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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

Meeting obligations

Interview with CEO Dr Carl Hunter.

“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  marine servicing company.

Its portfolio boasts 11 different model types of Portalevel brand liquid level indicator 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.”

Transformer oil levels in a copper, lead, silver, zinc and gold mine

WHERE? Gold Mine, Australia

WHAT? Transformers are used in electric power transmission and distributions and are devices that transfer electric power at different voltage levels. The main components within the transformers are the core and windings which are oil immersed. An oil conservator and Buchholz relay are also commonly found to monitor oil levels. Their combined function accommodates expansion and contraction of the oil in the main tank due to temperature changes or fault and also to provide audible alarms when the oil level falls below the minimum due to any leakages.

WHY? As transformers age, they become more likely to lose internal oil. It is important for oil levels in the transformer main tanks to be full, as they act as an insulator and allows the transformers to function efficiently. For transformers that are not fitted with an oil conservator or Buchholz relay, few means of oil level inspection exist and traditional methods include inspection by opening the lid of the transformer.  When the lid is opened, the insulating oil is exposed to the moisture in the atmosphere and will increase the rate of oil deterioration causing the life of insulating oil to shorten. Shortened life spans lead not only to more frequent oil changes, but also significant downtime to the system when an oil change is conducted. Moisture in oil accelerates oxidation which results in the formation of acids and contributes to the formation of sludge. Over time, the sludge settles on the windings and the inside structures causing transformer cooling to be less efficient and an overall increase in transformer temperature which lowers its efficiency. Therefore, traditional methods of oil inspection inside transformers are not only time consuming and cumbersome, they also contribute directly to increased maintenance costs.   

HOW? The Portalevel® MAX will be a safe, efficient and reliable solution to inspect oil levels in transformers non-invasively, typically in transformers that have no means of external oil indication. With the Portalevel® MAX, oil level inspection can be done routinely without opening the lid of the transformer and thus prevent unwanted moisture from being absorbed by the oil which deteriorates the oil. This practice is capable of prolonging the life span of the transformer oil whilst reducing the cost incurred from frequent oil changes and significant downtime when a fault develops as a result of low oil levels or poor oil conditions.  

How have seals been tested traditionally?

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

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

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

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

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

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

CASE STUDY 1: 

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

CASE STUDY 2:

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

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

How can ultrasound change this?

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

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

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

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

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.

Test Corrosion with the Portagauge® 3 and 4

Our single-echo Portagauge™ 3 has been in service and upgraded many times for 20 years. Known as the “low cost Marine Superintendents Thickness Gauge” it is widely used in the shipping industry. Small, hand-held, highly versatile and accurate it is joined by the multiple-echo metal-only Portagauge® 4 – so that it takes only the metal reading not its coating as well. We now have a range of ultrasonic sensors to work aboard ships but also to test wall-corrosion of fire safety cylinders and gaseous fire extinguishing and fire sprinkler pipework so that testing can take place cleanly and non-invasively, without disturbing the system.

Technical Specifications of Ultrasonic Thickness Gauge

Here, we have enlisted technical specs available with this ultrasonic gas leak detector. Give it a look!

Dimensions

  • Width: 90mm
  • Height: 147mm
  • Depth: 28mm
  • Weight: 325grams

Accuracy

±0.1mm (0.005”) or ±0.05mm (0.002”)

Verifiable Agents

Steel, Aluminum, Brass, Grey Cast Iron, Cast Iron, Copper, Zinc

Power Supply

3x disposable AA alkaline batteries or rechargeable NiHM/NiCD (battery life 20 hours)

Sensor

  • 5 MHz 13mm (1/2”) (blue) & 6mm (1/4”) (blue)
  • 3.50 MHz Probe 13mm (1/2”) (green)
  • 2.25MHz Probe 19mm (3/4”) (yellow) & 13mm (1/2”) (yellow)
  • Display
  • LCD Numeric Digital Display with LED Bar Graph

Operating Temperature

-10 C to +50 C (14°F to 122°F)

Certificates

  • ISO 19011 Registered
  • CE

Classification

  • British Standard BS EN 15317:2007 which covers the characterization and verification of ultrasonic thickness measuring equipment
  • IP Rating 65

Warranty

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

Portalevel Mini Nippon Content

  • 1 Hardy Carrying Case
  • 1 Potagauge IV unit
  • Operating Instructions
  • 1 2.25MHz Sensor
  • Calibration certificate

For further information, download PDF

Deliver fire engineering to protect risks

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.

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.

How can ultrasonic technology cut down the ungoverned space?

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

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

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

  • Ultrasound is merely acoustic (sound) energy in the form of waves of high frequency that are above the human audible range.
  • Portascanner® WATERTIGHT uses ultrasound to test the integrity of confined spaces and can detect leak sites as small as 0.06mm.
  • Portagauge® 3 uses ultrasound to test the internal and external corrosion on pipework and cylinder wall thickness to an accuracy of +/-0.1mm.
  • Globally we are known for the design and manufacture of 11 different model types of Portalevel® liquid level indicators. Accurate to +/-1.5mm for CO2, FM-200™ , NOVEC™ 1230, HFC-225 & 227, remaining Halon systems, FE-13™, FE-25™ and FE-36™. 

Faster, Better, Cheaper: Portascanner® WATERTIGHT

Owners, managers, marine surveyors, third party servicing companies and other mariners have pledged their support for the Portascanner® WATERTIGHT for years.

For 3 simple reasons: “it is faster, better, cheaper” than any competitor. But don’t take Coltraco Ultrasonics’ word for it, here are 3 customer testimonials:

We did some transit inspection work on one of our customers vessel using the Portascanner and we are very pleased with your instrument. We are looking forward extending our service offer using it.” – Techsol Marine, Canada

“The fleet was equipped with a unit per Bulk Carrier and the units are and working well, providing the confidence that there will be no problems with water damage claims.” Ship Management Company

“Our PORTASCANNER Watertight integrity testing unit performed well during the entire period of use, proved rugged and we feel sure that if it had not required returning for mandatory calibration and certification, the unit would have performed well for many more years to come.” Captain J.F. Holmes, Botrans

The Portascanner® WATERTIGHT is:

  • Faster: designed for ease of use from poorly educated crew up to chief engineer – no need for extensive and expensive training courses, simply read the operating instructions in the kit and away you go
  • Better: most mathematically accurate to 0.06 (+/-0.02mm) to identify leak integrity quickly and easily allowing prompt maintenance if required
  • Cheaper: never beaten on price guarantee from Coltraco Ultrasonics who are used to serving the world’s leading fleets for 30 years

The Portascanner® generator is the most efficient of all on the market. Unlike the old “Hedgehog Generator”, the Portascanner® generator has excellent battery life, is light and small, has magnetic mount, is highly sensitive and uses smart pinpoint technology to direct ultrasound to the seals during testing.

