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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

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

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

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

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

To ensure that Water Mist systems are fully operational in the event of a fire, and to avoid the serious risk of empty cylinders, the liquid level of the cylinders should be checked non-invasively using ultrasound. One of the sciences being harnessed by innovators in the fire safety sector is that of Ultrasound: i.e. acoustic (sound) energy in the form of waves of high frequency that are above the human audible range. By utilising a sensor which acts as a transceiver, an ultrasonic measuring device is capable of detecting liquid levels within any single-skinned container through transmitting an ultrasonic pulse and analysing the strength of the returned signal to determine the level of contents. As sound behaves differently in air and liquid, so will the strength of the returned signal be different in the liquid allowing us to identify the level of contents accurately.

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

Specifications of  the Portalevel® Max

The Portalevel® MAX has been specifically designed to be as easy, simple and definitive for a user to operate as possible. Simple touch buttons now operate the controls and a new digital screen provides clear and definitive results to the user. The 7 steps below outline the simple testing process. Further technical support regarding ultrasonic leak detector is available to all users for the lifetime of the equipment if required.

  • 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 location.

Graphical Presentation of Portalevel Max 8th Generation

This ultrasonic liquid level indicator is designed primarily to meet your measuring requirements of liquid levels enclosed in cylinders. We have developed a graphical presentation for you below to help you run yours without any fatigue, which you can find at liquid level indicator page. Approvals for Coltraco Ultrasonic Level Indicator
Moreover, for your convenience and comfort, we have mentioned the list of approvals this device possesses:

  • Assembled under IPC-A-610 American national standards, institute protocols and Full ESD electrostatic discharge protocols; Finished with lead-free Rohs compliant Tin/Copper SN100C patented solder
  • Environmental metal enclosure rated to IP65
  • UL Approved and Certified manufactured Circuit Boards to UL specifications
  • RINA Classification Society Approved
  • UK Government CAGE Code KD983
  • P/N: 2290334-COMX
  • UL Approval Certificate Number: 20140310-E455148

To know more about Portalevel Max 8th Generation, download PDF

Improve Safety Management Systems with the Portasteele® CALCULATOR

A key elements of the offshore protective system is the fixed fire suppression system. These are made up of a number of cylinder points that will release the suppressant agent when a fire incident is detected. One of the key challenges with fixed fire suppression systems has been monitoring the individual cylinder points liquid level. Cylinder points can suffer from leakage and accidental discharge over time. Often, cheap systems only minimally comply with the regulations and there are very few qualified engineers who may be considered experts on the subject matter. Routine maintenance is liable to be overlooked because it is difficult, the crew are unqualified to test and may be given insufficient attention by the rig owners. No longer necessary to use the laborious weighing method to monitor the contents of suppressant agents, now ultrasonic technology offers a better method. The Portasteele® Calculator is an advanced calculator application, that converts the liquid level height of C02, NOVEC™ 1230 and FM-200® liquefied gaseous extinguishant agent readings taken on an ultrasonic non-destructive liquid level indicator device into the agent weight/mass. The cylinder database function means often tested cylinder types, such as 45kg CO2, commonly found on supply vessels, rigs and platforms, can be recalled reducing testing time, providing an incredibly quick to use tool. Plans to incorporate additional functionalities, such as agent type indication, are already in their final planning stages. In the long term, the acquisition of Portasteele® Calculator into offshore platforms, oil tankers etc. will improve overall Safety Management Systems and reduce cost associated with the maintenance of fire suppression systems. When these fire systems are properly maintained, the cost associated with fire damage is likely to reduce dramatically as we know fire damages on these hazardous offshore environments are generally catastrophic to lives, asset, environment and company reputation.

Engine room safety

Safety first

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

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

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

Marine servicing

In terms of ships’ extinguishing systems there exist two broad categories: sprinkler systems and gas systems (CO2). While the former can suffer leakage but the latter can cause catastrophic effect given the high physical pressures. An average ship’s CO2 system comprises between 200 and 600 cylinders each containing 45KG of CO2 under high 720 psi/ 49 bar pressure. One of the highest probabilities of discharge occurs during their maintenance. Some marine service companies estimate that 20% of a ships CO2 cylinders have discharged or partially leaked their contents at some point in their lifetime.

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

Luckily modern methods offer quicker options: a portable, ultrasonic liquid level indicator (such as Coltraco’s Portalevel MAX Marine) can check the contents of a perfect condition cylinder in 30 seconds. Taking in to account the average time to record and validate readings, a service crew should take 1-3 minutes per properly-filled cylinder, which would mean 600-1,800 minutes test time or 10-30 perfect man-hours for this task alone. Again, this is impossible when allocated such a short time on the vessel.

Unsafe solutions

Given the time restrictions illustrated above, it is clear why even good marine servicing companies may not physically be able to perform the inspections required. While they may flag such an issue with a customer, there are less scrupulous companies that are said to randomly check some cylinders and then place ‘tested’ stickers on the rest.

Although random checks may be suitable in some sectors, it is worth remembering that because the normal design concentration of CO2 of 34-72 v/v % is above the nearly immediate acute lethality level, these systems have an extremely narrow safety margin. As these systems work through oxygen dilution rather than the chemical disruption of the catalytic combustion chain (which is the case with other clean agents), insufficient CO2 levels during an emergency may allow a situation to spiral out of hand.

“These points are separate to the frankly dangerous actions of certain companies that may deliver systems portrayed and installed by contractors as NOVEC™ 1230 but that are actually filled with sand or water,” says the Coltraco head. Other anecdotal evidence provides stories of over/under-filled cylinders; high pressure gas systems being fitted without the means to actuate them; cheap cylinder pressure gauges sticking in position under humidity or mechanical fatigue; safety pins being retained in position in the cylinder valves after installation; or even pipework and cylinders that are freshly painted but have severe internal corrosion leading to particulates of rust which block the discharge nozzle mechanism.

There have even been reports of instances where bathroom weighing scales are chained to the CO2 cylinders in an effort to comply with IMO SOLAS FSS Code regulations – ignoring the fact that there are no officers or crew that are qualified to shutdown, dis-mantle, weigh and re-install a CO2 cylinder on the vessel itself.

Meeting obligations 

“Given both the crew lives and cargo at stake, it seems unfathomable that these systems are not permanently monitored rather certified just once a year, particularly since it is a regulatory obligation to ensure that crew are in a position to check these,” Hunter says. Safety of Life at Sea’s (SOLAS) International Fire Safety Systems (FSS) code states that “means shall be provided for the crew to safely check the quantity of the fire extinguishing medium in the containers”.

It can be argued that the existence of regulation (such as that set by the the IMO and other authorities) guides – and occasionally curbs –  the direction taken by the free market. This then means that the current state of the market, where ‘price is king’ is either due to unwillingness on the part of the regulators to create an environment where safe engineering is rewarded or because the industry itself is unaware of new technology that will help them meet both the spirit and letter of the regulation.

The fact of the matter is that technologies exist right now that can easily and accurately monitor everything from gases under pressure to liquefied contents and corrosion of pipework. The traditional method of using a cylinder pressure gauge (located at the meeting point of valve and neck of a pressurised cylinder) is both obsolete and impractical – especially when cost cutting may result in use of minimally-compliant gauge mechanisms.

Technological answers

Technologies will soon exist that will offer devices that monitor both liquid content and gas pressure safely from the external sides of the cylinder rather than within it. This means that crew will be able to monitor the contents and then calculate the mass/weight of the liquefied extinguishant. By measuring the pressure of the gas on top of the liquefied extinguishant they can can assess the pressure of an Inert gas (which is in an entirely vaporous form) to ensure that the cylinder is primed to perform when needed.

Having systems that operate transparently will work not just to convince a vessel owner that his asset is in good hands, but also to reassure the crew that their safety is taken seriously by both – their employer and the the marine servicing company.

Ultrasound

One of the sciences being harnessed by innovators in the fire safety sector is that of Ultrasound: i.e. acoustic (sound) energy in the form of waves of high frequency that are above the human audible range. Although the shipping world merely uses it as a tool to gauge thickness, it has seen far more varied use across military, medical and industrial fields. 

Sound is, in itself, vibrations that propagate as a mechanical wave or pressure and transmit through solid, liquid or gaseous mediums. Coltraco is one of a number of companies using these fundamental physical principles to design and manufacture products and systems that can be used by fire engineers and their customer installations. 

Its portfolio boasts 11 different model types of Portalevel brand liquid level indicators including Portascanner (which uses ultrasound to test the integrity of confined spaces and can detect leak sites as small as 0.06mm) and Portagauge (which uses ultrasound to test the internal and external corrosion on pipework and cylinder wall thickness to an accuracy of +/-0.1mm). “We can monitor these 24/7 with the fixed, data-logging and autonomous monitoring system, Permalevel Multiplex & Permalevel Single Point,” says Hunter. “Signals from these fixed monitoring sites can be monitored centrally on the bridge and in the ship’s technical office concurrently. We see a day when products and systems will be designed that will monitor gas vapour above the liquid level and inert gases too.” The company is due to launch its Portasteele Calculator this year which will enable liquefied extinguishant weight conversions.

“As the world changes, so must our industry integrate technological solutions to provide a bulwark against wider industry misinterpretation and minimal, even occasional and flagrant, disregard in the application of standards and good global engineering practise, creating standards which all can understand and apply,” he adds.

There are 55,000 ships in the world carrying 95% of all commodities and goods.

25% of these are Tankers, Chemical Carriers & Product Tankers. 40% of these are Bulk Carriers and General Cargo ships. These have a need for vessel stability and vessel fire safety.

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.

Ship’s hatch-covers, multiple cable transit area, cable penetrations between bulkheads or watertight compartment doors need to be tested to ensure they deliver watertight integrity. Historically the industry use high pressure water hoses or chalk compression testing to test the seals. These methods are messy, inaccurate, time-consuming and the environmental implications of water run-off is costly. They can only be conducted when the ship is in port or when the cargo holds are empty. Portascanner™ Watertight was designed to meet the need for a clean, simple, highly accurate means to achieve watertight integrity in port and at sea, with cargo in the hold. It is small, intuitive to use, with audible and visual displays and highly mathematically accurate.

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.

The IMO SOLAS FSS Code states that every ship “must have the means for the crew to check the contents of the CO2 system”. The crew cannot dismantle and re-install a CO2 system. The Portalevel™ MAX Marine means they can check each cylinder in 30 seconds without disturbing it. BS EN ISO 14520 Gaseous Extinguishing Systems is the global standard for a ships CO2 or NOVEC™ 1230 system. It specifically states that if a gaseous system loses 5-10% of its contents then it is not “safe”. A gaseous system is highly pressurised and as such is a “dynamic” system. It therefore needs to be monitored in the same way as oil pressure would be. There is a mathematical probability that 50% of the world’s shipping CO2 systems are beyond the permitted level of agent loss and anecdotal evidence suggests that 20% of the world fleet of CO2 is discharged or partially empty.

