Staying Weathertight: The Advantages of Ultrasonic Hatch Cover Testing Over Traditional Methods

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Ensuring the integrity of hatch covers is crucial for the safety and efficiency of maritime operations. Traditionally, hatch cover testing has relied on visual inspections and water hose tests, which can be time-consuming and prone to human error. However, with the advancements in technology, ultrasonic hatch cover testers have emerged as reliable and efficient tools for testing hatch covers. 

Traditional methods of hatch cover testing have limitations: 

  • Subjectivity: Visual inspections can vary in judgment and introduce errors. 
  • Time-consuming: Tests like chalk tests and hose tests are labor-intensive and prolong the process. 
  • Invasive procedures: Disassembling for testing can damage the structure. 
  • Limited accuracy: Small leaks or defects may be missed. 

in pic: Chalk Test being performed on board

in pic: Hose Test being performed on board

Ultrasonic hatch cover testing offers several significant advantages over traditional methods, including: 

  • Enhanced Accuracy and Reliability: Ultrasonic testing detects small leaks and defects in hatch covers, preventing water ingress and improving safety and efficiency. This technology provides a higher level of accuracy and reliability compared to traditional methods. 
  • Time and Cost Efficiency: Ultrasonic testing allows for quick assessment of hatch covers without extensive disassembly, saving time and reducing labor and repair costs. It eliminates the need for time-consuming and subjective tests like the chalk tests and hose tests. 
  • Non-Intrusive and Environmentally Friendly: Ultrasonic testing is non-invasive and does not require any chemical or water usage. It leaves the structure of the hatch covers intact and minimizes environmental impact. Unlike hose water tests, which can be affected by weather conditions, ultrasonic testing can be conducted regardless of the weather. 
  • Objective and Quantifiable Results: Ultrasonic testing equipment provides precise evaluation through quantitative data, enabling proactive maintenance strategies for long-term reliability. It eliminates the subjectivity associated with visual inspections and provides measurable results. 
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Ultrasonic testing recommended by P&I clubs:​ 

Ultrasonic testing, as recommended in the UK P&I document, is crucial for ensuring watertight cargo hold hatch covers. It accurately detects leaks, prevents water ingress, and maintains cargo integrity, avoiding costly damage claims. Regular inspections, corrosion prevention, and seal replacement are essential for effective maintenance.

Proper weathertightness of cargo hatch covers is crucial to protect cargo from water ingress. The Swedish P&I document highlights in Pages 10 – 16, the most common cargo wet damage cases that the Club experiences. Ultrasonic testing is their preferred method to detect leaks and ensure the sealing system’s effectiveness. It provides accurate results, can be conducted during loading, and is unaffected by weather conditions. 

The Coltraco Ultrasonics’ Portascanner® WATERTIGHT PLUS is a portable and lightweight ultrasonic hatch test unit, recommended by Caribbean Marine P&I. It offers advantages such as quick and safe surveys and reduced testing time compared to the hose test as the surveyor does not have to enter the hold to carry out a hose or chalk test. It ensures cargo worthiness with its reliable and repeatable results, together with a clear digital screen readout of the results .

in pic: Portascanner® WATERTIGHT PLUS Main Unit and Generator

in pic: Portascanner® WATERTIGHT PLUS in the box

Advantages of Coltraco Ultrasonics’ Portascanner® WATERTIGHT PLUS: 

  • Unparalleled Accuracy: The Portascanner® WATERTIGHT PLUS, an ultrasonic hatch cover tester, can detect leaks as small as 0.06 mm, ensuring reliable results and vessel safety. It surpasses the capabilities of other ultrasonic hatch cover testers in the market. 
  • Versatile Operational Modes: With three modes, including a dedicated hatch cover mode, users have greater control and adaptability in testing different structures and components. The Portascanner® WATERTIGHT PLUS can also be used to assess the tightness of rubber packing, hatch coamings, and compression bars.  
  • Enhanced Power Settings: The device offers additional power settings for optimized testing in challenging environments, such as cold weather or noisy surroundings. This feature ensures accurate and reliable results under various conditions. 
  • Multi-Directional 5-Transducer Variable Gain Generator: The Portascanner® WATERTIGHT PLUS allows comprehensive testing of various structures, including difficult-to-reach areas. The multi-directional transducers ensure thorough coverage and accurate detection of leaks. 
  • User-Friendly Design and Training: The Portascanner® WATERTIGHT PLUS is designed to be user-friendly, making regular inspections accessible to the crew. Coltraco Ultrasonics provides training and support to ensure that operators can effectively and confidently use the device. 


Ultrasonic hatch cover testing has revolutionized the way we ensure the integrity of hatch covers. By offering enhanced accuracy, time and cost efficiency, non-intrusiveness, and objective results, ultrasonic testing technology has become an invaluable tool in maritime operations. Coltraco Ultrasonics’ Portascanner® WATERTIGHT PLUS, an ultrasonic hatch cover tester, with its unmatched accuracy, versatile operational modes, enhanced power settings, multi-directional transducers, and user-friendly design, sets a new standard for hatch cover testing. Implementing ultrasonic testing as a standard practice can significantly reduce risks, improve safety, and optimize operational efficiency for shipowners and cargo owners alike. 

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