Coltraco Ultrasonics’ mission delivering Safeship® solutions to improve safety of life, assets and vessels at sea. They do by manufacturing high quality British instrumentation, supplied to over 100 countries worldwide, since 1987. Coltraco Ultrasonics focus on benefitting the crew; designing innovative ultrasonic solutions which the crew will be happy to use by being easy to operate, quick, accurate and a better method to traditional techniques. Thus increasing the likelihood of tests being regularly conducted, in line with regulations and even going above and beyond for more frequent testing. By so doing, the crew will be creating a safer ship.

Discover more about Coltraco Ultrasonics’ commitment to customer care and safety on www.coltraco.com.

Why Buy a Portamonitor® Bearing Indicator?

84% of degradation to bearings occurs once installed. Monitoring can detect abnormalities caused by

these and allow preparations for maintenance or replacement, ultimately avoiding failure and saving

money. A failure of a bearing is not just the part itself, but for example in the marine industry, the cost

to a vessel owner is repair, fitting and downtime in dock and loss of earning whilst not operational.

Without systematic procedures and planned maintenance (enabled by condition monitoring) then cost

can be very damaging to a business.

  • Portamonitor® is a sophisticated AE device that combines Distress® and db levels
  • Decibels indicate the actual noise signature of the bearing. By checking the noise of the bearing

over time (whilst running at comparative speeds) as the noise increases, it indicates an increase in degradation of the bearing. This is used for continuous long-term monitoring, i.e. checking

the bearing as part of scheduled maintenance, recording he readings each time and watching

for a spike in readings

  • Distress provides an instant indication of bearing health. Readings over 10, indicate a bearing

declining in condition

  • Sound generated by friction and impacts caused by poor lubrication or bearing damage

propagates as a stress wave is detectable by the Portamonitor®.

  • Signal is processed at sensor level allowing quick and effective diagnostics.

4. Competitive Advantages of the Portamonitor®

Appropriate monitoring matters because false diagnosis can result in undue downtime, wasted time,

money and resources.

4.1. When to use?

Portamonitor® can be used for pre-service (proof) testing as well as in-service (re-qualification) testing

and condition monitoring.

4.2. Benefits of distress® readings

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. Algorithms

inside the Portamonitor® sort this data for comparison against acceptable limits categorised by a

number.

4.3. Display

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.

4.4. Low Cost & Money Saving

The Portamonitor® is low cost and is very easy to use and train crew and easy to integrate into

scheduled maintenance. Using this regularly extends the lifetime of key pumps, bearings and gearboxes

saving significant amounts of money over the lifetime of the vessel, extending the time between

machinery replacement and ensuring failures do not occur at critical times

Protect your reputation, improve your fire safety management

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

Focused on continued advancement of safety technology, Coltraco have now developed the Permalevel™ Multiplex, a fixed fire suppression monitoring system, designed for continuous contents verification. The Permalevel® Multiplex is designed  to  ensure  that fire  suppression  systems  are  always  fully operational and that no accidental discharge has occurred, which could affect the effectiveness of the overall fire protection system in the event of a fire. With guaranteed systems operations, adaptability for purpose, 24/7 remote access to the systems status, an interruptible power supply and remote real-time monitoring, the Permalevel® offers the efficiency that is needed in a wind turbine.

For regular inspection, the Portalevel® MAX is a handheld ultrasonic liquid level indicator, which can service a cylinder in 30 seconds (in contrast to 15minutes by traditional manual weighing) with accuracy of up to 1.5mm off the true liquid level. The Portalevel® MAX builds on Coltraco Ultrasonics’ 30 years’ experience in designing, manufacturing and supporting ultrasonic liquid level indicating equipment, in 108 Countries and numerous market sectors and environments.The development program was born out of the desire to further improve on Coltraco’s existing 8 designs and taking on board feedback and opinions of our customers

Improve Your Efficiency and Lower Your Costs

Industries across the world use transformers across their facilities. These transformers come in a wide variety. It is imperative to check the oil levels inside to ensure they run smoothly and increase the long-term operation by improved maintenance. Testing oil levels is difficult to achieve traditionally. But today, ultrasonic technology enables non-destructive testing to be conducted by testing from the exterior, non-invasively.

The Safesite® solution is Portalevel® MAX INDUSTRIAL, the world leading handheld ultrasonic liquid level indicator. The likes of utilities companies and hydro from London to USA to the Middle East are using this product to solve their needs and enhance their maintenance measures.

Background

Transformers are used in electric power transmission and distributions and are devices that transfer electric power at different voltage levels. The main components within the transformers are the core and windings which are oil immersed. An oil conservator and Buchholz relay is also commonly found to monitor oil levels. Their combined function accommodates expansion and contraction of the oil in the main tank due to temperature changes or fault and also to provide audible alarms when the oil level falls below the minimum due to any leakages.

As transformers age, they become more likely to lose internal oil. It is important for oil levels in the transformer main tanks to be full, as they act as an insulator and allows the transformers to function efficiently. For transformers that are not fitted with an oil conservator or Buchholz relay, few means of oil level inspection exist and traditional methods include inspection by opening the lid of the transformer.

Portalevel MAX application 1

Application – issues with traditional inspection methods: When the lid is opened, the insulating oil is exposed to the moisture in the atmosphere and will increase the rate of oil deterioration causing the life of insulating oil to shorten. Shortened life spans lead not only to more frequent oil changes, but also significant downtime to the system when an oil change is conducted. Moisture in oil accelerates oxidation which results in the formation of acids and contributes to the formation of sludge. Over time, the sludge settles on the windings and the inside structures causing transformer cooling to be less efficient and an overall increase in transformer temperature which lowers its efficiency. Therefore, traditional methods of oil inspection inside transformers are not only time consuming and cumbersome, they also contribute directly to increased maintenance costs.

Solution: The Portalevel MAX INDUSTRIAL will be a safe, efficient and reliable solution to inspect oil levels in transformers non-invasively, typically in transformers that have no means of external oil indication. With the Portalevel MAX Transformer, oil level inspection can be done routinely without opening the lid of the transformer and thus prevent unwanted moisture from being absorbed by the oil which deteriorates the oil.

Results: This practice is capable of prolonging the life span of the transformer oil whilst reducing the cost incurred from frequent oil changes and significant downtime when a fault develops as a result of low oil levels or poor oil conditions.

Portalevel MAX application 2

Background Issue: High voltage transformer and switch gear units are often designed to be submerged in oil which act as an insulator, making sure any technicians working on the units are not at risk of potentially fatal shocks. As such, it is critical to know that the oil is still present and at a suitable level, before any maintenance or access to these units is undertaken.