Coltraco are dedicated to enabling ship owners and operators to access their marine technologies to deliver a safely-operated ship and prevent its detention by Port State Control (PSC) Inspection Agencies for non-compliance. Coltraco Ultrasonic are very aware of the amount of “urgent” supply requests that increase during one of shipping’s cyclical down-turns because it is during these times when owners risk vessel detention by not placing Coltracos equipment on-board.

There is now development of the world’s first portable ultrasonic tank liquid level indicator. 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 Ships CO2 Room. This is known as Portascanner™ 14520 and is a dual-function unit that can also permanently monitor the “Protected Space” of the ships’ 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 Areas 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.

Coltraco Ultrasonics place Science and R&D at their Marine Core. If the science can be proved objectively then the mathematics should exist to support and explain it. Coltraco is the first company in our field to be able to mathematically prove the contribution to Ship Safety that we could make to it. This led to the understanding that our portable products could develop into a range of semi-fixed and constant monitoring systems and together these formed our Core Capabilities – the monitoring of ships fire extinguishing systems and structural watertight integrity.

Honesty and integrity are also at Coltraco’s core. They have developed a Vision-Mission-Strategy which has enabled them to offer opportunity to some of the brightest young and older people in the UK and some of the most dynamic and experienced people overseas. In becoming a global company, Coltraco Ultrasonics listened to Master Mariners and Marine Engineers to embody their advice and guidance. This created an international commitment to export and the development of a technical infrastructure to support it. Coltraco have visited nearly 4,000 shipping companies in over 40 countries, exporting nearly 90% of our output to 108 countries.

ISO 14520 Door Fan & Room Integrity Leak Detection Testing:

Identifying precise leak site locations and size using the Portascanner® 520

Before installing Clean Agent fire suppression systems (used when sprinklers are inappropriate due to damaging enclosure contents) there are regulatory tests which much be undertaken in order to ensure the safety of the building structure and effectiveness of fire suppression. Currently, a Room Integrity Fan Test, using fans to pressurise and depressurise the protected room, is the most commonly used, and universally accepted method of testing room integrity in preparation for use of a Clean Agent (which could be an inert gas or hydrocarbon). This test determines the Peak Pressure and Hold Time necessary for ensuring the effectiveness of these fire suppression systems.

This article shall focus on the last stage of regulatory testing, namely the locating of potential leak sites in the case of a room having an insufficient Hold Time. It aims to reveal the crucial, previously undiscovered industry benefits of using the Portascanner™ Airtight Integrity Test Indicator for leak detection.

Regulations

The testing of room integrity is necessary for adherence to standards and requirements outlined by the NFPA 2001: Standard on Clean Agent Fire Extinguishing Systems and ISO 14520: Gaseous Fire-Extinguishing Systems, established concerning enclosure design and testing. The success of clean agent fire suppression systems relies on holding the agent in the room for the correct amount of time, allowing for optimum agent concentration necessary to extinguish the fire. This is part of the total flooding principle on which inert gases and halocarbon agents function. Room integrity tests are imperative for the determination of both the Hold-Time and the Peak Pressure needed for successful fire suppression. The level of leakage is carefully monitored in order to ensure the correct agent concentration is achieved; room integrity must be ‘tight’ enough to ensure sufficient retention time according to NFPA or ISO, yet remain ‘loose’ enough to prevent enclosure damage at discharge.1 The presence of undesired and unregulated leak sites reduces room integrity and will hence dramatically impact the Hold Time and Peak Pressure, placing room contents and potentially wall structures at risk.

Current Testing

Both NFPA 2001 and ISO 14520 standards recommend using Door Fan Testing to analyse the enclosure and retrieve the necessary values for Hold Time and Peak Pressure, and to measure the leakage of a room. This test uses large fans to pressurise the room in question by blowing air into it. The fan speed is adjusted to obtain flow pressure equivalent to the pressure exerted during a fire suppression system discharge, before reversing the fan to depressurise the room. Airflow and pressure readings are then entered into a computer software programme which calculates the Equivalent Leakage Area (ELA) and subsequently the Hold Time and Peak Pressures. This method, created by Retrotec’s Door Fan testing kit, is a reputable and effective method of room integrity testing, and has been the most respected method in recent years. However, a thesis by Todd Hetrick exposed the Door Fan integrity test as applicable for determining the total area of all leakages, but incapable of revealing the specific locations of leak sites.2 Furthermore, the Fan Test Room Integrity Testing kit itself is not only unable to provide specific leak locations, but also does not provide any information concerning leak aperture. Given that most gaseous chemical agents used for fire suppression are heavier than air, the agent will begin to leak out of any lower level penetrations left unsealed, making their identification ever more important. In the case of too little leakage, vents must be created to reduce Peak Pressure in the event of agent discharge for fire suppression. In the case of too much leakage, unwanted leak sites need to be identified and sealed.

Call for Awareness: Fire at Sea

At sea, fire poses one the of biggest threat to ships. Fires on board ships can be devastating to crew, vessel and cargo. Fire safety standards on board cannot afford to slip. Sailing alone and at sea, without the ability to call upon the emergency services as a land-based asset might, means that ships must ensure that they don’t experience fires. The financial effects from on board fires can run into millions of dollars. Often after an engine room fire, a ship cannot proceed under its own power leading to salvage, repairs, downtime and cancellations, which are all highly costly. The costs are not just financial, engine room fires can be detrimental to the integrity of a navy or a shipping company and the lives of the passengers and crew are threatened by a fire.

In the shipping industry and especially in the cruise industry, engine fires can be extremely problematic. Given that 400 million European passengers every year entrust themselves to the safety of the ship on which they travel, any accidents on board are serious threats to the safety of those passengers. About 6% of fires on Ro-Ro passenger ships have resulted in loss of life or serious injury every year.1 In December 2014, 11 people were killed and several

were injured in a fire aboard the Norman Atlantic Ro- Ro passenger ship. In March 2017 a fire on board Renia Hosanna injured eight people and forced the evacuation of the ship.2 Chances must not be taken when lives are at risk, and when a vessel is at sea, this is all the time.

Research coordinated by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) has indicated that between 30% and 50% of all fires on merchant ships originate in the engine

room and 70% of those fires are caused by oil leaks from pressurized systems.3 Engine room fires are among the most common fires on ships due to the running machinery, and sources of fuel and ignition within them. There are generally two types of engine room fires: oil or electric. Oil fires are the most serious. Mechanical issues such as fracture, fatigue failure (machinery wearing out and then failing), and also under-tightened components or seals may result in catastrophic occurrences.

Complying with fire safety regulations does not guarantee safety. UK P&I Club, a large insurer of ships, has suggested that extended periods of time on board a ship without a fire can lead to complacency and therefore a failure of prioritizing fire prevention methods and practices. 4 It is impossible to prepare for all eventualities on a vessel, and it is oftften easier to focus on the prompt detection of fires and their effective extinguishment rather than the prevention of fires. Yet, even so, one of the reasons why accidents are still happening and fire safety is still a major issue in the shipping industry is the lack of development in firefighting equipment available on board container ships.

The Vice-Chairman of the International Union of Marine Insurance (IUMI) stated that for global shipping, major fires on container ships are among the worst hazards.5 Part of the problem is that, as container ship sizes have increased, the firefighting equipment on board has not experienced the same development. In its 2016 annual report, the US Coast Guard identified that the greatest deficiency on board its ships was firefighting appliances.

An example of where the risk has become a danger is the container ship CCNI Arauco which caught fire in 2016 at port in Hamburg, Germany. Some 300 firefighters were needed after an unsuccessful seal and flood of the vessel’s hold with CO2 did not contain the fire. The hatch had to be flooded and then foam was used to bring the fire under control. The main difficulty came from the inadequate equipment the crew had to tackle the fire. As a result of this experience, there have been calls for the technology to change.

Another example is an incident that occurred on 9 January 2009 when a fire erupted within the engine room of asphalt tanker An Tai Jiang, as the ship was en route from Ulsan, South Korea, to Ningbo, China. The probable causes were identified as a failure and explosion of

the main engine crankcase. This failure resulted in large quantities of hot oil mist and flammable vapour in the engine room which was then ignited. In the investigation after the fire, overall, it was found that there were many issues regarding the state of the engine, but also with the maintenance and inspection of preventative equipment such as fire safety equipment. The investigation also found a lack of leadership qualities shown by the crew masters and security managers. In terms of the fire safety, the investigation showed that even though the fire detection and alarm systems were installed and inspected three months beforehand, both had failed during this incident, thus not alerting the crew at the appropriate time. This was due to improper maintenance. This result demonstrated that regular inspection may not prevent failure if maintenance is inadequate.7 UK P&I Club recommends that the high-risk threat of engine room fires is recognised and that a ship’s crew pay particular attention to training and the care, maintenance and correct operation of all firefighting equipment.

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

The ‘ungoverned space’ is a term that was coined to explain the area on board a vessel where the regulations or safety infrastructure are not providing reliable safety – for example, the extinguishing systems being in place but not actually working in the event of the fire. This life-threatening issue must be dealt with, with specific regard to loss of contents in fixed fire extinguishing systems. Gaseous extinguishing systems leak, meaning that in a cylinder the contents may have dropped, and in the event of a fire the cylinder would not have enough suppressant in it to extinguish the fire. As well there is a need for improvements to engine room integrity testing. The neglect of basic routine testing and maintenance of three key areas substantially increases the risk of an engine room fire:

  • The cylinder agent content in the fire extinguisher installations;
  • The associated pipework; and
  • The room integrity of the protected space into which the suppressant agent discharges

There are some solutions. As a first example, there are ultrasonic liquid level indicators to identify the fire extinguisher agent liquid level in under 30 seconds with one competent user.8 This compares to 15 minutes in another system which includes weighing with two personnel, who must be qualified in fire safety inspections, which most crew are not. The ultrasonic indicators comply with IMO SOLAS FSS Code 2.1.1.3 which requires crew to have the means on board to test the installation agent content. This means that the crew on board a vessel must have means to be able to check how much content is left in the cylinder

so that they can be sure that whilst they are at sea, the extinguishing systems are in full working order. A second example includes ultrasonic thickness gauges, ultrasonic flow metres, acoustic emissions-bearing indicators which all inspect and provide condition monitoring of metal work, pipework and rotating machinery. A third example is ultrasonic watertight and airtight integrity indicators to identify leak sites in compartments. They ensure that the room or vessel which the system is protecting is able to withstand the pressure of the agent when it discharges and that the compartment will hold that agent for the design concentration required to suppress a fire (when an gaseous extinguishing system is installed, it is designed for a specific space – e.g. the engine room – and the size of the
system is in relation to the ‘protected space.’)

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

FIRE SAFETY IS MORE THAN ANOTHER TICKBOX

There are 55,000 ships in the world carrying 95% of all commodities and goods. 25% of these are Tankers, Chemical Carriers & Product Tankers. 40% of these are Bulk Carriers and General Cargo ships. These have a need for vessel integrity and vessel fire safety.

