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Coltraco Commitment To :

  • Through-life maintenance support
  • We still maintain units built 20 years ago
  • Extend trade-in credits - replace old units for new
  • UL listing & ABS type approval - Portalevel™ MAX
  • ABS type approval & RINA approval - Portascanner™
  • Be a life-safety technology partner – Permalevel™
  • Certified OEM calibration & ODA service stations

Coltraco manufacture Ultrasonics That Work

Groundbreaking Technology: Portasteele® CALCULATOR

Maintaining high standards of fire safety practice does not have to be expensive or time consuming, Coltraco strive to provide easy and long lasting solutions that are suitable to varying budgets. There is a call to respond to regulations with a rigorous attitude, to go above and beyond, to provide security of life and infrastructure. Installations must be maintained so that they can provide the protection that they are intended for. Fire can cause crippling financial, physical and reputational damage to happen to crew, vessel and cargo. 2017 Coltraco developed a quick, easy and safer solution to weighing the ships’ fire suppression system: Portalevel® MAX Marine + Portasteele® Calculator.

The Portalevel® MAX Marine is designed primarily for maritime applications where either third party service companies or the vessels’ crew themselves, inspect large fire suppression systems of up to 600 cylinders. Innovative methods of inspecting leaking cylinders with ultrasonics, enables identification in under 30 seconds using Portalevel® MAX Marine with one person, instead of the traditional 15 minutes, with two people labouriously shutting down the system, dismantling the cylinders and weighing them. Using ultrasonic technology - to pinpoint the liquid level of suppressant agent in the cylinders of the extinguishing system - testing is quicker and easier. The ease of operation in comparison to weighing, increases the ability of more regular and frequent checks, improving fire safety management onboard. Portalevel® MAX  enables its users to go above and beyond minimal regulations compliance, thus becoming industry leaders. Combined with the Portasteele® Calculator, the weight can be found in just 30 seconds more. It is an advanced Liquid level to mass conversion calculator application, that converts the liquid level height of C02, NOVEC™ 1230 or FM-200® liquefied gaseous extinguishant agent readings taken on the Portalevel® into the agent weight/mass. There is no other similar alternative to weighing available on the market. Furthermore, the Portasteele® can convert an expected agent weight back to the required liquid level allowing users to anticipate where the level should be. This method also enables recording and downloading of the data, adding value to servicing reports and improving the safety management system for a auditable data trail.

The implementation of regulations through Safeship® technologies ensure that the gaseous extinguishing systems are functional in the event of a fire. 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 60 seconds using Portalevel® MAX Marine and Portasteele® Calculator with one person, instead of the traditional 15 minutes, with two people laboriously weighing. In real terms, it is commonly unfeasible to test a complete system in the minimal hours that a ship is in port, thereby resulting in random checks or only a minimum number of cylinders really being checked. This creates risk in the event of fire in case the fire systems do not have the design concentration required to extinguish it. Manual weighing is not only laborious, but also hazardous to the crew conducting the servicing. New technology allows ship owners and crews implement both the spirit and letter of the regulation and thus know that their vessel is protected in the event of a fire.

What are the Portascanner® Watertight Receivers and Generators?

Portascanner® Watertight receiver:

  • It comprises of following parts:
  • expansion bar connector
  • Gain 1,2,3,
  • Volume Up and Down Buttons
  • LCD Visual Display Mode
  • On and Off Buttons
  • Headphone Connection.
  • How do you use the Portascanner® Reciever?
  • It is tuned for recognizing the specific recurrence of ultrasound ways.
  • It has sound and visual yields.
  • As sensor pole is joined to it, a client can filter the seal at short proximity altogether.
  • LCD screen demonstrates the visual yield of recognized ultrasounds.
  • The visual information got can be changed over to decibels (dB) perusing which is impeccable to be tried to accreditation society principles.
  • Bar diagram portrayal is likewise accessible.
  • With standard jack of 3.5 mm, an earphone is appended to the collector to get sound signs.
  • Heterodyning is the procedure through which collector changes over the ultrasound waves into sound flags with the goal that client can without much of a stretch hear.

Portascanner™ Watertight Generator:

  • It comprises of following parts:
  • Power On and Off Buttons
  • Transducers
  • Low Battery Indication
  • Battery Compartment.
  • It is set on one side of the fixed compartment and turned on.
  • User remaining on the opposite side of the compartment uses sensor bar to check the seal.
  • Increased flag quality will be demonstrated obviously for spill destinations.
  • The numerical show and volume of capable of being heard signs can without much of a stretch demonstrate the quality of the signs got by the collector.

Who are Coltraco Ultrasonics?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How do Coltraco Ultrasonics support the marine sector?

Coltraco designs, manufactures and supports a world-leading range with a technological basis in ultrasonics. Their expertise developed from their flagship invention (the Portalevel® liquid level indicator), to over 30 equipment. Many of these are UL-listed, ABS & RINA Type Approved and IMO SOLAS FSS compliant. 

