™ Calculator tablet based app converting the liquid level into agent weight/mass with ease, simplicity and ability to log the results; and the Permalevel ® Multiplex for 24/7, 365 autonomous, continuous monitoring of fire suppression systems, with remote relay, remote diagnostics and alarm capability to alert in case of agent leak/discharge.

How to constantly monitor liquefied gaseous extinguishing systems 24/7 /p>

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. The Permalevel Multiplex® is designed to ensure that fire suppression systems are always fully operational and that no accidental discharge has occurred, which could affect the effectiveness of the overall fire protection system in the event that it is required for use 24/7 remote access to system status – enables the operator to monitor each cylinder point in real time. The ability to retrofit into existing systems which eliminates downtime as the system does not have to be disconnected/deactivated provides ease and simplicity to be installed across hundreds of cylinders present in a particular site.

How to test Room Integrity /p>

Where Portalevel® and Pemalevel® deals with the clean agent contents, Coltraco Ultrasonics has also designed and manufactured a device to monitor the enclosure integrity at which the clean agent discharges into. Prior to the installation of a clean agent extinguishing system, fire installers are required to determine the enclosure’s “hold time” in order to comply with regulations such as BS EN ISO 14520 and to ensure the enclosure is able to contain the released clean agent for a sufficient period of time in order to extinguish fires. This relies on the identification of leak sites within an enclosure and subsequently sealing them to improve the “hold time” when necessary. Coltraco Ultrasonics manufactures the Portascanner™ 520 which comprises of an ultrasound generator and ultrasound receiver whereby the ultrasound generator is left in an enclosure and the receiver is used to scan the enclosure seals to identify leak sites. This allows effective identification of leak sites and overall contribute to an increased reliability of a clean agent fire suppression system. A semi-permanent option is also available to monitor leak sites continuously, typically in old, grade listed buildings whereby protection from fire is of absolute importance.

Conclusion: Safesite® fire safety solutions

Coltraco Ultrasonics is a company that demonstrates their commitment to developing and supporting safety systems and test equipment with their customer and the end application in mind, founded on science and pursuit of mathematical justification such as their practice to precisely cite accuracy i.e. they achieve +/-1.5mm level of contents accuracy and identify leak sites as small as 0.06mm +/-0.02mm. This is a key contribution the company makes to the industry over their competitors, backed up by 30 years’ experience, operating in 108 countries and life-time customer care.

Fire Innovation of the Year 2018: 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 level indication method to take account of the temperature affect on the agent height. PortasteeleÒ 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.

See the Portasteele® CALCULATOR Here:

Could you afford the financial and reputational damage of a tanker fire?

Fires on board tankers can be devastating, to crew, vessel and cargo. Fire safety standards on board cannot afford to slip. Sailing alone and at sea throughout the year, and without the ability to call upon the emergency services as a land-based asset might. 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.

The International Maritime Risk Rating Agency (IMRRA) has ranked fire safety as the leading tanker deficiency seen by Port State Control for the first six months of the year. In March 2017 there were 152 cases of fire reported. The IMMRA placed 12.5% of tankers it assessed in January 2017 into the higher risk category – a six month high.

Serious cases of tanker fires and risks have been reported in the past year. In September 2016 a Pemex oil tanker had a serious fire in the Gulf of Mexico, on which it was carrying 80,000 barrels of diesel, 71,000 of gasoline and 16,000 barrels of desulfurized gasoline. 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. Even as recently as July fire safety is still being neglected, with the crew of the tanker MT IBA reporting empty fire extinguishers (despite transporting crude oil) and leaking life boat’s hydraulic system with no means of testing.

So 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 minimising 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 defence 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 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”

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 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.

 

Test Your Fire Suppression Systems

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

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

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

Using ultrasound to enhance offshore safety

Bad industry practice is unacceptable when fire risk may have catastrophic results due to risk to life, downtime in operation due to platform safety and repair work and incalculable reputational damage

Fully operative fire systems on an offshore platform is paramount and demanded by ISO 14520 and PFEER codes. 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 measuring device 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.

When these fire systems are properly maintained, the cost associated with fire damage is likely to reduce dramatically as it is know fire damages on these hazardous offshore environments are generally catastrophic to lives, asset, environment and company reputation.

The introduction of a package to cover watertight doors, compartments, pipework, rotating machinery, pumps, sprinkler systems and gaseous extinguishing installations. The package is based on integrity, from design, through to life-time support, and is accurate, reliable and easy to use for any operations & QHSE staff. The use of ultrasound technology to protect safety critical assets is new. There are currently no technical papers which discuss ultrasound as a method to holistically service safety management systems.