Currently it is well known that the shipping industry has taken a big hit in certain areas. The amount of “urgent” supply requests that increase during one of shipping’s cyclical down-turns is because it is during these times when owners risk vessel detention by not placing safety critical equipment on-board. There are two key aspects to investigate in more detail because they are oft overlooked: the ungoverned spaces of fire safety and watertight integrity. These two areas will be examined through the regulations and technologies used to solve these issues. Looking at the UK as leaders in the shipping industry worldwide with a case study focus on a British designer and manufacturer who is sailing through the tough times.

Engine room fires are often reported but there are many more instances where problems with the fire system may not reach the public eye. In a ship’s fire extinguishing system, there may be 600 x 45kg/100lb cylinders of CO2. The CO2 is a highly effective liquefied gaseous extinguishant designed to displace oxygen and suppress a fire. But they are under high pressure, often more than 50 Bar, and they can leak or accidentally discharge. Common knowledge suggests 20% of marine CO2 cylinders leak. If personnel are around when they discharge fatalities can occur. To inspects cylinder contents, the system is turned off, the cylinders dismantled, weighed and re-installed by certified personnel, which the crew are not. 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. The first handheld liquid level indicator to use ultrasonic technology provided a quick, accurate and safe means for anyone trained - from a marine servicing company, to chief engineer or crew member - to test the cylinder contents. This Portalevel® was designed and manufactured by Coltraco Ultrasonics who have since developed the technology to the 8th generation Portalevel® MAX Marine which can test all common clean agents.

LEAKING HATCHCOVERS? DOORS & MCTs MUST NOT BE FORGOTTEN.

A second key problem area for vessels is the watertight integrity: for example, 33% of cargo claims are due to leaking hatch-covers. Not only hatch-covers suffer seal integrity issues, but also the multiple cable transit areas, cable penetrations between bulkheads or watertight compartment doors. Historically the industry has used high pressure water hoses or chalk compression testing to test the seals.  These methods are messy, inaccurate, time-consuming and the environmental implications of water run-off is costly. They can also only be conducted when the ship is in port or when the cargo holds are empty.  Portascanner™ Watertight was designed by Coltraco Ultrasonics to meet the need for a clean, simple, highly accurate means to achieve watertight integrity in port, with or without cargo in the hold. It is handheld, intuitive to use, with audible and visual displays showing the most mathematically accurate results of its type worldwide.

Are you protected from fire?

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 Safety Onboard

In terms of ships’ extinguishing systems there exist two broad categories: sprinkler systems and gas systems (CO2). While the former can suffer leakage but the latter can cause catastrophic effect given the high physical pressures. An average ship’s CO2 system comprises between 200 and 600 cylinders each containing 45KG of CO2 under high 720 psi/ 49 bar pressure. One of the highest probabilities of discharge occurs during their maintenance. Some marine service companies estimate that 20% of a ship’s CO2 cylinders have discharged or partially leaked their contents at some point in their lifetime.

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

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

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

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

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

Operating Method of Ultrasonic Technology

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

In terms of contents monitoring of single walled fire suppression cylinders in the fire industry, a sensor is utilized as a transceiver to transmit ultrasonic pulse through the walls of the cylinder and to analyze the strength of the returned signal that determines the level of contents. As sound behaves differently in air and liquid, so will the strength of the returned signal be different in the liquid and air allowing us to identify the level of contents accurately.

To make any inquiry, please contact Coltraco Customer Service.

Continuous monitoring is no longer an option

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

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

ADDRESSING OUTDATED ENGINE ROOM SAFETY

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

In terms of ships’ extinguishing systems there exist two broad categories: sprinkler systems and gas systems (CO2). While the former can suffer leakage but the latter can cause catastrophic effect given the high physical pressures. An average ship’s CO2 system comprises between 200 and 600 cylinders each containing 45KG of CO2 under high 720 psi/ 49 bar pressure. One of the highest probabilities of discharge occurs during their maintenance. Some marine service companies estimate that 20 per cent of a ship’s CO2 cylinders have discharged or partially leaked their contents at some point in their lifetime.

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

Luckily modern methods offer quicker options: a portable, ultrasonic liquid level indicator (such as Coltraco’s Portalevel MAX Marine) can check the contents of a perfect condition cylinder in 30 seconds.

Given these time restrictions, it is clear why even good marine servicing companies may not physically be able to perform the inspections required. Although random checks may be suitable in some sectors, it is worth remembering that because the normal design concentration of CO2 of 34-72 v/v % is above the nearly immediate acute lethality level, these systems have an extremely narrow safety margin. As these systems work through oxygen dilution rather than the chemical disruption of the catalytic combustion chain (which is the case with other clean agents), insufficient CO2 levels during an emergency may allow a situation to spiral out of hand.

Meeting obligations

Given both the crew lives and cargo at stake, it seems unfathomable that these systems are not permanently monitored rather than certified just once a year, particularly since it is a regulatory obligation to ensure that crew are in a position to check these. It can be argued that the current state of the market, where ‘price is king’ is either due to unwillingness on the part of the regulators to create an environment where safe engineering is rewarded or because the industry itself is unaware of new technology that will help them meet both the spirit and letter of the regulation.

The fact of the matter is that technologies exist right now that can easily and accurately monitor everything from gases under pressure to liquefied contents and corrosion of pipework. The traditional method of using a cylinder pressure gauge (located at the meeting point of valve and neck of a pressurised cylinder) is both obsolete and impractical.

Technological Answers

Technologies will soon exist that will offer devices that monitor both liquid content and gas pressure safely from the external sides of the cylinder rather than within it. By measuring the pressure of the gas on top of the liquefied extinguishant crews can assess the pressure of an inert gas (which is in an entirely vaporous form) to ensure that the cylinder is primed to perform when needed.

Having systems that operate transparently will work not just to convince a vessel owner that his asset is in good hands, but also to reassure the crew that their safety is taken seriously by both – their employer and the marine servicing company.

Ultrasound is also one of the sciences being harnessed by innovators in the fire safety sector; acoustic (sound) energy in the form of waves of high frequency that are above the human audible range. Sound is, in itself, vibrations that propagate as a mechanical wave or pressure and transmit through solid, liquid or gaseous mediums. Coltraco is one of a number of companies using these fundamental physical principles to design and manufacture products and systems that can be used by fire engineers and their customer installations.

As the world changes, so must our industry integrate technological solutions to provide a bulwark against wider industry misinterpretation and minimal, even occasional and flagrant, disregard in the application of standards and good global engineering practise, creating standards which all can understand and apply.

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

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

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

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

Gaseous Extinguishing Systems

The regulations are not extensive enough to deal with the risks presented in gaseous systems. In 9.2.1.3 the regulations explains that the storage container contents shall be checked at least every six months as follows. : a) Liquefied gases: for halocarbon agents, if a container shows a loss of agent in quantity of more than 5 % or a loss of pressure (adjusted for temperature) of more than 10 %, it shall be refilled or replaced. b) Non-liquefied gases: for inert gas agents, pressure is an indication of agent quantity. If a container shows a loss of agent quantity or a loss of pressure (adjusted for temperature) of more than 5 %, it shall be refilled or replaced. Essentially, it is known in regulations that the gaseous systems leak and need to be maintained. Given that the gaseous systems are designed specifically to the individual need of that room, building e.t.c, a 5% loss of agent may mean that they would not fully extinguish the fire.

Coltraco have now developed a fixed fire suppression monitoring device, the Permalevel® MULTIPLEX which designed for permanent contents verification. The continuous monitoring system is  designed  to  ensure  that fire  suppression  systems  are  always  fully operational and that no accidental discharge has occurred, which could affect the effectiveness of the overall fire protection system in the event of a fire. The neglect of continuous monitoring - of the fundamental protection provided by the gaseous extinguishing systems - is to the peril of the lives of occupants of the premises and at the risk of crippling financial and reputational loss to the facility comprising the critical infrastructure.

The device uses the Internet of Things (IoT). IoT enables a worldwide transmission of data starting from sensor to sensor to the microprocessors and to the facilities manager or maintenance team. Instead of waiting for annual checks, it would improve safety to have these cylinders constantly monitored using ultrasonic sensors. Now, by coupling with IoT developments, this enable their status to be visible to safety managers and building owners.

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

Room Integrity and Compartmentation

Coupled to this is, is the danger of a lack Room Integrity testing after the gaseous system has been installed.  As a buildings age or their internal use is changed, leak sites develop. If the gas cannot be “held” in the confined space on discharge during a fire event the probability of its suppression diminishes in direct proportion to the size of the leak sites. Clean agents are designed to operate in limited spaces where there is a need for speed of suppression given the asset risk and where the space is occupied by people. They must be easily maintained in-situ, non-flammable and non-toxic. They must comply with NFPA 2001 standards demanding fast discharge in 10 seconds and fire extinguishing within 30 seconds, delivering confidence to the operator that it delivers “best fire safety practise”. The “hold time” required is currently determine by an industry recognised method known as the Door Fan Test (DFT) that calculates the Equivalent Leakage Area of the room in order to understand if the room is sufficiently airtight to achieve the “hold time” required. Despite DFT being a reliable method to determine the “hold time”, methods to locate the leak sites themselves are inaccurate such as the use of smoke pencils or draught testing using the back of a hand. The limitations of the DFT often lie in the fact that the leakage areas are only identified during installation of the clean agent system and make no acknowledgement to the fact that additional leak sites may develop throughout the lifetime of a building

In the event of fire, a pencil sized hole between compartments size 6m x 6m x 3m would take just 4 minutes before a person would not be able to see their hand due to smoke. If this compartment was a fire escape, there could be a severe threat to life if people cannot escape. Thus it is clear to see why the maintenance of the integrity of the compartments is essential to genuinely aid the safety to human life.  As building age or their internal use is changed leak sites develop and the threat to people becomes high.

APPROVED DOCUMENT B (ADB)

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

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

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

The device is a complementary tool to be used with the Door Fan Test to locate exact leak sites and is much more accurate and efficient compared to existing methods used such as a smoke pencil or testing with the back of a wetted hand. The Portascanner® 520 can identify exactly where the hole is on the enclosure as ultrasound leaks really easily from holes that can be picked up by the receiver.

Figure 2: The Portascanner® 520 which uses ultrasound to test for the integrity of seals and compartmentation.