Solution and Results: Many companies around the world are beginning to use the Portalevel MAX for checking the oil levels in Transformer & Switch Gear units. Since this equipment can non-invasively check the presence from the outside of the tanks, technicians can operate safely and with confidence.

How can crew test their CO2 installations without disturbing them?

As stated in IMO SOLAS FSS Ch5. 2.1.1.3: “Means shall be provided for the crew to safely check the quantity of the fire extinguishing medium in the container”

Often this is misunderstood, this code specifically states that the crew must test their extinguishing installations in between the periodic inspection, maintenance and certification. Only having the annual inspection by accredited marine servicing companies is not enough – the crew must take responsibility for its own fire protection.  However, what must be noted is that the crew are often not trained or certified to shut-down, dismantle, weigh and re-install the gaseous cylinders. To overcome this, ships need to test their CO2 & marine CO2 systems for contents in-between the annual certification checks by marine servicing companies.

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

Solutions for any vessels marine gaseous extinguishing system exist:

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

Protect tankers from the risk of explosion 

Addressing fire in tankers is critical, especially when all owners and managers are seeking to reduce risk, cut costs and surge on safety. The safety of tankers is integral for the continuation of their business success. Catastrophic risks to human life, vessel, reputation and revenue all result from a fire event onboard. One simple step towards improving fire safety onboard is ensuring all equipment is intrinsically safe approved, to protect the crew against the risk of explosion. 

The risk of explosion on tankers means that technology inspecting the fixed fire suppression systems must be designed for the atmospheres on tankers. LNG is only dangerous when it meets an ignition source. The International Maritime Risk Rating Agency (IMRRA) placed 12.5% of tankers it assessed in 2017 into the higher risk category for their fire safety. 

SPECIFIC AREAS OF RISK

The engine room, motor rooms and cargo compressor rooms on tankers carrying LNG & LPG are often protected by CO2 & marine CO2 systems. Fully operative fire systems on an offshore platform is paramount and demanded by ISO 14520 and PFEER codes. Gaseous extinguishing systems are highly pressurised, the risk of leaking and discharging is accepted as part of their use, shown in the regulations that demand their upkeep e.g. IMO SOLAS FSS Ch5. 2.1.1.3. The systems are pressurised approximately 50 bars, significantly higher than a standard cup of water, which is just 1bar. It’s accepted that these systems are not passive but dynamic, thus requiring monitoring. 

SERIOUS INCIDENTS

Serious cases of tanker fires and risks have been reported in the past years. In March 2017 there was an explosion on a Chinese Tanker, in which 3 crew members went missing and serious damage to the vessel was caused.  One of the most tragic incidents of 2018 was the Sanchi oil tanker explosion, on 6 January 2018. After the explosion on the tanker, tragically 31 crew members lost their lives. The Sanchi oil tanker was carrying 136,000 tonnes of natural gas condensate, and the estimate financial damage of the sinking of the vessel is estimated at $110 million.

 TRADITION VS TECHNOLOGY 

For the gaseous systems, the traditional method requires turning the system off, dismantling and manually weighing each cylinder on industrial scales. Routine maintenance is liable to be overlooked because the crew is unqualified to test or insufficient attention is given by the owner of the system. It’s neglected to the peril of the lives of occupants of the vessel and at the risk of crippling financial and reputational loss to the tanker. 

Ultrasound should be harnessed by innovators in the safety of offshore platforms.  By utilising a sensor which acts as a transceiver, an ultrasonic liquid level indicator is capable of detecting liquid levels within any single-skinned container through transmitting an ultrasonic pulse and analysing the strength of the returned signal to determine the level of contents.  Importantly, due to the risk of explosion on the oil and gas tankers, ultrasonic liquid level indicators used on board to ensure fire safety, must be Intrinsically Safe.  

APPROVE THE APPROVAL METHODS

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

LEADING OPERATORS LEAD ON FIRE SAFETY

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

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

Brand New Flow Meter – Portasonic® 2.FL0

Coltraco Ultrasonics are excited to announce the brand-new generation of Portasonic® 2.FL0.

After rigorous research and design, Coltraco are proud to release a more accurate, reliable and flexible

ultrasonic flow meter.

  1. 1. Accurate - the Portasonic 2.FL0 is accurate to +/-1% accuracy
  2. 2. Reliable - the Portasonic 2.FL0 is calibrated to ISO17025 standards
  3. 3. Flexible - the Portasonic 2.FL0 has 3 modes of operation, making it suitable to different

Environments

The Portasonic® 2.FL0 ultrasonic flow meter is used to measure flow rates of clean liquid in pipe. The

device comes with clamp on transducers for non-invasive measurement. The Portasonic® 2.FL0 utilizes

two transducers, one that acts as ultrasonic transmitters and the other a receivers. There are three

principles of operation; V-method, W-method or Z-method which refers to transducer positioning. The

software calculates the time it takes for the ultrasonic pulse to pass from the transmitter to the

receiver, which is dependent on the flow rate.

With no moving parts and an easy digital set up mean it’s a cost effective and time effective

maintenance solution. Reduction of maintenance time and cost is a driving factor within any business

operation with pipework installed. Accurate flow data provides the chance to make energy saving

measures by fine tuning the systems.

Portasonic® 2.FL0 can be used for spot checks, using an internal, rechargeable battery or for extended

continuous operation as a 4-20mA flow transmitter with AC power input. The ease of use and accuracy

of Portasonic® 2.FL0 allows for improved business continuity and safer buildings and industrial facilities

across a variety of industry verticals. With the ability to conduct spot checks at mandated intervals, full

integrity of pipework can be ensured.

What is one of the core challenges in the coal mining industry? Saving people, assets and infrastructure from fire.

In the coal industry, there are continual challenges that owners and operators face in ensuring consistent plant safety.

Some of the key challenges presented to the staff are fire prevention and control, corrosion in pipework and structures, and ensuring that vital power sources such as transformers are always operational.

The case studies below exemplify the challenges in the mining industry and how these can be overcome.

Fire & Explosion:

WHO? NRG Energy

WHERE? The Morgan Town Plant is a coal powered power station based in Maryland. NRG own the USA’s largest and more diverse power generation competitive portfolio. NRG are dedicated to smart and reliable energy sourcing, and emission reductions although coal is a significant part of the electricity generation.

WHAT? Fires and explosions pose a constant threat to the safety of miners and to the productive capacity of mines. Mine fires and explosions traditionally have ranked among the most devastating industrial disasters. The prevention and control of fire and explosion in mines is fundamental. On a mine site, fire hazards may occur in and around process plants, underground conveyors, static and mobile plants, draglines, workshops, substations, monitored control rooms and switch rooms. All mines have highly expensive and mission critical equipment that typically operate day and night under extremely hostile conditions, in vast, remote and difficult to access environments, especially on underground equipment.