How can ultrasound protect your vessel against water ingress?

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

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

 Ultrasonic is proven to be the quickest, easiest and most efficient method of testing watertight & weather-tight seals of hatch-covers, doors, multiple cable transits area testing. 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 Ultrasonic 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.

Regulations Demand Crew Test Their Extinguishing Installations

At sea, fire poses one the of biggest threat to ships: according to Lloyds List, almost 10% of all total losses at sea for the last ten years have been caused by fire. Unlike shore-based workers, crew can’t pick up the phone and wait for a firefighting crew to arrive. Ultimately, ships are their own fire brigade. And 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 gets into difficulties.

According to the International Maritime Organisation, Safety of Life at Sea, Fire Safety Systems (IMO SOLAS FSS) Code; there is a need for crew to test the contents of their CO2, FM-200® & NOVEC™ 1230 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, such as an external marine servicing company.

Yet, the FFS code also specifically states that the crew must test their extinguishing installations in between the periodic inspection, maintenance and certification. Having an 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.

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. 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. The loss of contents in the cylinders poses a serious threat to the crew, as this could mean that in the event of the fire, there may not be enough CO2 to extinguish the fire.

Despite this, the risk of leaking and discharging is accepted as part of their use and this is shown in the IMO SOLAS FFS regulations that demand their upkeep.

The regulations also state that “means shall be provided for the crew to safely check the quantity of the fire extinguishing medium in the container”. Using an ultrasonic liquid level indicator is the only way that the crew can safely test their CO2 without disturbing them. If marine 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 could do their work without allowing for time pressures, then marine safety would improve.

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 its 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, and to provide security of life and infrastructure.

Comply with ISO 14520: Check your Compartmentation

Current Situation:

Before installing Clean Agent fire suppression systems the integrity of the building structure commonly undergoes “Door Fan Testing’. This test determines the Peak Pressure and Agent Hold Time necessary for ensuring the effectiveness of these fire suppression systems. As required by NFPA 2001 and ISO 14520 standards to calculate the overall leakage of a room, this room integrity tester with ultrasonic technology is a great option.

Limitations:

Locating exact leak sites is currently done by a “puffer test” with smoke. However, such current methods do not provide precise, accurate results on leak location or size.

Solution:

Today, the industry can benefit from using the Portascanner™ Integrity Test Indicator alongside the Door Fan Testing for a complete and comprehensive regulatory room test. Ideal for precise leak detection, Portascanner™ is an exceptionally accurate (to 0.06mm) and fast method. It is the first of its kind, intuitive to use, non-invasive, and consequently, is of immediate use to the Fire Industry.

Package Offered with Portascanner 520:

Portascanner 520 is an ultrasonic room integrity tester introduced by Coltraco. It offers some great content in a pinned packaging. Coltraco Limited, UK, offers following contents:

  • Receiver Rod:

The user directs the rod at areas they will to survey. Any escaping ultrasound if received by the rod and sent to the main unit is recorded.

  • Generator:

The generator is an ultrasonic generator with three transducers. These transducers emit a strong signal in one direction that fills that room/space with pulses of ultrasound.

  • Receiver:

The receiver processes and displays any ultrasound that emitted from a leaking space. The results are visually presented to the user on the internal screen as well as outputted to external headphones.

  • Headphones:

Any ultrasound that is identified by the unit is outputted as audible readings via external headphones.

The future of watertight integrity testing is with continuous monitoring.

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

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

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

To prevent sinking, regulations outline the requirements to ensure watertight integrity checks are done before the vessel sets sail. There is currently no emphasis on periodic watertight integrity checks other than to ensure watertight doors are closed. There are also reasons to believe that this requirement can too be exceeded by implementing the continuous monitoring of watertight compartments such as hatch covers for cargo holds and watertight doors for passenger spaces. This is now made possible by implementing robust ultrasonic transmitters and receivers both inside and outside the monitored compartment respectively. As soon as apertures start to form in the seals of these structures, the ultrasonic signal escapes the compartments and is received by the ultrasonic receiver on the other end. Above a certain threshold, this escaped signal represents the size of the leak that has developed.

Using a portable ultrasonic watertight integrity tester, Coltraco Ultrasonics’ Portascanner® functions on similar principles, detecting the smallest leak size 0.06 mm in diameter which is the most mathematically accurate in the world +/-0.02mm. As an example of how a leak will compromise the stability of a vessel, a leak diameter of one mm under just one metres depth of water below sea level will correspond to a leak of 12,500 millilitres per hour. This means up to 911 cans of soft drinks worth of water in a day. This highlights the importance of watertight integrity.

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