 

  1. Pre DFT 
  • EARLY ANTICIPATION OF ISSUES:  Portascanner™® 520 enables fire contractors to indicate location and extent of leak sites prior to a scheduled DFT session for remedial action to be taken to maximise the “PASS” rate of a DFT. 
  • ADD TO RANGE OF SERVICES: Ultrasonic technology can add great value to the contractor’s range of services as patching up leaks take time to set and will impede the operations of a DFT if remedial work is conducted on the DFT scheduled day itself. 
  • MORE ACCURATE SERVICE QUOTES – benefiting contractor and purchaser: As ultrasound is fast and non-invasive, this technology improves prospect of securing a DFT “PASS” – and thus delivering up an efficacious fire protection outcome.  
  1. During DFT 
  • Use of ultrasonic technology can pinpoint the location and extent of the leak sites while the DFT is being carried out. 
  • If the particular room/compartment fails the DFT, the Portascanner® 520 can deliver more accurate and quantifiable results compared to existing methods
  • Allowing remedial work to be conducted immediately.
  1. Post DFT
  • COMPLY AND EXCEED ISO 14520: Once the room has passed the DFT and is able to produce the retention time required, periodic room integrity tests can be conducted using an ultrasound scanner to comply with ISO 14520, EN15004 and NFPA regulations.
  • NO DISRUPTION: As ultrasonic scanner technology is non-invasive, the occupants in the room can remain continuing their daily tasks without affecting the room integrity test results.
  • 24/7 ROOM INTEGRITY MONITORING: Taking a step further, room integrity monitoring can also be enabled using ultrasound to provide true 24/7 structural integrity status with relevance to leak sites.
  • ALARM STATUS AND NOTIFICATION: By linking the receivers to a local alarm panel or wireless communication system, an ultrasound monitoring system can be programmed to actuate a remote alarm whenever a leak site starts developing

Conclusion

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

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

Fire Safety in the Aluminum 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.

Complement Door Fan Testing: Portascanner® 520

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

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

It is lightweight, fast and easy to use, allowing leak site detection to increase its operational efficiency and speed to a degree that has never been seen thus far in the Fire Industry. This method increases safety, by allowing the user unparalleled leak detection. This leads to the user having superior control of the agent hold time and peak pressure, effectively guaranteeing the identification and extent of leak sites. The unit is also lightweight and hand-held, weighing only 419 grams. The unit can also be used as a pre-surveying inspection tool, prior to bringing in full door fan test equipment.

Gaseous extinguishing systems leak and discharge: fact.

The assumptions in the installation and maintenance of gaseous extinguishing systems is that they are highly pressurised but risk leaking and discharging. ISO 14520-1:2015 aim to identify their leak identification at an interval of at least every 6 months.  Traditional methods of weighing are laborious and dangerous, taking 15 minutes and two people to weigh a cylinder. To combat this, Coltraco Ultrasonics developed the Portalevel® MAX, an 8th generation ultrasonic liquid level indicator, for identifying the contents of CO2, FM200, NOVEC 1230, FE-13, FE-25 & FE-36, Halon and a variety of similar liquid gaseous fire suppression agents, in just 30 seconds. However these liquid level readings were not weight measurements which is required and does not take into account the effects of temperature.

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 Portalevel® MAX into the agent weight/mass.  The PortasteeleÒ CALCULATOR is the first in the world to provide agent weight readings without physically weighing the fire suppression cylinders to comply with fire safety regulations. This is a safer, more efficient and cost saving method to service fire cylinders. The PortasteeleÒ CALCULATOR is based on a stand-alone 7” tablet computer which makes calculations in real time and logs the results, allowing the software to be used immediately in the field.

By replacing the use of manual calculation and formulae, Portasteele® CALCULATOR makes the whole process of fire suppression system servicing simple and effective. The technological innovation ensures an entirely user friendly and industry leading device.

The Portasteele® is the first in the world to provide agent weight readings without physically weighing the fire suppression cylinders to comply with fire safety regulations. Coltraco Ultrasonics are the only company able to identify clean agent weight from liquid level readings – allowing a servicing company to go above and beyond regulations.

Coltraco Ultrasonics are the only company in the world who can provide true contents indication through the Portasteele® CALCULATOR. The calculation provided takes into account all environmental factors without requiring an overwhelming excess of information from the user and can provide highly accurate results across the broad range of cylinder types available in the fire protection sector. The Portasteele® CALCULATOR is the only device of its kind on the market. The Portasteele® CALCULATOR accurately converts the liquid level into agent weight and takes into account temperature variation by compensating for it using density changes. The final result is weight, which is unaffected by temperature – something that cannot be achieved by a liquid level indicator alone.

Traditional contents checking involve manual dismantling and weighing of the system, which is time-consuming, risky as it encourages development of leaks and poses dangers to the personnel involved. The Portasteele® Calculator removes the need to manually weigh and yet able to provide weight/mass readings. With the recent Halon addition, the Portasteele® now covers the most commonly used fire suppressing agents and is able to save users even more time through exporting data digitally in a ready-to-use report format. The data reporting function in Portasteele® was also improved by adding the capability to export data into .csv format, in order to aid users in delivering reports quickly and easily, whether it is to their office or to their customers.

Decreasing the time to regularly and effectively test cylinder agent weights, when paired with a liquid level indicator, Portasteele® CALCULATOR will reduce the inconvenience and costly man hours required for testing. The cylinder database function means often tested cylinder types, can be instantly recalled, reducing testing time and eliminating the potential tedium of re-measuring the same cylinder types for each test providing an incredibly convenient and quick to use tool. By replacing the use of manual calculation and formulae, Portasteele® CALCULATOR makes the whole process simple and effective.

In the long term, the acquisition of PortasteeleÒ CALCULATOR will improve overall safety and reduce cost associated with the maintenance of fire suppression systems. When these fire systems are properly maintained, the cost associated with fire damage is likely to reduce dramatically which can be catastrophic to the asset, lives, environment and company reputation.

Reduce your chances of sinking

For portable ultrasonic watertight integrity testers, Coltraco has developed the Portascanner® Watertight which is the industry standard in ultrasonic watertight integrity testing. It is accurate to identify leak site apertures to 0.06mm that is a world-leading accuracy and used to ensure watertightness of vessels to protect crew, vessel, cargo and cargo claims. The unit is capable in conducting watertight tests with the cargo in-situ and produces no water run-off that can cause damages to cargo. The unit is light and intuitive to use, with magnetic base to

ease the use of its miniature ultrasound generator.

An extension to this portable unit is the Permascanner Hi-Life® which is an ultrasound generator magnetically attached inside the cargo hold to provide continuous ultrasound signal output. It then works with the Portascanner® Receiver to monitor hatch cover leaks developing on the vessel at sea due to the dynamic forces the vessel experiences and it is sufficient to last journeys for up to 10 days’ voyage time (e.g. Liverpool to New York, 3000 NM). During this period, the generator remains in the hold with battery life sufficient for 10 days. In fair-calm weather, the crew or engineer can go out on deck with the Portascanner® receiver to test the hatches to see how they are reacting in the dynamic conditions of the changing sea, weather and load states. This is beneficial to identify any potential weak seal compressions, ahead of becoming leak sites. Following a period of rough weather, the personnel can also conduct similar tests to determine if water has entered the cargo hold without the need to open the hatch cover. This is the first capability of its type in the world, an innovative solution for constantly monitoring hatch-covers.

For a fixed monitoring system, the Permascanner® Dynamic is Coltraco’s fixed ultrasonic watertight integrity test indicating system for the dynamic testing of hatch covers, holds, bulkheads, cable transits and watertight doors and compartments at sea. Derived from its sister product the Portascanner®, Permascanner™ Dynamic is designed to quickly identify leak sites in their extent and precise location, whilst at sea. It allows a pattern of readings to be recorded against varying sea states, enabling a true picture of the seal integrity to be recorded over time. It fulfils the requirements of a continuous monitoring system as mentioned in the previous section and is the industry’s first ever solution to be introduced into the market.

By greatly reducing the chance of water ingress occurring - it may be possible to save lives, vessel integrity, and cargo at sea - if safer and improved methods of hatch cover testing are implemented. On seafaring vessels and platforms, any doors, hatches and covers on deck are weathertight as, under normal conditions, they will not be submerged and need only prevent water ingress from weather conditions and waves. Internal doors, particularly those which go down the pontoon legs are watertight so sections can be sealed off completely should water ingress occur. The introduction of a continuous watertight integrity monitoring system is the only reliable solution to obtain certainty that the seals are behaving the way they should whether the vessel is at dock or at sea.

CASE STUDY – Engine Room Fire

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

The financial effects from onboard engine room fires can run into millions of dollars. Often, after an engine room fire, a ship can rarely proceed under its own power leading to salvage, repairs, downtime and cancellations, all highly costly. Not just financially, but engine room fires can be detrimental to the integrity of a shipping company when the life of the passengers and crew are threatened by a fire. To ensure the status of the gaseous extinguishing systems, it is recommended to have an ultrasonic level indicator on board.

Case study: Engine Room Fire 2009

Here are the facts of this case study:

  • An incident occurred on 9th January 2009 when a fire erupted within the engine room, as the ship was en route from Ulsan to Ningbo.
  • The probable causes were identified within the investigation as a failure and explosion of the main engine crankcase.
  • This failure resulted in large quantities of hot oil mist and flammable vapour in the engine room, which was then ignited.
  • Overall, it was found that there were many issues regarding the state of the engine, but also with the maintenance and inspection of preventative equipment such as fire safety equipment and also a lack of leadership qualities shown by the crew masters and security managers.
  • In terms of the fire safety, the investigation showed that even though the fire detection and alarm systems were installed and previously inspected three months beforehand, both had failed during this incident, thus not alarming the crew at the appropriate times.
  • This was due to improper maintenance.
  • This result demonstrated that regular inspection fails to prevent failure if maintenance is inadequate.

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.”

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

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

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

In other cases, it was found that the filter cover bolts were improperly tightened and there was a lack of proper inspection routines

People are priceless

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

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 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 SafeshipÒ 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.

ONE COMPANY’s MISSION TO RESOLVE “THE UNGOVERNED SPACE” IN SHIPPING

There are 55,000 ships in the world carrying 95% of all commodities and goods. 25% of these are Tankers, Chemical Carriers & Product Tankers. 40% of these are Bulk Carriers and General Cargo ships. These have a need for vessel integrity and vessel fire safety.

Currently it is well known that the shipping industry has taken a big hit in certain areas. The amount of “urgent” supply requests that increase during one of shipping’s cyclical down-turns is because it is during these times when owners risk vessel detention by not placing safety critical equipment on-board. There are two key aspects to investigate in more detail because they are oft overlooked: the ungoverned spaces of fire safety and watertight integrity. These two areas will be examined through the regulations and technologies used to solve these issues. Looking at the UK as leaders in the shipping industry worldwide with a case study focus on a British designer and manufacturer who is sailing through the tough times.

FIRE SAFETY IS MORE THAN ANOTHER TICKBOX

Engine room fires are often reported but there are many more instances where problems with the fire system may not reach the public eye. In a ship’s fire extinguishing system, there may be 600 x 45kg/100lb cylinders of CO2. The CO2 is a highly effective liquefied gaseous extinguishant designed to displace oxygen and suppress a fire. But they are under high pressure, often more than 50 Bar, and they can leak or accidentally discharge. Common knowledge suggests 20% of marine CO2 cylinders leak. If personnel are around when they discharge fatalities can occur. To inspects cylinder contents, the system is turned off, the cylinders dismantled, weighed and re-installed by certified personnel, which the crew are not. 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. The first handheld liquid level indicator to use ultrasonic technology provided a quick, accurate and safe means for anyone trained - from a marine servicing company, to chief engineer or crew member - to test the cylinder contents. This Portalevel® was designed and manufactured by Coltraco Ultrasonics who have since developed the technology to the 8th generation Portalevel® MAX Marine which can test all common clean agents.