 Coltraco is transformational in manufacturing portable inspection products and Constant Monitoring systems for:

  1. FIRE SAFETY: monitoring CO2 &  liquefied Clean Agent’s such as FM-200™ & NOVEC™ 1230 and leak detection during Room Integrity testing 
  2. Sprinkler system flow rates, pipework integrity, monitoring fire pump bearing and checking leak sites during Room Integrity,
  3. VESSEL STABILITY: Watertight integrity of hatch-covers, compartment doors, multiple cable transit areas testing and fire penetration seals
  4. Corrosion monitoring, thickness gauging and bearing monitoring 
  5. R504 Refrigerant & IBC Tank Level monitoring with innovative portable technologies

Based in London, manufacturing in the UK, operating in 108 countries, on-board nearly 10,000 vessels, Coltraco has 30 years’ experience. 

Coltraco delivers Safesite™ & Safeship™ technologies at safety critical infrastructure and high value assets on land & at sea.  The crew, cargo and vessel must be protected because it is its own “emergency service” when sailing at sea, without access to a typical shore-based emergency fire service. A ships fixed extinguishing system protects the machinery spaces. They allow engine room fires to be responded to, with minimal risk to the vessels crew. However, the fixed extinguishing system has to be used properly and for this, its on-board maintenance is essential. At its heart are its contents in the cylinders. Our contribution to Safety at Sea has been to build a package of capability that can be easily and safely used by the crew in routine maintenance of clean agent extinguishing systems as part of the vessel Safety Management System (SMS).

Minimal/Non-Compliance with Regulations Cannot Go On

Would you enter a building if you were told as you stepped in that in the event of a fire there was a chance that the extinguishing system wouldn’t put it out? No! People expect, and rightfully so, that in the event of a fire the extinguishing systems would be in full working order to do just that – extinguish. Why have a fire extinguishing system if you cannot be 100% sure it is going to work? This is not a game of chance. The lives of people depend upon it. So why is this haphazard and dangerous attitude to maintenance continuing? Enough is enough. The technology exists right now to ensure that the fixed fire systems are in a constant state of operational readiness.

After a year of Coltraco Ultrasonics’ continued efforts to make the ‘ungoverned space’ in the fire industry heard, understood and actioned upon, the problem is starting to be recognised by some, but not all. Some have finally realised that minimal compliance with regulations is just not enough, and that the need to go above and beyond the standards exists for safety critical environments and high value assets. But simply identifying the problems with the regulations is not enough. This haphazard approach is dangerous and often unknown to the users of the infrastructure. The ungoverned space in the fire industry must end now. Change must happen and faster than it has been. Action must be taken and people must be kept safe from the danger of fire. The regulations and the attitude towards them must change. The technology exists to go above and beyond them.

What is the ungoverned space?

Simply put, 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. Coltraco repeatedly push for this life-threatening issue to be dealt with, with specific regard to loss of contents in fixed fire extinguishing systems and need for improvements to room integrity testing.

  • Regulations mandate that gaseous systems are checked for contents once annually. The facts and the knowledge are out there: gaseous systems leak. i.e. the very part of the installation which puts out the fire. This is because they are dynamic systems: the contents are pressurised , which is why one annual check comes short in dealing with the probability of discharge or leakage for the other 364 days per annum between certification checks.
  • Coupled with this, as buildings age, undergo development and refurbishments, leak sites develop. This destroys the room integrity. Protected space integrity is essential for fire safety: the room must be able to hold the gas once released in order to suppress the fire, and the room must be able to withstand the pressure of its release.

Despite consistent efforts from us all within the fire industry to improve the standards, we can all learn from the two aspects of the Ungoverned Space, which is unnecessarily risky. In their experience, Coltraco have numerous concerning anecdotes of non-compliance: systems portrayed and installed by contractors as NOVEC™ 1230 but filled with sand or water… room integrity testing with questionable results and with the room integrity remaining un-monitored after testing… liquefied extinguishants being confused by installers with Inert gas systems… service engineers asking how to test the liquid level in powder… the list goes on.

“Meeting minimum fire standards is not enough”

In response to the Grenfell Tower tragedy, June 2017, Council Leader Cllr Stephen Cowan said “The fire in Kensington has made one thing clear – just meeting minimum fire standards is not enough. The regulations are clearly not good enough so we will be going above and beyond what is required.” Quite clearly Coltraco are not the only ones who think this either. The regulations need to be promoting maintenance so that the systems are always ready to perform, the actuality of their purpose, not intermittent and unreliable annual checks.

The technology exists right now to solve this problem.  

For contents verification, there are inspection tools currently in use – and a nod to the future of constant monitoring remotely 24/7 365: Coltraco manufacture the portable liquid level indicator Portalevel™ used by fire technicians for the contents checking of CO2, old Halons, FM-200™ and NOVEC™ 1230. Portalevel™ liquid level readings are then converted to agent weight readings via the Portasteele™ Calculator - the world’s first.
Constant monitoring of the contents of gaseous systems is now enabled via the 24/7 system Permalevel™ Multiplex, but the fire industry is highly resistant to using technology to constantly monitor the pressurised systems which it installs. The Permalevel® Multiplex is the first system worldwide that is capable of monitoring the liquid level indicator 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. Continuous monitoring must be implemented, in 2018, this is expected.  

The Fire Industry must Lead the Way to a Safer Future

It is quite clear that minimal compliance with regulations is just not enough, and that the need to go above and beyond the standards exists for safety critical environments and high value assets. This haphazard approach is dangerous and often unknown to the users of the infrastructure.