Gaseous fire suppression systems are the preferred systems installed to protect the high value asset and safeguard operators and processes so as to guarantee business continuity.

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

HOW? After witnessing fire service experts undertaking ultrasonic liquid level indication in just minutes, NRG Energy were keen to change from their previous method of weighing which took over 15 minutes. The Portalevel® Max is an example of the technologically advanced techniques that the company are implementing to lead the way in safe and sustainable coal sourcing.  Portalevel® MAX is a handheld ultrasonic liquid level indicator to inspect CO2, clean agents and more liquefied gaseous agents, by one person in just 30 seconds  As a safety critical asset, the Morgan Town Plant saw the necessity in investing into their fire safety.

CASE STUDY 2: Corrosion in Metal Work

WHO? Vales Point Power Station

WHERE? Delta, Australia. The coal fired power station is at the southern end of lake Macquarie. This power station was built in the 1960’s as a four-unit station, but now operates two 660 MW generating units. The power station is owned and operated by Power International, with the capacity of around 1,320 megawatts, providing 24 hours of around the clock electricity.

WHAT? Corrosion in power plants leads to costly repairs, prolonged maintenance, material losses, poor performance and, if left untreated, failure. In power plants, corrosion is the primary factor leading to costly and critical downtimes. When corrosion affects systems carrying steam or hot water—such as pipes—material or welds may fail, causing bodily injury or death. Water, steel and dissolved oxygen within boiler units causes boiler tubes to oxidize and corrode. The corrosion forms grooves within the tubes that lead to cracks and boiler failures. Corrosion can account for up to 75 percent of a plant’s arrest time during maintenance and up to 54 percent of production costs.

HOW? To protect against the threat of corrosion, Vales Point Power Station bought a Portagauge® for testing normal structure and stainless steel, so that they could monitor corrosion rates. The Portagauge® 3 is a single-echo portable thickness gauge. The quick, simple and hardy Portagauge® 3 allows accuracy of ±0.1mm even on corroded, challenging and some plastic surfaces. With a 50 hour battery life, measuring thickness ranges between 1.5mm to 99.9mm and a variety of verified testing materials such as steel, quartz and glass PVC, the Portagauge® 3 provides the great amount versatility needed to suit a diversity of safety needs. The handheld highly dependable unit is ideal for a wide range of industrial applications such as fire cylinders, bulk heads, pipework, chemical equipment and oil storage tanks.

The likelihood of the gaseous system effectively extinguishing.

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

No! People expect, and rightfully so, that in the event of a fire the extinguishing systems would be in full working order to do just that – extinguish. Given that the gaseous systems are designed specifically to the individual need of that room, building e.t.c, then a leak sites in the room could meant that the comparted area couldn’t withhold the fire.

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

Key Facts

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

SOURCE: Aviva Insurance, 2012

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 testing, the last review of the Building Regulations Approved Document B was made in 2006 (12 years ago) and its next review was not due to be completed until 2022 (which would then be a gap of 17 years), meaning that the attention that is deserved is often disregarded.

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

ISO14520-1:2015(E)

We will lead with some extracts from the regulations which is why this paper argues that the industry is sometimes minimally compliant or even non-compliant due to a lack of understanding of fire systems and their connection to compartmentation. This paper calls for a more holistic approach to fire safety. The author suggests the need for a resident mathematician to assist the industry.

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

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

Meeting minimum fire standards is not enough

As the CEO of Coltraco Ultrasonics I am dedicated to ensuring our technology solves 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.

The technology exists right now to solve this problem.  

In 2017 with the continuing developments in technology, and following the ongoing inquiry into the Grenfell tragedy, there is an expectation that safety should be all encompassing. We cannot let this expectation continue to be a fantasy.

Fire Safety Improvements are Required

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

Why does fire safety need to be improved?

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

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

What risk does fire pose to the crew?

Lives are at stake. This is unacceptable.

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

What concerns have been voiced?

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

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

What protects the crew from fire?

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

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

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

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

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

Why is this the case?

Time pressures.

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

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

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

 

What measures should be taken?

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

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

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

What is the solution?

The crew must take responsibility for its own fire protection.

 

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

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

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

Test Your Fire Suppression Systems

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

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

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

Address the two main causes of vessel loss

 “Ships sink; fires happen”. Addressing these two main causes of vessel loss are critical, especially when all owners and managers are seeking to reduce risk, cut costs and surge on safety. Carnival Cruises chose to protect their fleet by improving fire safety. One aspect of this is that they chose Coltraco Ultrasonics to be their supplier for the Portalevel® MAX Marine which tests the CO2 fire installations onboard for leaks in content. The Portalevel ® MAX Marine is designed primarily for the vessels’ crew to themselves inspect large fire suppression systems of up to 600 cylinders. The ease of operation in comparison to weighing, increases the ability of more regular and frequent checks, improving fire safety management onboard. Coltraco’s innovative method of inspecting leaking cylinders with ultrasonics, enables identification in under 30 seconds using Portalevel® with one person, instead of the traditional 15 minutes, with two people laboriously weighing. Coltraco have recently been shortlisted for the Seatrade Cruise Awards, ‘Supplier of the Year’, because of our supply to Carnival Cruises. The safety of their ships is integral for the continuation of their business success and it can be for yours too.

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

Combined with the MAX Marine, The Portasteele® Calculator is an advanced calculator application, that converts the liquid level height of C02, NOVEC™ 1230 and FM-200® liquefied gaseous extinguishant agent readings taken on an ultrasonic non-destructive liquid level indicator device into the agent weight/mass.  Furthermore, the Portasteele® can convert an expected agent weight back to the required liquid level allowing users to anticipate where the level should be.

The Crew Must Test Their Gaseous Extinguishing Systems

As stated in IMO SOLAS FSS Ch5. 2.1.1.3: “Means shall be provided for the crew to safely check the quantity of the fire extinguishing medium in the container”

Often this is misunderstood, this code specifically states that the crew must test their extinguishing installations in between the periodic inspection, maintenance and certification. Only having the annual inspection by accredited marine servicing companies is not enough – the crew must take responsibility for its own fire protection.  However, what must be noted is that the crew are often not trained or certified to shut-down, dismantle, weigh and re-install the gaseous cylinders. To overcome this, ships need to test their CO2 systems for contents in-between the annual certification checks by marine servicing companies.