LEAKING HATCHCOVERS? DOORS & MCTs MUST NOT BE FORGOTTEN.

A second key problem area for vessels is the watertight integrity: for example, 33% of cargo claims are due to leaking hatch-covers. Not only hatch-covers suffer seal integrity issues, but also the multiple cable transit areas, cable penetrations between bulkheads or watertight compartment doors. Historically the industry has used high pressure water hoses or chalk compression testing to test the seals.  These methods are messy, inaccurate, time-consuming and the environmental implications of water run-off is costly. They can also only be conducted when the ship is in port or when the cargo holds are empty.  Portascanner™ Watertight was designed by Coltraco Ultrasonics to meet the need for a clean, simple, highly accurate means to achieve watertight integrity in port, with or without cargo in the hold. It is handheld, intuitive to use, with audible and visual displays showing the most mathematically accurate results of its type worldwide.

DYNAMIC STATES

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

REGULATION COMPLIANCE & BEYOND

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

For example, IMO SOLAS FSS Ch.5 2.1.1.3: every ship “must have the means for the crew to check the contents of the CO2 system”. The crew are not qualified to turn off and dismantle a CO2 system to weigh the cylinders so Portalevel™ MAX Marine solves the issue because they can check each cylinder in 30 seconds without disturbing it.

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™ 14520 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 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 COLTRACO IMPLEMENT THEIR SAFESHIP® MISSION TO RESOLVE THE UNGOVERNED SPACE

Certain leading British OEMs commit to marketing and business development via exhibitions, speaking at conferences, writing articles, preparing interviews with trade press and a few even have technical papers published by the likes of the Royal Institute of Naval Architects among other. At a more in depth level, exists the opportunity to engage with industry associations, councils and committees which can, if the arguments are captivating for their value and truth, lead to government and regulation level communications. The dizzying heights of the IMO and All Party Parliamentary Groups are gained, not through commercially-led influence, but through care for the customer, for the vessel and the crew.

It is also through leading by example of providing the scientific and mathematical principles behind the concepts. Coltraco works with leading universities such as Durham University who awarded their CEO an Honorary Doctorate for his contribution to Physics and student development. Coltraco is a unique example of a British OEM who strives to engage all the elements described above to achieve its Safeship® mission.

Whilst aiming to be a sustainable and profitable company, at the leading technological edge of its core capabilities, Coltraco’s CEO see a day “when we will break-out of ultrasound and acoustic resonance and supplement these in technologies from radar, light and magnetism. I would like to see us become the “Research & Development hub” or “R&D house of choice” for Ship Owners and Vessel Operators.

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

The Mathematics of Monitoring Gaseous Extinguishing Systems

Applying Mathematics

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

Clean Agents

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

We achieve this

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

Ultrasound

Ultrasound is merely sound beyond our audible range. Dolphins and whales can communicate at sea over long ranges as sound travels more efficiently through liquids than air. We use this principle to identify that difference in a cylinder containing liquefied agent. Consider ones ears as” the receiver” and ones mouth as the “transmitter”. Sound will arrive at ones ears at different times. The reason though that we hear a unitary sound is that our brain processes it to one. This is what we do by processing the returning ultrasound. In the air bats navigate by airborne ultrasound. We can apply the same principle in room integrity. We are at the heart of the Royal Navy’s efforts to maintain watertight integrity by the use of it in their submarines and warships and are now in service with others like the Indian Navy and Indian Coast Guard using this Naval technology that we pioneered and developed and continue to refine today. We can do the same for room integrity monitoring in the fire industry.

Constant Monitoring of Gaseous Extinguishing Systems

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

The fire industry though still approaches the installation of a dynamic and pressurised fixed gaseous extinguishing system as if it needs no integration into a BMS other than to alert as to its actuation. Nor does it think it needs constant monitoring lest it reveals the underlying engineering risk of them. Can this be because good engineering is left unrewarded in the fire industry ? Or might it be that the fire industry is more concerned to negate customer awareness of its need lest it reveals that pressurised systems do discharge and leak ? These are needless concerns. All good engineering demands the monitoring of dynamic structures and a highly pressurised cylinder is a dynamic structure. It is designed to protect a critical infrastructure or asset. Without constant monitoring a risk is generated in the very environment for which it is designed to reduce risk. The risk is not only to the asset, but to the people who work in the asset and their ability to enable business continuity in the high value asset under risk. We aim to be the lead technical authority in the constant monitoring of gaseous extinguishing systems during the life of the system once it is installed and commissioned.

Room Integrity Monitoring - There remains a wider problem too

This is essential under ISO 14520 where gaseous extinguishing systems have to be designed in relation to the discharging agent hold-time (if the room cannot hold the agent because of leaks the agent will disperse and not extinguish the fire) and discharging agent peak pressure (if the pressure is too high for partition walls or suspended ceilings they will be blown apart or damaged and possibly destroying the room integrity). At the design stage of a fire extinguishing system rooms are tested for room integrity by positively pressurising a room and detecting escaping pressure to verify that the room itself into which the gaseous extinguishant discharges on actuation can both hold the agent after its discharge and hold its pressure on actuation. The fire system is then installed and commissioned. But over the next 10 years no further tests are made on room integrity and the cylinders merely hydrostatically tested to ensure they can cope with their design pressure limits. How can one be sure therefore that on actuation the room will hold the discharged agent to extinguish the fire and its partitions and ceilings are capable of withstanding the pressure of the agent on discharge? A building is like a ship at sea. It turns and bends as any structure does. It ages and leak sites develop. Coltraco is generating capability that will allow for the constant monitoring of room integrity. We aim to be the lead technical authority in the constant monitoring of room integrity during the life of the gaseous extinguishing system once it is installed and commissioned.

Conclusion

The fire industry has access to customers who depend on it to deliver fire engineering to protect their risks. Insurance companies underwrite that risk. But the mathematics of its failure are high, whether in the application and understanding of the formulas they use to calculate design concentrations of gases or flow rates or in the deployment of fundamental engineering principles to protect dynamic pressurised systems and the structures they are working so hard to protect against the risk of fire.

The Mathematics of Monitoring Gaseous Extinguishing Systems & Room Integrity

Applying Mathematics

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

Clean Agents

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

We achieve this

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

Constant Monitoring  of Gaseous Extinguishing Systems

A data centre is expensive to build and maintain. It generates significant heat. Every bank with a branch network has hundreds of them. The value of them are very high but the value of their inability to sustain business continuity is far higher than their physical assets. Almost incalculable. And yet Insurers are asked to underwrite them and the fire industry to deliver their protection at the cheapest price. Who today in the security industry would consider installing an alarm system without

monitoring its status not only its actuation and integrating the whole of it to the building management system with central monitoring being an essential part of it ? Who would build a ship or offshore platform and fit it with say power generating auxiliary machinery without installing emergency power systems or monitoring their condition states ? These are basic engineering principles.

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

Room Integrity Monitoring - There remains a wider problem too

This is essential under ISO 14520 where gaseous extinguishing systems have to be designed in relation to the discharging agent hold-time (if the room cannot hold the agent because of leaks the agent will disperse and not extinguish the fire) and discharging agent peak pressure (if the pressure is too high for partition walls or suspended ceilings they will be blown apart or damaged and possibly destroying the room integrity). At the design stage of a fire extinguishing system rooms are tested for room integrity by positively pressurising a room and detecting escaping pressure to verify that the room itself into which the gaseous extinguishant discharges on actuation can both hold the agent after its discharge and hold its pressure on actuation. The fire system is then installed and commissioned. But over the next 10 years few further tests are made on room integrity and the cylinders merely hydrostatically tested to ensure they can cope with their design pressure limits. How can one be sure therefore that on actuation the room will hold the discharged agent to extinguish the fire and its partitions and ceilings are capable of withstanding the pressure of the agent on discharge? A building is like a ship at sea. It turns, stresses & bends as any structure does. It ages and leak sites develop. Coltraco is generating capability that will allow for the constant monitoring of room integrity.  We aim to be the lead technical authority in the constant monitoring of room integrity during the life of the gaseous extinguishing system once it is installed and commissioned.

Conclusion

The fire industry has access to customers who depend on it to deliver fire engineering to protect their risks. Insurance companies underwrite that risk. But the mathematics of its failure are high, whether in the application and understanding of the formulas they use to calculate design concentrations of gases or flow rates or in the deployment of fundamental engineering principles to protect dynamic pressurised systems and the structures they are working so hard to protect against the risk of fire.

“Safety First” should not simply be a tag line in mining.

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

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

Fire safety is still an “ungoverned space”

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

Anecdotes of bad practice

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

These issues risk the integrity of mining operations, because in the event of fire, there may be insufficient agent to extinguish it. For such safety critical operations, these systems should be permanently monitored. Yet they remain unsupervised and unmonitored 364 days a year until their annual certification check.

Industry trend to govern “the ungoverned space”

Safety is becoming recognised as an area which must no longer be overlooked. The industry is beginning to opt for more regular inspections and even continuous 365 day monitoring. The ability to monitor autonomously, with remote diagnostics and remote relay which can provide an alarm to the Fire Safety Officer or Facilities Manager, provides confidence in the integrity of the system. Minimising the risk of fire in the long run can improve business continuity, save downtime and also the potential costly pay-out which fire damage entails.

Case Study: Zambian Copper Mine switches to Ultrasonic Technology

One company who researched the market to find an easier, accurate and more efficient method for inspecting their fire system is a copper mining project in Zambia. This well established, growing mining company annually produces hundreds of thousands of tonnes of copper worldwide. Their Head of Instrumentation discovered an innovative method: Portalevel® ultrasonic technology. Portalevel® makes servicing quicker and requires just one person to identify the liquid level of agent inside the cylinders. There is no need to turn off or dismantle the system. By testing in situ, the integrity of the system is maintained and there is no increased risk to people or facility by shutting down the system for the duration of maintenance checks.

Innovation offers Smart Solutions

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

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

We are committed to “Safety First”: going above and beyond regulatory compliance, whilst minimising time and cost. Science and R&D are at our core. Our Safesite™ and Safeship™ technologies deliver solutions to critical infrastructure at sea and on land. As the world changes, so must our industry integrate technology, to provide a bulwark against minimal, even flagrant, disregard of standards, by creating standards which all can understand and apply. The “white heat” of technology shines as a beacon of hope to our industry and customers: to engage in better monitoring as an integrated and essential element to their business activity.

www.coltraco.com

Safety first

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

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

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

Marine servicing

In terms of ships’ extinguishing systems there exist two broad categories: sprinkler systems and gas systems (CO2). While the former can suffer leakage but the latter can cause catastrophic effect given the high physical pressures. An average ship’s CO2 system comprises between 200 and 600 cylinders each containing 45KG of CO2 under high 720 psi/ 49 bar pressure. One of the highest probabilities of discharge occurs during their maintenance. Some marine service companies estimate that 20% of a ships CO2 cylinders have discharged or partially leaked their contents at some point in their lifetime.