There is an assumption that protecting buildings by installing fire extinguishing systems and covering the building with insurance is enough to provide full safety of a building. But this neglect and minimal understanding of the need for maintaining the fire extinguishing systems leads to only one thing, a gap in the protection of people, assets + facilities.

Simply put, 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. Coltraco repeatedly push for this life-threatening issue to be dealt with, with specific regard to loss of contents in fixed fire extinguishing systems and need for improvements to room integrity testing.

To go above and beyond the regulations, building owners and managers must test and monitor their fire extinguishing systems to check for leakage. By using the ultrasonic liquid level indicator, the Portalevel® MAX and/or the constant monitoring system the Permalevel ® Multiplex, building owners and managers are able to exceed the standards and ensure that the gaseous extinguishing systems are able to extinguish in the event of the fire.

In a time when cost drives safety decisions, using either or both of these systems allows a company to reduce their insurance premiums without compromising the safety of lives, assets and infrastructure. The recommendation of using Portalevel® Max and Permalevel® Multiplex from insurers benefits them as to guaranteeing long-term top customers who aspire for improved safety.

As with many leaders in the fire industry, Coltraco are pushing for rapid action to be taken in protecting peoples lives. There is no room for the industry to fall back into old habits. The fire industry must lead the way to a safer future. Constant monitoring of gaseous extinguishing systems and room integrity must be implemented, people’s lives depend upon it.

Fire in Wind Turbines

Wind power is an exciting emerging sector that needs those of us involved in fire safety to get on board. As electricity generation becomes more reliant on renewable energy, wind power is becoming increasingly important in the energy mix. As our reliance on wind turbines grows, keeping them fully operational and at reduced levels of risk is becoming more important, and as a result, so is safety management. There are over 340,000 wind turbines around the world; yet the vast majority of turbines have no fire suppression system installed.

The fires in wind turbines not only lead to a loss of business continuity and a negative impact on the company’s reputation but also, most importantly, are a critical safety issue. Possibly harmful debris can drift into the wind in the event of a fire and there is also a significant risk to human lives. When turbines are under construction, commissioning maintenance and repair, escape routes for operators are often long and vertical.

A recent report found that three out of six incidents studied involved a human presence in the nacelle*3; hence, a fire becomes a safety concern.  In 2013, a crew of four engineers died in Ooltgensplaat, Netherlands in a wind turbine fire. This devastating loss of life calls for improved review of fire safety to minimise the risk to engineers.

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

If the hazard is special and the infrastructure critical then this is the case for the constant monitoring of the suppression systems that aim to deliver the protection of them. Inspection should include an evaluation that the extinguishing system continues to provide adequate protection for the risk.

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

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

Minimise Risk with the Portacare® Package

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

The Portacare® package is part of Coltraco’s Customer Care Commitment (CCC), designed to give a world leading support programme to our products over a 5 year term length. Coltraco Ultrasonics operate a whatever it takes approach to best support customers and provide enhanced after sales support.

What is the CCC?

Customer – we invite you to benefit from Coltraco’s ethos of integrity from design to lifetime support

Care – we think care is better if its personal so you can arrange a phone call any time that suits you worldwide to answer your queriesCommitment – we want to save you cost and time, whilst helping you improve safety.

How can you cut risk with the Portacare® Package?

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

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

How can the Portascanner® 520 be used to aid room integrity?

Complying with Regulations for Clean Agent Fire Suppression Systems

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. The package includes:

  • 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 Portalevel® MAX in 7 Simple Steps

7 simple steps to use the Portalevel® MAX:

  • Attach the sensor to the main Portalevel® MAX, switch the unit on and ensure the “Battery Low” Indication is not showing.
  • Depending on the condition of the cylinder, some couplet may need to be applied to the side of the cylinder; this could be in the form of Water spray, Ultrasonic Gel or an Oil & Water mix depending on what is easily accessible. This is not always essential and they all accomplish the required results.
  • Place the senor towards the top of the cylinder and engage the “CAL” feature. This will set the unit to that particular cylinder, catering for the material thickness, paint or surface covering.
  • When engaging the “CAL” feature, the Bar Graph on the screen will extend all the way to the right and the numbers will read high values.
  • The user should then move the sensor down the cylinder in small steps, making sure not to drag the sensor down the cylinder face.
  • When the sensor passes the level mark, the numbers will drop dramatically and the Bar graph will reduce all the way to the left. It is this change in display readings, which identifies the difference between Air (above Level) and Liquid (below Level) in a cylinder.
  • Through moving the sensor up in smaller steps, one can accurately pinpoint the exact liquid level indicator’s location.

To find out more about Portalevel Max 8th Generation, download PDF

How the Internet of Things aids the Aluminium Industry

When aluminium is burned, it creates a very intense fire. 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.

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

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

What are gaseous extinguishing systems and why do they leak?

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 indicator allowing users to anticipate where the level should be.

Case Studies: Ultrasonics in the Mining Industry

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 indicator 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 a Portaguage for testing normal structure and stainless steel.