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

Solutions for any vessels marine gaseous extinguishing system exist:

  • Portalevel® MAX Marine liquid level indicator used by the crew weekly to test for contents
  • Portascanner® WATERTIGHT, watertight integrity test indicators used by the crew to test for compartmentation
  • Portapipe® pipework integrity indicators used to test for pipework obstructions and the Portagauge® thickness gauges for pipework corrosion
  • Compressed air testing of the pipework and flanges to test the pipework system’s ability to withstand the pressures of the gas on actuation (and this is the only test which recommended to be solely the responsibility of a  “responsible” shore-based contractor)

A Company of Exporters: Case Study

We have created the capability to “better, faster, cheaper” than any of our competitors at home and overseas. Our reputational integrity is stronger today than ever because our customers and markets know that integrity is our founding value from concept design through to life time after sales customer care.

Working in India is a wonder and a challenge concurrently. One particular export example we are proud of, is in the maritime and defence sector: supplying our watertight integrity monitoring systems to India’s naval fleet. The Indian Navy is developing a 300-ship fleet:

  • This leveraged Coltraco’s experience working with the Royal Navy and US Navy on surface and subsurface vessels. 
  • Navies need to maintain watertight compartment integrity. If a flood occurs, you need to make sure the water does not spread through compartments. 
  • Coltraco developed the means to do this using ultrasonic technology to test watertight integrity called Portascanner® WATERTIGHT 
  • The Indian Navy carried out extensive trials on the equipment alongside competitor technologies. After three years, the Indian Navy selected it as the best in class and installed the equipment across their Western and Eastern Fleets.
  • Mindful of the long-term Engineering & Maintenance support contract as much as the acquisition itself, the commitment to after sales in-country support was critical to the success of the project and the company established an Indian ODA Service Station to provide this in-country.
  • Coltraco has also developed the world’s first Calculator app designed to log data and compute leak site apertures from the Portascanner® readings, which has been shortlisted for the Seatrade Asia Maritime Safety awards 2018.

Transformer oil levels in a copper, lead, silver, zinc and gold mine

WHERE? Gold Mine, Australia

WHAT? Transformers are used in electric power transmission and distributions and are devices that transfer electric power at different voltage levels. The main components within the transformers are the core and windings which are oil immersed. An oil conservator and Buchholz relay are also commonly found to monitor oil levels. Their combined function accommodates expansion and contraction of the oil in the main tank due to temperature changes or fault and also to provide audible alarms when the oil level falls below the minimum due to any leakages.

WHY? As transformers age, they become more likely to lose internal oil. It is important for oil levels in the transformer main tanks to be full, as they act as an insulator and allows the transformers to function efficiently. For transformers that are not fitted with an oil conservator or Buchholz relay, few means of oil level inspection exist and traditional methods include inspection by opening the lid of the transformer.  When the lid is opened, the insulating oil is exposed to the moisture in the atmosphere and will increase the rate of oil deterioration causing the life of insulating oil to shorten. Shortened life spans lead not only to more frequent oil changes, but also significant downtime to the system when an oil change is conducted. Moisture in oil accelerates oxidation which results in the formation of acids and contributes to the formation of sludge. Over time, the sludge settles on the windings and the inside structures causing transformer cooling to be less efficient and an overall increase in transformer temperature which lowers its efficiency. Therefore, traditional methods of oil inspection inside transformers are not only time consuming and cumbersome, they also contribute directly to increased maintenance costs.   

HOW? The Portalevel® MAX will be a safe, efficient and reliable solution to inspect oil levels in transformers non-invasively, typically in transformers that have no means of external oil indication. With the Portalevel® MAX, oil level inspection can be done routinely without opening the lid of the transformer and thus prevent unwanted moisture from being absorbed by the oil which deteriorates the oil. This practice is capable of prolonging the life span of the transformer oil whilst reducing the cost incurred from frequent oil changes and significant downtime when a fault develops as a result of low oil levels or poor oil conditions.  

The Need for Standardisation

Standardisation is required in the shipping industry to allow for confidence in technology by operators. Common standards ensures consistency, which promotes safety and efficiency. Standardisation is key to streamline processes and in the exchange of data – when utilised this will allow the shipping industry to embrace the huge potential that digitalisation has to offer the shipping industry.

Shipping needs to adopt an approach such as the aerospace industry, which is affected by international cooperation and strongly controlled by national and international regulations and standards in order to ensure safety, reliability, and cost-efficiency. In the aerospace industry, the Federal Aviation Administration and European Aviation Safety Agency generate the regulations and the airlines and  member state national civil aviation authorities, such as the UK Civil Aviation Authority and Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul services implement them. A failure to certify that they have been implemented will result in an aircraft not being certified to fly.

In shipping the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) generates many of the regulations and its member flag states, such as the UK’s Maritime and Coastgaurd Agency, are expected to implement them. Indeed, they are subject to interpretation by them. The single most useful thing that the UK could do for shipping globally is to lead at the IMO so that its regulations are implemented through standardisation.

Case Study:

Speaking in from the expertise of Coltraco Ultrasonics (in the monitoring of gaseous extinguishing systems), below is an example of how standardisation will allow the shipping industry to become safer and ensure the implementation of regulations.

The regulations that currently govern gaseous extinguishing systems are the IMO SOLAS Fire Safety Systems (FSS) Code and the BS EN ISO 14520 standards. These require that the liquefied gaseous cylinders be checked for an agent loss of more than 5%, at which point they should be refilled or replaced.

Standardisation means that the crew have a responsibility to implement the regulations via regular testing, which enabled through smart ultrasonic technology and Internet of Things (IoT) IoT, should be done continuously to avoid negligence and unnecessary risk.

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.

Continuously monitoring the cylinders with ultrasonic liquid level 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.

Although the implementation of the IMO SOLAS FSS and ISO 14520 codes with continuous monitoring and IoT could drive up costs of purchasing and installation, the long-term savings and benefits far outweighs the initial cost.

But for this to work seamlessly, there must be a standardisation so that the data that is received by shore-based operators from the vessel, is understood and actioned upon as per the IMO regulations. As shown by a new paper from DNV GL standardisation can enable the effective collection, storage, exchange, analysis and use of data, while contributing to improved data quality and sensor reliability in the maritime industry.

Important factor for our customers is to minimise risk

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

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

What is the CCC?

Customer – we invite you to benefit from Coltraco’s ethos of integrity from design to 
lifetime support
Care – we think care is better if its personal so you can arrange a phone call any time that suits you worldwide to answer your queries
Commitment – we want to save you cost and time, whilst helping you improve safety.
How can you cut risk with the Portacare® Package?
Know your upfront unit cost plus maintenance cost when buying new equipment. The package includes:

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

Keen to learn more about the Portacare®? Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for pricing, the brochure and frequently asked questions.