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

Luckily modern methods offer quicker options: a portable, ultrasonic liquid level indicator (such as Coltraco’s Portalevel MAX Marine) can check the contents of a perfect condition cylinder in 30 seconds. Taking in to account the average time to record and validate readings, a service crew should take 1-3 minutes per properly-filled cylinder, which would mean 600-1,800 minutes test time or 10-30 perfect man-hours for this task alone. Again, this is impossible when allocated such a short time on the vessel.

Unsafe solutions

Given the time restrictions illustrated above, it is clear why even good marine servicing companies may not physically be able to perform the inspections required. While they may flag such an issue with a customer, there are less scrupulous companies that are said to randomly check some cylinders and then place ‘tested’ stickers on the rest.

Although random checks may be suitable in some sectors, it is worth remembering that because the normal design concentration of CO2 of 34-72 v/v % is above the nearly immediate acute lethality level, these systems have an extremely narrow safety margin. As these systems work through oxygen dilution rather than the chemical disruption of the catalytic combustion chain (which is the case with other clean agents), insufficient CO2 levels during an emergency may allow a situation to spiral out of hand.

“These points are separate to the frankly dangerous actions of certain companies that may deliver systems portrayed and installed by contractors as NOVEC™ 1230 but that are actually filled with sand or water,” says the Coltraco head. Other anecdotal evidence provides stories of over/under-filled cylinders; high pressure gas systems being fitted without the means to actuate them; cheap cylinder pressure gauges sticking in position under humidity or mechanical fatigue; safety pins being retained in position in the cylinder valves after installation; or even pipework and cylinders that are freshly painted but have severe internal corrosion leading to particulates of rust which block the discharge nozzle mechanism.

There have even been reports of instances where bathroom weighing scales are chained to the CO2 cylinders in an effort to comply with IMO SOLAS FSS Code regulations – ignoring the fact that there are no officers or crew that are qualified to shutdown, dis-mantle, weigh and re-install a CO2 cylinder on the vessel itself.

Meeting obligations

“Given both the crew lives and cargo at stake, it seems unfathomable that these systems are not permanently monitored rather certified just once a year, particularly since it is a regulatory obligation to ensure that crew are in a position to check these,” Hunter says. Safety of Life at Sea’s (SOLAS) International Fire Safety Systems (FSS) code states that “means shall be provided for the crew to safely check the quantity of the fire extinguishing medium in the containers”.

It can be argued that the existence of regulation (such as that set by the the IMO and other authorities) guides – and occasionally curbs – the direction taken by the free market. This then means that the current state of the market, where ‘price is king’ is either due to unwillingness on the part of the regulators to create an environment where safe engineering is rewarded or because the industry itself is unaware of new technology that will help them meet both the spirit and letter of the regulation.

The fact of the matter is that technologies exist right now that can easily and accurately monitor everything from gases under pressure to liquefied contents and corrosion of pipework. The traditional method of using a cylinder pressure gauge (located at the meeting point of valve and neck of a pressurised cylinder) is both obsolete and impractical – especially when cost cutting may result in use of minimally-compliant gauge mechanisms.

Technological answers

Technologies will soon exist that will offer devices that monitor both liquid content and gas pressure safely from the external sides of the cylinder rather than within it. This means that crew will be able to monitor the contents and then calculate the mass/weight of the liquefied extinguishant. By measuring the pressure of the gas on top of the liquefied extinguishant they can can assess the pressure of an Inert gas (which is in an entirely vaporous form) to ensure that the cylinder is primed to perform when needed.

Having systems that operate transparently will work not just to convince a vessel owner that his asset is in good hands, but also to reassure the crew that their safety is taken seriously by both – their employer and the the marine servicing company.

Ultrasound

One of the sciences being harnessed by innovators in the fire safety sector is that of Ultrasound: i.e. acoustic (sound) energy in the form of waves of high frequency that are above the human audible range. Although the shipping world merely uses it as a tool to gauge thickness, it has seen far more varied use across military, medical and industrial fields.

Sound is, in itself, vibrations that propagate as a mechanical wave or pressure and transmit through solid, liquid or gaseous mediums. Coltraco is one of a number of companies using these fundamental physical principles to design and manufacture products and systems that can be used by fire engineers and their customer installations.

Its portfolio boasts 11 different model types of Portalevel brand liquid level indicators including Portascanner (which uses ultrasound to test the integrity of confined spaces and can detect leak sites as small as 0.06mm) and Portagauge (which uses ultrasound to test the internal and external corrosion on pipework and cylinder wall thickness to an accuracy of +/-0.1mm). “We can monitor these 24/7 with the fixed, data-logging and autonomous monitoring system, Permalevel Multiplex & Permalevel Single Point,” says Hunter. “Signals from these fixed monitoring sites can be monitored centrally on the bridge and in the ship’s technical office concurrently. We see a day when products and systems will be designed that will monitor gas vapour above the liquid level and inert gases too.” The company is due to launch its Portasteele Calculator this year which will enable liquefied extinguishant weight conversions.

“As the world changes, so must our industry integrate technological solutions to provide a bulwark against wider industry misinterpretation and minimal, even occasional and flagrant, disregard in the application of standards and good global engineering practise, creating standards which all can understand and apply,” he adds.

First in the world: Portasteele® CALCULATOR

The assumptions in the installation and maintenance of gaseous extinguishing systems is that they are highly pressurised but risk leaking and discharging. ISO 14520-1:2015 aim to identify their leak identification at an interval of at least every 6 months.  Traditional methods of weighing are laborious and dangerous, taking 15 minutes and two people to weigh a cylinder. To combat this, Coltraco Ultrasonics developed the Portalevel® MAX, an 8th generation ultrasonic level indicator, for identifying the contents of CO2, FM200, NOVEC 1230, FE-13, FE-25 & FE-36, Halon and a variety of similar liquid gaseous fire suppression agents, in just 30 seconds. However these liquid level readings were not weight measurements which is required and does not take into account the effects of temperature.

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 Portalevel® MAX into the agent weight/mass.  The PortasteeleÒ CALCULATOR is the first in the world to provide agent weight readings without physically weighing the fire suppression cylinders to comply with fire safety regulations. This is a safer, more efficient and cost saving method to service fire cylinders. The PortasteeleÒ CALCULATOR is based on a stand-alone 7” tablet computer which makes calculations in real time and logs the results, allowing the software to be used immediately in the field.

By replacing the use of manual calculation and formulae, Portasteele® CALCULATOR makes the whole process of fire suppression system servicing simple and effective. The technological innovation ensures an entirely user friendly and industry leading device.

The Portasteele® is the first in the world to provide agent weight readings without physically weighing the fire suppression cylinders to comply with fire safety regulations. Coltraco Ultrasonics are the only company able to identify clean agent weight from liquid level readings – allowing a servicing company to go above and beyond regulations.

Coltraco Ultrasonics are the only company in the world who can provide true contents indication through the Portasteele® CALCULATOR. The calculation provided takes into account all environmental factors without requiring an overwhelming excess of information from the user and can provide highly accurate results across the broad range of cylinder types available in the fire protection sector. The Portasteele® CALCULATOR is the only device of its kind on the market. The Portasteele® CALCULATOR accurately converts the liquid level into agent weight and takes into account temperature variation by compensating for it using density changes. The final result is weight, which is unaffected by temperature – something that cannot be achieved by a liquid level indicator alone.

Why the industry is failing to comply with ISO 14520

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

No! People expect, and rightfully so, that in the event of a fire the extinguishing systems would be in full working order to do just that – extinguish. Given that the gaseous systems are designed specifically to the individual need of that room, building etc., then a leak site in the room could mean that the comparted area will not withhold the fire.

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

Key Facts

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

Regulatory Requirements un-Ravelled

APPROVED DOCUMENT B (ADB)

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

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

ISO14520-1:2015(E)

Here are some extracts from the regulations which are not widely known or understood and thus can lead to areas of minimal compliance or even non-compliance due to a lack of education about fire systems and their connection to compartmentation. This article argues for a more holistic approach to fire safety. The author suggests the need for a resident mathematician to assist the industry.

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

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

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

Meeting minimum fire standards is not enough

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

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

*Disclaimer: These statements are based on the Coltraco Ultrasonics brand of ultrasonic room integrity tester: Portascanner® 520. This paper does not claim any knowledge of any other ultrasonic room integrity tester brand nor could find any other brands available on the market at this stage.

The technology exists right now to solve this problem.  

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

BOX OUT –  Case Study: Field testing of the Ultrasonic Room Integrity Tester  - complementing oxygen reduction system for compartmentation testing of 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.

How do you measure liquid level with the Portalevel® MAX?

The Portalevel® MAX has been specifically designed to be as easy, simple and definitive for a user to operate as possible. Simple touch buttons now operate the controls and a new digital screen provides clear and definitive results to the user. The 7 steps below outline the simple testing process. Further technical support for this ultrasonic leak detector is available to all users for the lifetime of the equipment if required.

How to operate Portalevel Max by Coltraco?

  • 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 location.

Portalevel Max 8th Generation

This liquid level indicator is designed primarily to meet your measuring requirements of liquid levels enclosed in cylinders. See the brochure here: via PDF

How can smart technology allow you to reach the Safeship®?

The crew have a responsibility to implement the regulations via regular testing, which enabled through smart ultrasonic technology and IoT, should be done continuously to avoid negligence and unnecessary risk. Misunderstanding exists across parts of shipping industry 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 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” and “there is no such thing as a small fire at sea”; it must act as its own emergency fire service, differing to a land based asset. In order to create a Safeship® the crew must be in full understanding of the status their safety systems at all times and not just at the times of the inspections – achieved by continuous monitoring.

Gaseous extinguishing systems must be able to actuate, or release their gas, in the event of a fire. Given that the gaseous systems are designed specifically to the individual need of the vessel, and it is known that they leak, then a 5% loss of agent may mean that they would not fully extinguish the fire. These are pressurised systems, so the point of monthly checking for contents is to identify loss of contents through leakage or accidental discharge before they fall below their capacity to extinguish (technically described as: delivering their design concentration). Only having the annual inspection by accredited marine servicing companies is not enough – the crew must take responsibility for its own fire protection and inspecting the gaseous extinguishing systems. But what if there is leakage in between these monthly checks? With fewer, even lower-skilled crew and a greater dependence on autonomous machinery, the dependence on fire systems being checked from shore, let alone on the ship in person, will only become greater. Manual weighing is not only laborious, but also dangerous to the crew conducting the servicing. New technology allows ship owners and crews to help them both the spirit and letter of the regulation and thus know that their vessel is protected in the event of a fire.