Fire At Sea

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

This is a result of the time pressures that are placed upon marine servicing companies. It is well known that vessels are kept at the dock for a minimum amount of time, which reduces time for repairs and thus efficiency without compromise of safety is key. Most marine servicing companies only have 4 hours on a vessel in a port to test up to 600 cylinders. It is known that it takes 15 minutes for a 2 person team to shutdown, dismantle and weigh a single CO2 cylinder, which is equal to 16 cylinders in 4 hours. Yet despite this, every CO2 cylinder on the vessel receives a “tested and certified sticker” and the CO2 & marine CO2 systems is certified and a certificate is issued.

This is the “ungoverned space” in the shipping industry in marine fire protection. Those in the shipping industry do understand that they must hydrostatically test its CO2 cylinders every 10 years (sometimes 5).  Many just do not unless the marine servicing companies demand it – which they often can because the regulation for it exists. However,  it is not the hydrostatic testing that matters. The amount of cylinders that fail that test is very low, unless they are heavily corroded which the monthly crew inspection under IMO SOLAS FSS Code Ch 5 should have spotted years before it became in such a condition.

 Fire System Designers routinely apply an excess of 20% to the design concentration required in the CO2 system to account for safe limits in the space being protected, which has merit in a new system. This is only has meaning when the space is fully compartmented and sealed fully, which a new vessel probably is.

Importance of Fire Safety in Wind Turbines

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

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

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

Sensitive, Accurate and Reliable – Portascanner® WATERTIGHT

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

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

 Coltraco Ultrasonics focus on benefitting the crew; designing innovative ultrasonic solutions which the crew will be happy to use by being easy to operate, quick, accurate and a better method to traditional techniques. Thus increasing the likelihood of tests being regularly conducted, in line with regulations and even going above and beyond for more frequent testing. By so doing, the crew will be creating a safer ship.

Industrial Applications of Ultrasonic Liquid Level Indicator

IBCs in pharmacy:

Background: 

From a British pharmaceutical company, one of the largest in the world: We received a request from one of their pharmaceutical manufacturing plants in Ireland, the plant produces active ingredients that are used in drugs used to treat cancer, Parkinsons and Depression.

Application: 

We received a request to deliver a means to non-invasively monitor the contents within IBC’s (Intermediate Bulk Container). The ammonia is used to breakdown manufacturing by-products before they are then safely incinerated. An ammonia/water mix is delivered onto the site in IBC’s (Intermediate Bulk Containers). This current method of monitoring the contents within these IBC’s involved physical dipstick-measurements on the tank to monitor usage and replacement. This methodology stemmed from a lack of confidence in the internal IBC monitoring system. However, the fumes given off by the ammonia creates a health risk for engineers. Opening the top valve also creates risk of contamination to the ammonia. They therefore require a non-invasive method.

Solution: 

A Coltraco Engineer visited the site to conduct technology suitability trials. We surveyed several of the IBCs (intermediate bulk containers) some were partially full and some were fully empty - after adjustments we determined general range for a full and empty state across 7 of the IBC’s.
Trial indicated real potential for us to deliver a solution for this application. Our present technology indicates that we have the capabilities to deliver a lasting solution to this challenge. So ultrasonic liquid level indicator is a perfect choice for this purpose.

Implementation: 

Once we had proven that our current technology was suitable for the intended application, it was requested that the solution should be:

  • Non-Invasive and ultrasonic
  • Application Specific Calibration – 0=LIQUID 100+=AIR (unparalleled ease of use)
  • Intrinsically safe
  • Robust enough for daily use

Over the next 4 weeks we:

Developed a turnkey solution offering unparalleled accuracy, ease of use and clarity of indication on an Intrinsically Safe Platform specifically designed for an application in which a non-invasive solution didn’t previously exist. The Unit requires no input from the operator apart from the application of the sensor to the vessel wall. It is the easiest to use, and most accurate liquid level indicator in the world in spite of being intrinsically safe.

Result: 

The deliver of the solution allows the operators of the plant to safely, quickly and accurately monitor the contents within the ammonia vessels, which are integral to the operation of the plant as a whole. The Unit will also reduce the amount of partially empty ammonia cylinders returned before emptying, saving the organisation money over time.

To know more about ultrasonic level indicator, please visit www.coltraco.com

Test your extinguishing installations

Misunderstanding exists across parts of Shipping regarding the application of a part of the International Maritime Organization, Safety of Life at Sea, Fire Safety Systems (IMO SOLAS FSS) Code; the 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 i.e. an external Marine Servicing Company. As stated above, the reason the IMO requires crew to test for contents in-between these is that the “ship sails alone”; it must act as its own emergency fire service

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 gas suppression system 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 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. 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.

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

What is the Portascanner® WATERTIGHT?

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

Application Hatch Cover Tester

Ultrasonic hatch cover tester is best for the following applications:

Bulk Carrier Hatches

The Portascanner® Watertight is used onboard bulk carriers for inspecting the Watertight or Weather-tight hatches for leak sites. The magnetic generator can be positioned just inside the hold, on the hatch combing, removing the need to climb down to position the generator at the bottom of the hold on the tank top.
It is used by the crew for regular maintenance to dramatically reduce the risk of cargo damage from water ingress, and by Marine surveyors for carrying out P&I, Classification Society or Insurance surveys.