Coltraco Ultrasonics are excited to announce the brand-new generation of Portasonic®, the 2.FL0.

After rigorous research and design, Coltraco are proud to release a more accurate, reliable and flexible

ultrasonic flow meter.

1. Accurate - the Portasonic 2.FL0 is accurate to +/-1% accuracy
2. Reliable - the Portasonic 2.FL0 is calibrated to ISO17025 standards
3. Flexible - the Portasonic 2.FL0 has 3 modes of operation, making it suitable to differen Environments

The Portasonic® 2.FL0 ultrasonic flow meter is used to measure flow rates of clean liquid in pipe.

The device comes with clamp on transducers for non-invasive measurement. The Portasonic® 2.FL0 utilizes
two transducers, one that acts as ultrasonic transmitters and the other a receivers. There are three
principles of operation; V-method, W-method or Z-method which refers to transducer positioning. The
software calculates the time it takes for the ultrasonic pulse to pass from the transmitter to the
receiver, which is dependent on the flow rate.

With no moving parts and an easy digital set up mean it’s a cost effective and time effective
maintenance solution. Reduction of maintenance time and cost is a driving factor within any business
operation with pipework installed. Accurate flow data provides the chance to make energy saving
measures by fine tuning the systems.

Portasonic® 2.FL0 can be used for spot checks, using an internal, rechargeable battery or for extended
continuous operation as a 4-20mA flow transmitter with AC power input. The ease of use and accuracy
of Portasonic® 2.FL0 allows for improved business continuity and safer buildings and industrial facilities
across a variety of industry verticals. With the ability to conduct spot checks at mandated intervals, full
integrity of pipework can be ensured.

Conduct Your Risk Assessments: CO2 Systems Leak

Confirmed by ABS & Italian Coastguard

Gaseous Systems Leak: confirmed in recent communications from American Bureau of Shipping (ABS) and the Italian Coastguard.

In July 2018, the ABS released advice that there have been multiple cases  reported in which CO2 cylinders in fixed fire systems have been found empty. Because of this, ABS have recommended that all shipowners need to conduct a risk assessment of their CO2 systems.

As per the Ministero delle Infrastrutture e dei Trasporti, The Italian Coastguard in a communication to its members: “In consideration of the need to ensure the continuous functionality of the aforementioned fixed fire protection system and to prevent an unexpected release of CO2 into the work environment, it is established that - as of the date of receipt of this Circular - these companies perform, for the units managed with the aforementioned plant, a specific and documented risk assessment, aimed at outlining any necessary measures to protect workers' health and safety.” (translated from Italian).

Why do they leak?

A ship’s gaseous extinguishing system typically comprises between 200 and 600 cylinders each containing 45KG of CO2 under high 720 psi/ 49 bar pressure.

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

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

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

What is the solution?

Using an ultrasonic liquid level indicator is the only way that the crew can safely test their CO2 without disturbing them. Coltraco Ultrasonics designed

the ABS Type Approved Portalevel® MAX Marine & Portamarine® ultrasonic liquid level indicators, as radioactive units were being phased out. The Portalevel® MAX MARINE allows crew to implement IMO SOLAS FSS codes by testing safely and quickly (just 30-60 seconds per cylinder).

The Portalevel® MAX Marine allows the crew to be in charge of checking the CO2 systems, as many times as needed: ensuring that the systems will be working when they are needed.

ABS Type Approved Portalevel® MAX Marine is designed primarily for the vessels’ crew to inspect large CO2 & marine CO2 systems of up to 600 cylinders.

  • The ease of operation in comparison to weighing, increases the ability of more regular and frequent checks, improving fire safety management onboard.
  • Coltraco’s innovative method of inspecting leaking cylinders with ultrasonics, enables identification in under 30 seconds using Portalevel® with one person, instead of the traditional 15 minutes, with two people laboriously weighing.

Combined with the MAX Marine, The Portasteele® Calculator is an advanced  application, that converts the liquid level height of C02, NOVEC™ 1230 and FM-200® liquefied gaseous extinguishant agent readings taken on a Portalevel® device into the agent weight/mass.  The Portasteele® CALCULATOR can convert an expected agent weight back to the required liquid level allowing users to anticipate where the level should be.

As advised by ABS and Italian Coastguard, it’s time to conduct your risk assessment and start maintaining your CO2 systems. Choose the quickest, easiest and effective way to maintain your CO2 systems: The Portalevel® MAX Marine and Portasteele® CALCULATOR.

Coltraco Ultrasonics’ mission delivering Safeship® solutions to improve safety of life, assets and vessels at sea. They do by manufacturing high quality British instrumentation, supplied to over 100 countries worldwide, since 1987.

Discover more about Coltraco Ultrasonics’ commitment to customer care and safety on www.coltraco.com.

Minimum Fire Standards Are Not Enough

In response to the Grenfell Tower tragedy, Council Leader Cllr Stephen Cowan said “The fire in Kensington has made one thing clear – just meeting minimum fire standards is not enough. The regulations are clearly not good enough so we will be going above and beyond what is required.” Minimally complying with room integrity testing is not enough. As building age or their internal use is changed leak sites develop and the threat to people becomes high.

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. But what if this “good practice” is ignored, as it so frequently is, and there is a fire? The gaseous extinguishing system may not be able to control the fire.

Coltraco Ultrasonics have provided a smart solution to quick and easy assurance of compartmentation. The Portascanner® 520 uses ultrasonic Hatch Cover Tester 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.

Monitor Your Assets and Ensure Safety With Ultrasound

High value assets such as data centres (the UK has the largest concentration globally outside of the USA); military communication facilities (at the time of writing, the UK has the second largest defence budget globally); power generating stations; electricity and gas sub-stations; mobile phone networks; critical engineering facilities; offshore oil and gas platforms; pipeline transmission; and refineries, are all items of infrastructure with widespread catastrophic effect in the event of their downtime or shutdown. Their asset values requiring fire protection far exceed the delivery of minimal compliance, and the cost or damage to reputational integrity is far in excess of the cost of a real-time monitoring system.

The UK fire industry is accepted around the world as a leader in its understanding of good engineering practice and has some of the finest fire engineers globally. The definition of a free market is an idealised form of market economy in which buyers and sellers are allowed to transact freely based on a mutual agreement on price without state intervention in the form of taxes, subsidies or regulation. If we accept that we do not operate in such an economy but in one that is regulated and that we have global engineering standing within our industry, then the only reason price dominates is that government and regulators are standing aside from the creation of an environment in which safe engineering goes rewarded rather than being prejudiced, and potentially because the industry itself is unaware of the latest technology.

SCIENCE IS at the core of our company, which devotes significant resource to research and development for fire industry and end users.