Smart technology provides the crew and ship owners with ease of inspection and understanding their extinguishing systems. However, the crew will not be able to refill the gaseous extinguishing system, and instead must rely on notifying the marine servicing company when they arrive at a port, despite the fact that they may only be at the port for a very short amount of time. Due to time pressures, the risk of not being able to find a contractor in time to fill the cylinders in the event of leakage is one that could jeopardise the safety of the entire ship when it is time to set sail. Furthermore, 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. Continuously monitoring the cylinders with ultrasonic sensors that utilises IoT can avoid this, because the network contribution. Using IoT enables the advance notification of the crew and shore based services whilst at sea. Therefore, preparations to address the issues can be made prior to docking to ensure the issues are resolved given the minimum time they have. By having the ability to understand the contents’ level of their gaseous extinguishing systems whilst at sea, the crew are also able to comply and exceed the IMO SOLAS FSS and ISO 14520 regulations, whilst ensuring the Safeship®.

The main cause of vessel loss is sinking

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

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

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

What are the Distress® and db levels of the Portamonitor®?

Coltraco’s Portamonitor® is a sophisticated AE device that combines Distress® and db levels that provides a real-time evaluation to give the user accurate knowledge of any defects that may be present in any kind of bearing, for example; roller and ball types. Sound generated by friction and impacts caused by poor lubrication or bearing damage propagates as a stress wave, detectable by the Portamonitor®.

Signal is processed at sensor level allowing quick and effective diagnostics. The Portamonitor® can be used for pre-service (proof) testing as well as in-service (re-qualification) testing and condition monitoring. 

What are Distress® and db level?

Together Distress® and db level help diagnose defects at sensor level by providing simple alert indications relating to phenomena occurring at the defect location. Generally speaking, Distress® provides an instant indication of the health of the bearings. It measures the transient activity, such as impacts, friction and surface deformation caused by micro-pitting and fractures.
The overall measurement is the summation of abnormal signals generated by defective bearings. Elastic waves that are produced as a result of cracks, fractures or debris produce different frequencies. Algorithms inside the Portamonitor® sort this data for comparison against acceptable limits categorised by a number.

The display on the Portamonitor® will show a numeric value indicating the level of distress, for instance: 5-10 indicates the system in “OK”. Between the value of 10-15 indicates the system is “SUSPECT”, and requires further monitoring, whereas >15 indicates a “POOR” system and requires attention. To help with this understanding, the following chart shows simulated example results and a description of what can be immediately determined:

Looking at this data an operator can determine that gearbox No. 1 and 5 need further investigation, with 5 being the priority since gearbox 1 is SUSPECT, but gearbox 5 is POOR. It may be the case that lubricating a bearing may show a decrease in the Distress® value to an acceptable level thus avoiding a shut-down period. This can be determined at this point.

In use alongside Distress®, db level indicators are used which show the overall bearing noise. This is dependent on rotating speed and will increase as rotating speeds increases, but will also increase during the degradation of bearings, or if inadequate lubrication is present. Decibel indicators work on a logarithmic scale, which basically translates very large or very small numbers into a more intuitive form, usually between 0 – 100. Sharp increases in db level indicate imminent failure. Also, db trends can be monitored to establish the overall condition of bearings. Again, to show this we look at some example data to the right.

The trend of db level with time is particularly useful for indicating the rate of deterioration. As can be seen on this chart. This increase in db level over time indicates a serious problem prevailing. Most of the complicated post-processing has been completed within the device making it very easy to understand. Both of these parameters are included simultaneously on the Portamonitor® providing a time and cost effective all-around simple to use device suitable for the monitoring of bearing degradation in all industries. 

Monitoring your gaseous installations at sea? Choose the Portamarine®.

The Portamarine® has been specifically designed to meet the needs of the shipping industry and has proven a capable and reliable unit over many years. In use with many thousand Vessel and Marine service stations worldwide, it is specifically designed for safely, quickly and accurately inspecting marine CO2 fire suppression systems. It allows vessel owners to comply with IMO SOLAS requirements which specify the need to have the means onboard to allow crew to safely inspect the fire systems. The Portamarine® has been specifically designed for testing multi-banked CO2 Cylinder Fire Suppression System Cylinders, stored in 2, 3 or 4 rows deep, to make the process as quick as possible to complete. It can also operate on the vast majority of other fire system agents including FM200™, NOVEC 1230™, Halon (for Defence applications) and all other clean agent systems.

Coltraco Limited has produced this liquid gas level indicator specifically to meet the corresponding needs of Marine Industry. The equipment is  accurate to +/-1.5mm and proves a significantly safer and quicker solution when compared to weighing as a means of identifying cylinder content.

Optional Extras with Portamarine – Ultrasonic Level Indicator

Ancillary Parts

These are offers and accessories available with this ultrasonic level sensor upon demand. Give it a look!

Additional Sensors

  • Wet Sensors – For rugged applications such as poor conditioned or rusty cylinders
  • Dry Sensor – For Standard Applications

Multi-Banked Extension Rod

  • Standard Rod – 28mm wide, normal build. Ideal for vast majority of applications.
  • Slim line rod – only 14mm wide and lightweight, ideal for where cylinders are tightly packed.

Portatherm™

Infrared thermometer providing quick indication of ambient temperatures

After Sales Support

By purchasing the Portamarine® from Coltraco you can be assured of our full support to ensure you become a confident and competent user. If ever you require additional support or would like a Telephone Teach-In from one of our Technical Team please call +44 1761 241 601 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Total Support with Portacare®

3 or 5 Year Total Maintenance Program to completely cap the cost of ownership and guaranty maximum availability. Back up units provided in the event of unit breakages with beyond Warranty levels of support.

For further information, download PDF

What is the Portagauge® 4?

The Portagauge® 4 is an analytical thickness gauge from Coltraco. Offering unparalleled accuracy, this uses triple echo technology, which allows operators to inspect the underlying metal thickness, independent of any surface coatings such as paint. For applications where true metal readings and a higher degree of accuracy is required, the Portagauge® 4 is the ideal solution with a variety of sensor options available, this range of portable ultrasonic thickness gauge of units can easily be adapted to a variety of different roles and requirements.

  • Three years warranty
  • Lifetime support
  • Ignores paint layer
  • Designed for corrosion testing
  • Ultrasonic technology
  • 50 hour battery life
  • Accurate to 0.1mm off the true liquid level
  • 2,25MHz probe included as standard

Features of Portagauge¢ IV

  • Measures the true metal thickness, excluding coating and paint thickness.
  • Ideal for most common thickness gauging applications onboard ships by marine superintendents
  • This device is recommended for Bridges, pilings storage tanks, lighting columns, ship hulls, bulk heads, pipe work, steel/stainless steel, cast iron, Aluminum, copper, brass, zinc, quartz, glass, PVC, polyethylene, grey cast iron amongst others. With the integration of ultrasonic gas leak detector, the efficiency of the entire system can be increased. 
  • Automatic Measurement Verification System (AMVS) ensures only true measurements are displayed by checking a minimum of three echoes each time the ultrasound pulses through the metal Intelligent.
  • Probe Recognition (IPR), which automatically adjusts settings in the gauge at the same time as transmitting recognition data large colour.
  • LCD Display giving user information Single crystal soft faced probe protected by a membrane Easy calibration with menu driven buttons Echo strength indicator.
  • No zeroing required as all sensors use a single crystal which means that no specific alignment is required when measuring on curved or rounded surfaces User friendly with soft- molded rubber surround which is also comfortable to hold and provides extra protection.
  • For further information about the product, download PDF

Trustable Reliability: Portalevel® Mini

Through the constant evolution and refinement of our offering, the Portalevel Mini was created to offer customers an even more compact, versatile unit to further enhance the ease with which fire system can be tested. Offering totally hands free operation with the unit hanging around the operators’ neck, both hands are free to work with the trusted reliability offered by the 7th Generation. Here, few features are quickly enlisted which are provided with this portable ultrasonic level indicator.

Features Available with Portalevel® Mini

  • Three years warranty
  • Lifetime Support
  • Calibration and training certificates available
  • Fast Operation
  • Service a cylinder in under a minute
  • Ultrasonic technology
  • No radiation and non-intrusive
  • LCD and bright LED display
  • Class Approved
  • Accurate to 1.5mm

Function of Portable Ultrasonic Liquid Level Indicator

The Portalevel® MINI is the 7th generation unit of its kind. It is based on the Portamarine ® design with the key modification for hands-free use. Ideal for testing in difficult to access areas where hands free use is beneficial to enable the operator to move around the area more easily. The Portalevel® range is used for identifying the content of critical fire suppression cylinders. A wide variety of fire suppressant agents can be monitored including: CO2, Dupont™, FM-200™, NOVEC™1230, old Halons such as 1301 and 1211, FE-13™, FE-25™, FE-36™ and HFC-225 & 227. The 7th generation model is tailored to suit those operators who want a small, compact unit for easy testing. It is more accurate (to 1.5mm+/-), quicker and safer than weighing cylinders.

  • Portable: Lightweight small unit which comes with a durable, rugged case
  • Easy to Use: No formal training necessary, accessible to a wide range of audiences and is easy for existing Portalevel® operators to adapt to
  • Durable: The unit is housed in a solid plastic enclosure ideally suited to protecting the internal electronics, even if the unit is lightly dropped or slightly roughly handled.
  • SPA Feature: This liquid level indicator has this feature, which is used to increase the power output of the unit and increase the sensitivity of the unit when registering the return signal.

For further information, Download PDF

Experienced Manufacturer of Ultrasonic Equipment – Coltraco Ultrasonics

Portalevel® is an ultrasonic liquid level indicator. Today, Coltraco Ltd has successfully released 8 generation of this ultrasonic level indicator.

Coltraco Ultrasonics have a wide range of products in their range: Portamarine®, Portascanner®, Permalevel®, Portaguage®, Portasonic®, Portamonitor®, Portasteele®, Permascanner® and Portacare®.

Efficient Coltraco Customer Care

  • Guarantee for three years
  • Terms and Conditions for further details
  • Life time technical support is available of the equipment through email and telephone
  • Guaranteed is provided against workmanship and materials

Pinned Packing

Liquid Level Indicator comes with packing under Coltraco Ltd, which contains entire accessories that can increase the efficiency of this measuring product. Other optional accessories are also provided upon request in order to enhance the efficiency. Due to the strict and rigorous quality check and careful hand built, the assurance is available for quality and high standard services to the customers.

The pinned package of 7th generation of Portalevel® Standard contains following things:

  • 1 Hard Wearing Carrying Case
  • 1 Portalevel® Standard unit
  • Calibration Certificate
  • Ultrasonic Gel, 1 Wet Sensor
  • Operating Instructions

For further information, you can download PDF

The Future: Continuously Monitoring Hatch Covers at Sea

Permascanner® Dynamic is our semi-fixed ultrasonic watertight integrity test indicating system for the dynamic testing of Hatch Covers, Holds, bulkheads, cable transits and watertight doors and compartments at sea. Derived from its sister product the Portascanner®, Permascanner® Dynamic is designed to quickly identify leak sites in their extent and precise location, whilst at sea.
Permascanner® Dynamic allows a pattern of readings to be recorded against varying sea states, enabling a true picture of the seal integrity to be recorded over time. It efficiently helps you for hatch covers integrity, multiple cable transit areas testing and watertight doors continuously over varying sea-state states. The ultrasonic hatch cover testing system will enables Marine Superintendants, Barge Supervisors or OIMs to embody its highly accurate readings into an enhanced on board safety procedure.