Watertight Doors

Watertight Doors on offshore Oil & Gas Rigs, Naval and Marine Vessels are regularly inspected & maintained to ensure the integrity of the Bulkheads and watertight barriers are secure. If these areas are neglected, there can be drastic impacts on flood prevention in the event of a major incident, which is exactly what the Portascanner helps to avoid. Removing old fashioned and inaccurate chalk testing, the Portascanner Technology provides a very quick and accurate method to identify problem areas and fix the issues that exist within these seals.

Multiple Cable Transits (MCTs)

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

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

Technology exists right now to solve compartmentation problems  

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

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

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

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

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

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

IBCs Food Processing by Portalevel Max Industrial

Background: 

Food processing factory based in the south of the UK producing Coleslaw, packaged salads and pastas for the likes of McDonalds, Tesco, Morrisons, Lidl. Producing over 130,000 pots of Coleslaw a day.

Application: 

2.2 metre high, 5mm stainless steel wall, filled with mayonnaise to be used for the Coleslaw. The current monitoring method consists of employing ladders to peer into the cylinder and check usage and remaining contents. The issue with this method lies in potential contamination and is a health and safety risk to the operator.

Solution: 

A site visit was conducted by Coltraco Engineers and after a short trial we were able to gauge that the existing liquid level indication technology employed on the Portalevel® Max would be efficient in quickly and accurately gauging the liquid level of mayonnaise within the vessel. It is known to be an efficient ultrasonic leak detector.

Implementation: 

The implementation of the Portalevel® Max allows the plant to run more efficiently and reduces risks by providing the staff with a means of accurately and non-invasively monitoring the contents within the mayonnaise tank negating the need for physical inspection using ladders posing a health and safety risk to the operator.

Possibilities: 

The trial and implementation suggested that we could develop a fixed monitoring system for this vessel and others like it, in order to non-invasively; continuously monitor the contents of mayonnaise (or any other condiments) within the tank. In addition we also saw possibilities to refine the capabilities of the Portalevel® Max to increase ease of use.

Ammonia cylinders in Aerospace

Background: Manufacturer of high-end components for Aerospace and other high-end engineering. The Wolver Hampton facility runs 24/7 365 days a year and is the size of around 2-3 football pitches. The facility is concerned mainly in manufacturing high-end actuators that are installed on a range of civil and defense systems.

Application: 

The facilities manager of the factory met with us at the Facilities Management show in Birmingham weeks prior. We were informed on the need to monitor the contents within Ammonia Cylinders.

The customer uses ammonia in a nitriding process in which ammonia is applied to a heated metal infusing the metal with Nitrogen. This can have beneficial properties such as making the metal harder/tougher/higher melting temperatures etc. Presently, weighing techniques are used to ensure a cylinder has enough contents for a run. This has been shown to be ineffective and incur waste - a non-invasive, accurate method would be quicker, reduce waste and save money.

Solution: 

A Coltraco Engineer visited the site to conduct technology suitability trials. Our technology was found to be effective in accurately and quickly in identifying the liquid level within the ammonia cylinders.

Implementation:

It was recommended that a standard un-altered Portalevel® Max – liquid level indicator would be a suitable solution.

We also cooperated with the customer to develop an in-house testing and recording process that was compatible with their current processes.

The solution provided a quick and accurate non-invasive solution, which allowed for more efficient operations and reduced waste by ensuring partially empty cylinders were not returned to the gas supplier.

Possibilities: 

The trial and implementation suggested that we could develop a fixed monitoring system for this agent to non-invasively constantly monitor their cylinder contents. This also stimulated interest in developing an Ammonia Portasteele® program to allow the accurate conversion of liquid level to agent mass.

For further information and inquiries, please leave a message for Coltraco Customer Services

What sectors do Coltraco Ultrasonics work in?

Marine Industries

Coltraco’s historical record is steeped in the Marine sector and today Ship Owners, Operators and Managers, P&I Clubs, Port Authorities, Shipyards and Service Stations, Towage and Salvage Operators, and Marine Surveyors are among their main and regular customers around the world. They have come up with advanced products and diversified range to serve the customers’ needs and Portalevel® MAX is the latest upgrade.

Fire Protection

Beginning the career with Portalevel has now become leading ultrasonic equipment in the fire safety and protection sector since they were first invented it in1989 and with the 8th generation model Portalevel MAX, Coltraco is pleased to offer an enhanced means of testing and certifying fire suppression systems. This ultrasonic leak detector 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.

Oil & Gas

Coltraco 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, owners and contractors, 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.

Power Generation

Transmission sub-stations, power plants, 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.

Defense

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 liquid 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 centers, telecommunications centers, 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.

Devastating effects of fire & water ingress

A clear of example of where actuation has failed to provide safety to the vessel is MSC Flaminia. 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 ultrasonic hatch covers lost their integrity and bulkheads were severely damaged which led to water ingress in all the cargo.

What about you?

Could you afford for this crippling financial, physical and reputational damage to happen to your crew and vessel? The correct answer for any ship owner, ship manager and P&I club is “No.” Chances must not be taken when lives are at risk, and when a vessel is at sea, this is all the time. We call this the “ungoverned space”. Simply put, 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.