Ultrasound is merely acoustic (sound) energy in the form of waves of high frequency that are above the human audible range. It is used industrial fields. Sound itself consists of vibrations that propagate as a mechanical wave or pressure and transmit through solid, liquid or gaseous mediums. In physiology, sound is the reception of such waves and in psychology their perception by the brain, which is why a human being listening with one ear angled from the other (and therefore at a different distance from the sound source to the other) ‘hears’ sound as one sound.

Coltraco aims to replicate nature and use these fundamental physical principles to design and manufacture products and systems that can be used by fire engineers and their customer installations.

Portascanner® 520 uses ultrasound to test the integrity of confined spaces and can detect leak sites as small as 0.06mm. Portagauge® 3 uses ultrasound to test the internal and external corrosion on pipework and cylinder wall thickness to an accuracy of +/- 0.1mm. Globally, we are known for the design and manufacture of 11 different model types of Portalevel® liquid level indicators, accurate to +/-1.5mm for CO2, FM-200, NOVEC 1230, HFC-225 and 227, remaining halon systems, FE-13, FE-25 and FE-36. We can monitor these 24/7 with the fixed data logging and autonomous monitoring systems Permalevel® Multiplex and Permalevel® Single Point. Signals from these fixed monitoring sites can be monitored centrally at the customer location. Globally. liquefied extinguishant weight conversions are mathematically possible with the recent launch of the world’s first Portasteele® Liquid level to mass conversion calculator.

Cheap Systems Minimally Comply

Although the value of the marine assets that fire systems protect is increasing rapidly, the competitiveness of the free market encourages 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. This creates an environment in which a ‘safety first’ culture is both eschewed 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,” says Carl Hunter, CEO & MD of Coltraco Ultrasonics. “In shipping, unless a fatality occurs, incidents are often left unreported.”

With many ships sailing with partially-filled, over-filled or empty carbon dioxide cylinders and many undisclosed instances of accidental discharges or slow seepages there is real cause for concern – and impetus to change.

“Given both the lives of crew and cargo are at stake, it seems unfathomable that these systems are not permanently monitored rather certified just once a year,” says Hunter, noting also that that crew should be in a position to inspect them. The FSS Code stipulates that “means shall be provided for the crew to safely check the quantity of the fire extinguishing medium in the containers”.

Arguably, the existence of regulations (such as those set by IMO) guides – and occasionally curbs – the direction taken by the free market. This then means that the current state of affairs, where ‘price is king’ results either from an unwillingness by regulators to create an environment where safe engineering is rewarded or because the industry itself is unaware of new technology that will help it meet both the spirit and letter of the regulation.

Technologies already exist 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.

Time Is Safety

Economic pressures do tend however to shipping companies to source contracts with Marine services cheaply and some of these companies bid to service a ships CO2 system at the most economical cost, sometimes meaning that there have been cases of inadequate work being performed, inadequate time allocated for the statutory certification check of the ships fire system and often caused by under-skilled and untrained servicing crews conducting manual cylinder weighing. This places the ships fire extinguishing system at risk of potential discharge from the high pressure (720 psi) during cylinder maintenance and if the cylinders have not been checked for correct CO2 agent fill weights may not give a full release when required.

Time is an important factor: to dismantle and weigh and re-install a 45KG CO2 cylinder can take 30-40 minutes. If a ship has several hundred cylinders it is difficult to imagine how this can take less than 3-4 days rather than the 3-4 hours some ships are tested in. Of every 100 cylinders it is estimated that 3-4 will have discharged completely and another 3-4 leaked partially particularly in ships older than 2 years old. Using a Portalevel™ each cylinder can be tested in 30 seconds and without shutting down and dismantling.

These economic pressures also affect ultrasonic watertight integrity testing in which low cost methods such as chalk compression and high pressure hose testing are most common, yet cannot give any indication of erosion points in a seal or areas which may give way under pressure and nor can be used when the vessel is at sea. The economic costs of the damage that could be caused to a vessel and cargo far outweighs the costs of a thorough test. The SOLAS Code suggests that on passenger ships there should be weekly watertight integrity inspections while the ship is at sea (Reg II-1/21.3).

Coltraco Ultrasonics understands the essential nature of safety assurance, and have a range of ultrasonic technology which provides non-invasive complete watertight and cylinder surveying on any vessel.

Having a Portalevel™ unit aboard each vessel is not an option for ship owners. The Portalevel MAX Marine is designed to test the contents of ships CO2 and NOVEC™1230 fire extinguishing cylinders in under 30 seconds. With an accuracy of up to +/- 1.5mm or 1/8” and the ability to measure multi-bank rows 2-4 deep, the Portalevel™ Max Marine is ideal for service companies inspecting large fire suppression systems in place of the statutory annual certification check by a licensed marine servicing company. Having a Portalevel™ on-board also means that ships are able to comply with IMO SOLAS FSS code (2.1.1.3 MEANS SHALL BE PROVIDED FOR THE CREW TO SAFELY CHECK THE QUANTITY OF FIRE-EXTINGUISHING MEDIUM IN THE CONTAINERS) as the ship’s crew can test the contents of their CO2 and NOVEC cylinders in-between the annual certification checks.

The Portasteele™ Calculator transforms the liquid level height of C02 NOVEC™ 123, FM-200™and other liquefied gaseous readings taken on the UL-listed Portalevel® MAX Marine device into weight/mass. This advanced technology is supplied on a stand-alone 7” computer-tablet which makes these calculations in real time. The Portasteele™ has the ability to save frequently used cylinder sizes and settings and export collected testing data directly via email.

Identify Your Leaking Cylinder

Coltraco Ultrasonics has developed a range of patented solutions to speed up the cylinder-checking process without compromising on safety standards. The company manufactures two particular tools specifically for this purpose: the PortalevelÒ MAX Marine and the PortasteeleÒ Calculator application. Used in conjunction by a single person, Hunter claims, these two products can enable crew to identify a leaking cylinder (or one that has previously leaked agent) within as little as 30 seconds.

The first step is to place the Portalevel MAX Marine against the side of the cylinder. This 160mm (h) x 82mm (w) x 30mm (d) monitor pings an ultrasonic signal into the cylinder, which allows the user to “pinpoint the liquid level sensor of suppressant agent”, Hunter says. This data can be logged and saved for future transfer to a PC or similar device, and is time-stamped for authenticity, so that operators/owners and crew can prove that they have carried out adequate checks in compliance with existing safety regulations.