Key Benefits for Possessing Hatch Cover Testing

Here are the quick list of benefits you can enjoy with hatch cover maintenance and watertight integrity testing system manufactured by Coltraco with lowest price and high quality.

  • Instant Notification with the use of alarms to alert Officers & Crew that all hatch covers are closed & sealed at all times
  • Continuous Operation which means 10 day/3000NM continuous monitoring of hatch cover seals
  • Magnetically Mounted Base means no fuss in setup as generator can be easily attached to the hold.
  • Enhance Risk Management through integration with performance standard procedures for vessel, cargo and safety of Life at Sea
  • High Accuracy with which you can identify leaks as small as 0.06 mm ± 0.02 mm

You can also check out individual products for hatch cover testing

Benefits of the Portapipe®

Quick & Convenient

The ultrasonic leak detector is a simple solution with few limitations and is easy to learn how to operate. Just one person can complete testing by giving a thorough corrosion evaluation over a short period of time.

World-Class Accuracy

It is considered the most mathematically accurate unit of its type locating a 1mm leak site via visual and audible readings and identifying its extent with a definitive numerical result. Furthermore, it can test for faults and leaks in 10-50mm diameter pipe, 1mm up to 12m range and 1mm+ at longer range.

Comprehensive Analysis

The evaluation of multiple different areas along the pipe is possible with ultrasonic inspection. This increases the reliability in the pipeline analysis thereby giving a better picture of problematic areas in the system.

For further information, contact Coltraco Customer Support

What is the Portalevel® Standard?

The Portalevel® Standard is a popular ultrasonic liquid indicator unit for core land based fire protection applications worldwide.

By 1987 Mr E C Hunter had began designing the world’s first dedicated marine portable liquid level indicator, able to monitor multi-banked rows of cylinders aboard commercial vessels

Whilst the original monitoring device was complex to use, its accuracy was unparalleled, able to read cylinders to within 1/8th of an inch or +/- 1.5 mm.

The ultrasonic liquid level indicator, is produced for land based fire protection applications.

Package Contents of Portalevel® Standard 7

The pinned package of 7th generation of Portalevel® Standard contains following components:

  • 1 Potalevel Standard unit
  • Ultrasonic Gel, 1 Wet Sensor
  • Calibration Certificate
  • 1 Hard Wearing Carrying Case
  • Operating Instructions

Accuracy

+/-1.5mm or 1/8 inch

Verifiable Agents

FM 200™, CO2, H2O, NOVEC™ 1230, Halons such as FE-13™, HFC-225 & 2271, FE-36™, FE-25™, 1301 and 1211 are some of the verifiable agents.

Certificates

Coltraco has numerous certifications for the following product such as CE, Classification Society Approved- RINA and ISO 19011 Registered.

Operating Temperature

The operating temperature for the following device is -20°C to +70°C or 68°F to 158°F) and Relative Humidity is -5 % - 95 %.

Sensor 2

TX / RX Dry Sensor come 14 mm in diameter head and contains magnetized sensor applicator and is connected by BNC connectors to 1 m length co ax – cable.

Dimensions

Width: 95 mm (3.74 inches)
Height: 155 mm (6.10 inches)
Weight: 500 grams (17.63 ounces)
Depth: 45 mm (1.77 inches)

Power Supply

It comes with the power supply of 4 x AA 1.5 V batteries, which can function for 10 hours.

Display

The display showing numeric digital comes as LCD with LED Bar Graph

Warranty

Coltraco offers 3 years warranty for the main unit and 1 year for the sensor. Moreover, there can be exceptions available and customer support is always available for the users.

Classification

This liquid level indicator comes with the classification of IP Rating 65 and NATO Stock Number: 6680-99-275-5292

For more information, leave your question at Coltraco Online Support.

Portalevel® Max Marine Technical Specifications

With the recent difficulties that the shipping industry is facing, Coltraco Ultrasonics understand the need for practical, labour saving and cost-efficient solutions to safety issues.  However, 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 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.

 This ultrasonic level indicator allows users to measure stacked rows of cylinders common practice on vessels and offshore installations.

Technical Specifications of Portalevel Intrinsically

Here, we have enlisted technical specs available with this liquid level indicator – Portalevel Max Marine. Give it a look!

Dimensions

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

Accuracy

+/- 1.5mm (1/8 inch)

Operating Temperature

-20°C to +70°C (68°F to 158°F)

Sensor
Here are the details for sensor:
TX/RX Dry Sensor

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

Mini Extension Rod Sensor

  • 1 meter in length
  • 12mm in diameter
  • Connected by bnC connectors to 1 m length co-ax cable.

Verifiable Agents

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

Power Supply

1 x PP3 9V battery (battery life 10 hours)

Display

Membrane control operated, LCD backlit Display measuring 55 x 28 mm

Classification

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

Certificates

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

Warranty

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

Portalevel Max Marine Content
The package of liquid level indicator comes 1 Potalevel MAX unit with other products, such as:

  • 1 Hard Wearing Carrying Case for protection from damage
  • 1 Wet Sensor
  • 1 Mini 12mm Extension Rod
  • 1 Portatherm
  • Ultrasonic Gel
  • Calibration certificate

For further information, download PDF

Monitor your hatch covers

Permascanner® Dynamic is our semi-fixed ultrasonic watertight integrity test indicating system for the dynamic testing of hatch covers, holds, bulkheads, cable transits and watertight doors and compartments at sea. Derived from its sister product the Portascanner®, Permascanner™ Dynamic is designed to quickly identify leak sites in their extent and precise location, whilst at sea. It was found that a comprehensive, autonomous continuous monitoring system for the watertight integrity of a ship’s cargo hatches, weathertight doors and other seals is possible to be developed. One that is capable of automatically detecting emerging leak sites, alerting officers and crew of the location and severity of the leak site and logging all data for future review. The developments in continuous monitoring technology being undertaken by Coltraco Ultrasonics will drive the industry towards ensuring that watertight integrity is never left to chance.

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

Portascanner® Watertight is ideal for cable transit areas watertight testing whereas considered appropriate for scuttles, shell doors, hatch – covers, doors, flanges and steering gear hatches are the few others. Manufactured within modern terms, it qualifies to cope up with inspection of leak sites of critical sealing.

Technical Specifications of Portascanner® Watertight

Here below are the technical specifications, which you want to know:

Readings

It has the capacity to read the audio via head – band electrodynamics headphones and numerical readings through 1 to 31775 through the integrated LCD screen display.

Microphone

As far as the microphone of this device is concerned, it has a rod measured to be 310 mm*25 mm as length*diameter (2). Moreover, it is comprised of three parts, which are manufactured to be screwed up together and possess a connection by bnC connectors to 1m length co-ax cable.

Receiver

Portascanner® receiver come with the installed frequency response to 20 – 18000 habitable zone, impedance if 32 Ohms (+/-) 5% Sensitivity – 105 dB SPL at 1 Kilohertz and Adaptor Plug of 3.5 mm to 6.3 mm type.

Display

As far as the display of this device is concerned, this watertight compartment doors testing device comes with a membrane control operating system and LCD backlit Display which measures to be 55*28 mm.

Power Supply

Generator is integrated with 2*PP3 9V which means it makes a span of 10 hours functioning without recharge whereas Receiver Unit comes with 1*PP3 9V battery that also makes the same time span.

Dimensions of Portascanner Watertight Main Unit/ Generator

Main Unit

Width: 82 mm (3.22 inches)
Height: 215 mm (8.46 inches)
Weight: 420 g (14.82 ounces)
Depth: 30 mm (1.18 inches)

Generator

It comes with following dimensions mentioned below whereas other than this, it is manufactured with 0.1 Watt / 100 dB unidirectional speakers and mounting method or permanent magnet.

Width: 111 mm (4.37 inches)
Height: 90 mm (3.54 inches)
Weight: 430g (15.17 ounces)
Depth: 50 mm (1.97 inches)

Operating Temperature

This product operates within -20°C to +70°C (68°F to 158°F) flawlessly.

Package Contents of Portascanner® Watertight

In regards to the total number of accessories and parts that should be available in the pinned packing should contain following components:

  • 1 Portascanner watertight
  • 1 generator
  • 1 headphone
  • 1 receiver
  • 1 hardwearing carrying case
  • Calibration Certificate

Do your machinery bear the test of time?

Coltraco’s Portamonitor® is a sophisticated AE device that combines Distress® and db levels that provides a real-time evaluation to give the user accurate knowledge of any defects that may be present in any kind of bearing, for example; roller and ball types. Sound generated by friction and impacts caused by poor lubrication or bearing damage propagates as a stress wave, detectable by the Portamonitor®.

Signal is processed at sensor level allowing quick and effective diagnostics. The Portamonitor® can be used for pre-service (proof) testing as well as in-service (re-qualification) testing and condition monitoring. 

What are Distress® and db level?

Together Distress® and db level help diagnose defects at sensor level by providing simple alert indications relating to phenomena occurring at the defect location. Generally speaking, Distress® provides an instant indication of the health of the bearings. It measures the transient activity, such as impacts, friction and surface deformation caused by micro-pitting and fractures.
The overall measurement is the summation of abnormal signals generated by defective bearings. Elastic waves that are produced as a result of cracks, fractures or debris produce different frequencies. Algorithms inside the Portamonitor® sort this data for comparison against acceptable limits categorised by a number.

The display on the Portamonitor® will show a numeric value indicating the level of distress, for instance: 5-10 indicates the system in “OK”. Between the value of 10-15 indicates the system is “SUSPECT”, and requires further monitoring, whereas >15 indicates a “POOR” system and requires attention. To help with this understanding, the following chart shows simulated example results and a description of what can be immediately determined:

Looking at this data an operator can determine that gearbox No. 1 and 5 need further investigation, with 5 being the priority since gearbox 1 is SUSPECT, but gearbox 5 is POOR. It may be the case that lubricating a bearing may show a decrease in the Distress® value to an acceptable level thus avoiding a shut-down period. This can be determined at this point.

In use alongside Distress®, db level indicators are used which show the overall bearing noise. This is dependent on rotating speed and will increase as rotating speeds increases, but will also increase during the degradation of bearings, or if inadequate lubrication is present. Decibel indicators work on a logarithmic scale, which basically translates very large or very small numbers into a more intuitive form, usually between 0 – 100. Sharp increases in db level indicate imminent failure. Also, db trends can be monitored to establish the overall condition of bearings. Again, to show this we look at some example data to the right.

The trend of db level with time is particularly useful for indicating the rate of deterioration. As can be seen on this chart. This increase in db level over time indicates a serious problem prevailing. Most of the complicated post-processing has been completed within the device making it very easy to understand. Both of these parameters are included simultaneously on the Portamonitor® providing a time and cost effective all-around simple to use device suitable for the monitoring of bearing degradation in all industries. 

 

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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