Cutting through to what you need to know

Gaseous extinguishing installations are difficult systems. There are few who understand them in all their complexity. Vessels 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. Surely an extinguishing instillation should extinguish? This may seem like an obvious point, but on further investigation the difficulties with this statement arise. What if the extinguishing instillation cannot actuate fully because there isn’t enough gas within the cylinder? Gaseous extinguishing systems are highly pressurised, the risk of leaking and discharging is accepted as part of their use, shown in the regulations that demand their upkeep e.g. IMO SOLAS FSS Ch5. 2.1.1.3:

“Means shall be provided for the crew to safely check the quantity of the fire extinguishing medium in the container”
Often this is misunderstood, this code specifically states that the crew must test their extinguishing installations in between the periodic inspection, maintenance and certification. Only having the annual inspection by accredited marine servicing companies is not enough – the crew must take responsibility for its own fire protection.  However, what must be noted is that the crew are often not trained or certified to shut-down, dismantle, weigh and re-install the gaseous cylinders.

Nuclear power plants call for 24/7 continuous monitoring

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

The Dangers Presented by Fire

The International Atomic Energy Authority state clearly in the Fire Safety in the Operation of Nuclear Power Plants standards that the effects of a single failure in fire safety systems, such a system not performing its required function, can be detrimental.

With fires at nuclear power plants still occurring, such as the 2017 power plant explosion at Flamanville, deemed “very serious” by industry experts, the call for advanced technology is of most importance. A significant technical issue led to a blast in the turbine hall in the unit, although there was no radioactive leak, a thorough investigation is being conducted into the concerning event.

What are Gaseous Extinguishing Systems?

Gaseous extinguishing systems protect urgently important infrastructure against special hazards, fundamental for the safeguarding of critical facilities. Gaseous extinguishing systems are highly pressurised: approximately 29-48Bars of pressure for CO2, and up to 300 Bars for Inergen and Nitrogen, higher than a standard cup of water which is at 1bar. The risk of the agent contents leaking and discharging is widely accepted by the industry and this is shown in the regulations that demand their upkeep.

Because it is accepted that gaseous extinguishing systems are dynamic and not passive or static.

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.

Safesite Solutions: the future is 24/7 constant monitoring

Coltraco have developed the Permalevel® Multiplex, a fixed fire suppression monitoring device, designed for permanent contents verification. The Permalevel®  Multiplex    is  designed  to  ensure  that fire  suppression  systems  are  always  fully operational and that no accidental discharge has occurred, which could affect the effectiveness of the overall fire protection system in the event of a fire at a nuclear power plant. With guaranteed systems operations, adaptability for purpose, 24/7 remote access to the systems status, an interruptible power supply and remote real-time monitoring, the Permalevel® offers unbeatable efficiency. The likes of the Atomic Energy Authority asked Coltraco Ultrasonics to tailor make them a solution to constantly monitor a special application using the Permalevel® Single Point for over 10 years.

The Portascanner® 520 is the most mathematically accurate device available providing precise data concerning leak locations and aperture. It is unrivalled in its precision, non-invasive methodology and ease of use. 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. The immediate use of the Portascanner® lies in its improvement of the final stage of room integrity testing – for which it can vastly improve accuracy and operational efficiency. A device such as this has never been used before in this industry, and is the first to place emphasis directly on this important aspect of room integrity testing.

Portalevel® MINI

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

Case Study: Carnival Cruises sought Coltraco Ultrasonics’ expertise

Significance of FM 200 in fire extinguishing system on priority

“Ships sink; fires happen”. Addressing these two main causes of vessel loss are critical, especially when all owners and managers are seeking to reduce risk, cut costs and surge on safety. Carnival Cruises chose to protect their fleet by improving fire safety. One aspect of this is that they chose Coltraco Ultrasonics to be their supplier for the Portalevel® MAX Marine which tests the CO2 fire installations onboard for leaks in content.

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

  • Portalevel® MAX Marine is designed primarily for the vessels’ crew to inspect large fire suppression systems of up to 600 cylinders.
  • The ease of operation in comparison to weighing, increases the ability of more regular and frequent checks, improving fire safety management onboard.
  • Coltraco’s innovative method of inspecting leaking cylinders with ultrasonics, enables identification in under 30 seconds using Portalevel® with one person, instead of the traditional 15 minutes, with two people laboriously weighing.
  • The safety of their ships is integral for the continuation of their business success and it can be for yours too.

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

Combined with the MAX Marine, The Portasteele® Calculator is an advanced calculator application, that converts the liquid level height of C02, NOVEC™ 1230 and FM-200® liquefied gaseous extinguishant agent readings taken on an ultrasonic non-destructive liquid level indicator device into the agent weight/mass.  Furthermore, the Portasteele® can convert an expected agent weight back to the required liquid level allowing users to anticipate where the level should be. The Portasteele has widely been recognised by awards, as a finalist in the Safety at Sea Awards 2017 and the Tanker & Trade Awards 2016.

Improve Onboard Safety Management System with Portalevel® MAX Marine

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

Provide protection to your high value assets

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

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

Address fire risk in tankers

Addressing fire in tankers is critical, especially when all owners and managers are seeking to reduce risk, cut costs and surge on safety. The safety of tankers is integral for the continuation of their business success. Catastrophic risks to human life, vessel, reputation and revenue all result from a fire event onboard.  Further to this, equipment that must be used to test the protecting fire systems must be Intrinsically Safe, to protect the crew against the risk of explosion.

The risk of explosion on tankers means that ultrasonic technology utilised to inspect fire systems must be designed for the atmospheres on tankers. LNG is only dangerous when it meets an ignition source. The International Maritime Risk Rating Agency (IMRRA) placed 12.5% of tankers it assessed in 2017 into the higher risk category for their fire safety. Serious cases of tanker fires and risks have been reported in the past years. In March 2017 there was an explosion on a Chinese Tanker, in which 3 crew members went missing and serious damage to the vessel was caused.  One of the most tragic incidents of 2018 was the Sanchi oil tanker explosion, on 6 January 2018. After the explosion on the tanker, tragically 31 crew members tragically lost their life. The Sanchi oil tanker was carrying 136,000 tonnes of natural gas condensate, and the estimate financial damage of the sinking of the vessel is estimated at $110 million.

The engine room, motor rooms and  cargo compressor rooms on tankers carrying LNG & LPG are often protected by CO2 fire suppression systems. Fully operative fire systems on an offshore platform is paramount and demanded by ISO 14520 and PFEER codes. Gaseous extinguishing systems are highly pressurised, the risk of leaking and discharging is accepted as part of their use, shown in the regulations that demand their upkeep e.g. IMO SOLAS FSS Ch5. 2.1.1.3. The systems are pressurised approximately 50 bars, higher than a standard cup of water which is 1bar. It’s accepted that these systems are not passive but dynamic, thus requiring monitoring. The traditional method requires turning the system off, dismantling and manually weighing each cylinder on industrial scales. Routine maintenance is liable to be overlooked because the crew is unqualified to test or insufficient attention is given by the owner of the system. It’s neglected to the peril of the lives of occupants of the vessel and at the risk of crippling financial and reputational loss to the tanker.

Ultrasound should be harnessed by innovators in the safety of offshore platforms i.e. acoustic (sound) energy in the form of waves of high frequency that are above the human audible range.  By utilising a sensor which acts as a transceiver, an ultrasonic liquid level indicator is capable of detecting liquid levels within any single-skinned container through transmitting an ultrasonic pulse and analysing the strength of the returned signal to determine the level of contents.  Importantly, due to the risk of explosion on the oil and gas tankers, ultrasonic liquid level indicators used on board to ensure fire safety, must be Intrinsically Safe.

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

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

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

UK technology for the constant monitoring

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

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

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

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

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

Monitoring Gaseous Extinguishing Systems 

  • The reality is that gaseous systems are checked for contents annually because they are pressurised and anything that is dynamic offers risk of loss of contents , but this fails to deal with the probability of discharge or leakage for the 364 days per annum in the interim between certification checks. 
  • We manufacture the portable liquid level indicator Portalevel™ used by fire technicians for the contents checking of CO2, old Halons, FM-200™ and NOVEC™ 1230.
  • Portalevel™ liquid level indicator readings are then converted to agent weight readings via Portasteele™ Calculator – the world’s first
  • Constant monitoring of the contents of gaseous systems are now enabled via the 24/7 system Permalevel™ Multiplex, but the fire industry is highly resistant to using technology to constantly monitor the pressurised systems which it installs.

Monitoring Room Integrity

  • Coupled to this is a  lack Room Integrity testing after the gaseous system has been installed. 
  • As buildings age or their internal use is changed leak sites develop. 
  • If the gas cannot be “held” in the room on discharge during a fire event the probability of its suppression diminishes in direct proportion to the size of the leak sites.
  • Portascanner™ 520 is a hand-held product designed to identify leak-sites in Protected Spaces. it is simple to create from this the means to constantly monitor room integrity as the building ages or its internal use changes and leak sites develop.

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

UK technology for the constant monitoring

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

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

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

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

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

Monitoring Gaseous Extinguishing Systems 

  • The reality is that gaseous systems are checked for contents annually because they are pressurised and anything that is dynamic offers risk of loss of contents , but this fails to deal with the probability of discharge or leakage for the 364 days per annum in the interim between certification checks. 
  • We manufacture the portable liquid level indicator Portalevel™ used by fire technicians for the contents checking of CO2, old Halons, FM-200™ and NOVEC™ 1230.
  • Portalevel™ liquid level indicator readings are then converted to agent weight readings via Portasteele™ Calculator – the world’s first
  • Constant monitoring of the contents of gaseous systems are now enabled via the 24/7 system Permalevel™ Multiplex, but the fire industry is highly resistant to using technology to constantly monitor the pressurised systems which it installs.

Monitoring Room Integrity

  • Coupled to this is a  lack Room Integrity testing after the gaseous system has been installed. 
  • As buildings age or their internal use is changed leak sites develop. 
  • If the gas cannot be “held” in the room on discharge during a fire event the probability of its suppression diminishes in direct proportion to the size of the leak sites.
  • Portascanner™ 520 is a hand-held product designed to identify leak-sites in Protected Spaces. it is simple to create from this the means to constantly monitor room integrity as the building ages or its internal use changes and leak sites develop.

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

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

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

Solution?

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

Vessel stability and vessel fire safety

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

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

Minimise Risk in High Value Assets

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A dynamic system needs monitoring

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

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

How could the Portalevel® MAX INDUSTRIAL help you?

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

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

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

AEROSPACE MANUFACTURING PROBLEM: A manufacturer of high end components for Aerospace and other high end engineering based in Wolverhampton, approached Coltraco for assistance with its monitoring of ammonia. Manually weighing cylinders proved inefficient, time consuming and risks damaging the system and injuring the personnel conducting the laborious test.

TRANSFORMERS PROBLEM: A Steel Production facility commissioned Coltraco for assistance with their transformers. As transformers age, they become more likely to lose internal oil. It is important for oil levels in the transformer main tanks to be full, as they act as an insulator and allows the transformers to function efficiently.

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

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

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

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

TRANSFORMER SOLUTION: With the Portalevel® MAX INDUSTRIAL, oil level inspection can be done routinely without opening the lid of the transformer and thus prevent unwanted moisture from being absorbed by the oil which deteriorates the oil. Inspecting with increased efficiency, the oil inspections can now be conducted routinely saving overall maintenance and labour costs as only a single user is required to operate the equipment.

Coltraco Ultrasonics provide smart ultrasonic liquid level indicator solutions which enable business owners to improve their safety management and reduce the risks to human life, business continuity caused by any downtime and thus minimise risk to reputation by delivering a Safesite®.

Benefits the crew with ultrasound

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

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

Coltraco Ultrasonics focus on benefitting the crew; designing innovative ultrasonic solutions which the crew will be happy to use by being easy to operate, quick, accurate and a better method to traditional techniques. Thus increasing the likelihood of tests being regularly conducted, in line with regulations and even going above and beyond for more frequent testing. By so doing, the crew will be creating a safer ship.

What is the ungoverned space?

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

Anecdotes & Experience

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

  • Systems portrayed and installed by contractors as NOVEC™ 1230 but filled with sand or water.
  • High pressure gas systems without the means to actuate them.
  • Cheap pressure gauges sticking in position under humidity or mechanical fatigue.
  • Safety pins being retained in position in the cylinder valves after installation.
  • CO2 and Marine CO2 Systems with 20% of the CO2 cylinders installed on commercial shipping being empty or partially filled.
  • Over-filled and under-filled cylinders.
  • Pipework and cylinders freshly painted but with severe internal corrosion.
  • Room integrity testing with questionable results and with the room integrity remaining un-monitored after testing.
  • Liquefied extinguishants being confused by installers with Inert gas systems.
  • There exists a lack of understanding of the organic compounds of some liquid extinguishants and their corrosive effect on the cylinder in the event of condensate ingress.
  • Shipping companies not implementing the FSS code of the IMO SOLAS regulations.
  • We have been regularly asked how to operate portable Portalevel™ liquid level indicators on dry powder extinguishers.

Fire Safety Improvements are Required

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

Why does fire safety need to be improved?

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

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

What risk does fire pose to the crew?

Lives are at stake. This is unacceptable.

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

What concerns have been voiced?

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

The general concern for IUMI is the growing size of ships and the inadequacy of fire prevention measures on board. As vessels become larger and more sophisticated, a greater financial interest is tied up into one ship, meaning that the risks are magnified if the vessel would get into difficulties e.g. a fire. From a marine insurer's perspective, it is a simple equation: the larger the vessel, the more cargo it will carry, and hence the greater the sum insured.

What protects the crew from fire?

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

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

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

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

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

Why is this the case?

Time pressures.

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

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

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

What measures should be taken?

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

There is a call to respond to regulations with a rigorous attitude, to go above and beyond, to provide security of life and infrastructure.

Currently, there is a failure to protect the lives of the crew. Ensuring the safety of the crew is not an option, it is a requirement.

What is the solution?

The crew must take responsibility for its own fire protection.

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

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

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

SMART SAFESHIP SOLUTIONS

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

How have seals been tested traditionally?

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

CASE STUDY 1: 

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

CASE STUDY 2:

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

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

 

CEO Message

Integrity and Science Key to Our Culture of Performance

Dear Coltraco Customers, Strategic Partners and Distributors,

Integrity is our defining value. Performance is its consequence. We understand that our customers have choices, and how we perform determines whether customers choose us. Coltraco’s Code of Ethics does not merely require compliance with laws. It embodies a Commitment to positive behaviours that build trust, promote respect, operate with distinction, with courtesy and global levels of performance, demonstrating our integrity and delivering customer performance.

We honour our commitments, communicate transparently, and act with honour. Ethics are the foundation of our performance culture and our science-based approach. We lead in specific technologies delivering the watertight integrity monitoring of marine structures and the monitoring of fixed liquefied gaseous fire extinguishing systems and the room integrity of protected space to ensure agent hold-times post-installation. We show this by our understanding of the science in them and the mathematics that explain them.

I would like to thank you for your business and for the relationships with our Customers, Strategic Partners, Distributors and ODAs who we value so highly.

My kindest regards,
Carl

Carl Stephen Patrick Hunter BA(Dunelm) Hon DSc FRINA FIMarEST MRAeS
CEO & Managing Director
Coltraco Ultrasonics Limited
46-47 Mount Street, Mayfair, London W1K 2SA
United Kingdom

Tel:  +44 20 7629 8475
Fax: +44 20 7629 8477

Call Now : +44 207 629 8475

 

References in PDF Format

 

Underwriters LaboratoriesUnderwriters Laboratories

 

Reference Alpha Fire UK Portalevel MAX Sept 2012

Reference Portascanner-II CSD MOD Albion and Bulwark

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