In this way, the liquid level height has been obtained. However, it is not a given that the user will know how to convert this figure to determine the weight and mass of the extinguishing agent – nor that they will have the time to sit down and manually calculate hundreds of such readings.
The second step, then, is to feed the data captured by the Portalevel MAX Marine into the Portasteele® Calculator app. Hunter elaborates: “The app can be installed on a 5” or 7” tablet. The user inputs information related to: the extinguishing agent type [ie, CO2, Novec 1230, etc]; the cylinder dimensions; the temperature of the agent; and the liquid level indicator. The Portasteele® app then instantly provides the agent’s weight.” This process can also be conducted vice versa, inputting the suppressant agent’s mass/weight to generate a reading for liquid level height.

How is the Portascanner® 520 used to supplement the use of the Door Fan Test kit?

How is that done in a test?

Answer: Before or during the Door Fan Test, the goal is to obtain an overall understanding of
how much the room was leaking. The process to do this starts off by turning the ultrasound
emitter on and leaving the emitter in the room. Exit the room and look for areas which
commonly leak and use the receiver to pinpoint the exact position of these leaks where leaking
ultrasound would be detected. The leak tests can be done on doors, raised floors, cable
penetrations and out of air vents. Some wall areas can also be quickly checked by running the
sensor wand across. These leaks can be promptly sealed before the Door Fan Test equipment
is brought in or before the Door Fan Test is repeated

How can the more challenging areas of an enclosure be tested for leakage areas such as raised floors and false ceilings?

Answer: If the leakages from the room into the void area above the false ceiling need to be
found, one can locate the leaks in the ceiling tiles by placing the compact ultrasound generator
in the void area and scanning the false ceiling tiles below using the receiver.
If the leakages above the false ceiling tiles leading to the adjoining rooms is more of a concern,
then the important leakage areas to note in the ceiling void are areas close to the air vents or
cable penetrations that leads into the adjoining rooms. The ultrasound generator placed within
the room will fill the room with ultrasound allowing these areas to be tested from the adjoining
rooms.

When testing leaks that go from areas underneath raised flooring into the adjoining rooms,
the ultrasound generator can be placed underneath the floor tiles and the leaks tested outside
from the adjoining rooms. Examples of areas to note are areas where cabling exists between
the adjoining rooms. The ultrasound generator placed underneath the floor tiles will fill the
entire area with ultrasound and the leaks from the cable penetrations can be tested by pointing
the receiver towards the cable exit in the adjoining room.

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

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

The risk is worsened by the ageing nature of many bulk carrier ships in particular. There is also a degree of bending/deformation that naturally occurs in ships during travel, which puts pressure on hatch covers and can damage sealing. A recent wave of inexperienced crew members has swept across the shipping industry as a cost-saving mechanism, leaving vessel maintenance and hatch cover testing to decrease in quality. While hatch covers are often perceived as indestructible due to their large size and bulky exterior, in reality they are complex, finely made structures that need to be handled with care, a point that many mariners do not realise.
The case study of the Emma Maersk exemplifies the danger of improper servicing. A severe leakage occurred on the container ship in February 2013 when it was loaded with 14,000 containers. The leakage was caused because of a mechanical break-down of a stern thruster, creating the shaft tunnel to flood, as well as leading to severe ingress of water in the aft part. Eventually there was flooding of the main engine room. This was because of non-effective cable penetration 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.

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.

How can the Portascanner® 520 assist with Room Integrity/Door Fan

Tests?

There are 3 areas where the Portascanner® 520 will assist you in your Room Integrity Tests /

Door Fan Test (DFT):

  1. Pre-Room Integrity Test

Based on the assumption that many rooms fail their initial Room Integrity Test, the handheld

Portascanner® 520 will assist in:

  • 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 the test.

  • ADD TO RANGE OF SERVICES: Ultrasonic technology can add great value to the

contractor’s range of services by finding and patching up leaks before the

scheduled DFT test day. This is because sealants take time to set and may impede

the operations of a DFT if remedial work is conducted on the DFT scheduled day

itself.

  • MORE ACCURATE SERVICE QUOTES: Benefiting fire contractors and customers – as

ultrasound is fast and non-invasive, a quick ultrasonic leak survey can be conducted

on site to locate early leak sites. This information can assist the fire contractor’s

quoting process and may act as preliminary evidence to justify the quote proposed.

Overall, this practice improves the prospect of securing an initial DFT “PASS” – and

thus delivering up an efficacious fire protection outcome.

  1. During Room Integrity Test
    • EXACT & QUANTIFIABLE LEAK LOCATION: Use of ultrasonic technology can pinpoint

the exact location and extent of the leak sites while the DFT is being carried out.

      • TIME EFFICIENT: As ultrasound is quick and easy to use, the use of a Portascanner®

alongside DFT allows remedial work to be conducted immediately.

      1. Post-Room Integrity Test

Based on the assumption that the structural integrity of rooms will change over time, the

handheld Portascanner® 520 will assist in:

      • REGULATION COMPLIANCE: Once the room has passed the DFT and is able to

achieve the retention time required, periodic ultrasonic room integrity tests can be conducted

using an ultrasound scanner to comply with enclosure integrity maintenance as

listed in the ISO 14520, EN15004 and NFPA regulations.

room can remain continuing their daily tasks without affecting the leak detection

test results

Who are Coltraco Ultrasonics?

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

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

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

Based in London, manufacturing in the UK, operating in 108 countries, on-board nearly 10,000 vessels, Coltraco has 30 years’ experience. 
Coltraco delivers Safesite™ & Safeship™ technologies at safety critical infrastructure and high value assets on land & at sea.  The crew, cargo and vessel must be protected because it is its own “emergency service” when sailing at sea, without access to a typical shore-based emergency fire service. A ships fixed extinguishing system protects the machinery spaces. They allow engine room fires to be responded to, with minimal risk to the vessels crew. However, the fixed extinguishing system has to be used properly and for this, its on-board maintenance is essential. At its heart are its contents in the cylinders. Our contribution to Safety at Sea has been to build a package of capability that can be easily and safely used by the crew in routine maintenance of clean agent extinguishing systems as part of the vessel Safety Management System (SMS).

Total Care Package: Portacare® FAQs

Do I have to purchase the Portacare® package at the same time as my product?

No, you have up to 12 months after the date of your PO for your new product to opt in to the Portacare® package. After this date you will be expected to pay for your first calibration.

Does the Portacare® include customer induced damage?

No, the Portacare® package does not include customer-induced damage. However 25% discount will be given on the first repair.

Can I move my Portacare® package to a new model if I choose to upgrade?

Yes, you the remaining cover in the Portacare® package can be transferred to a new mode if an upgrade is taken.

Can I adjust the Portacare® package to suit my needs and requirements?

Absolutely, we are happy to tailor your Portacare® package to your requirements.

What happens if a component becomes obsolete?

We will provide a free replacement unit of a similar life.

Do I have to sign up to a 5 year contacts?

The Portacare® package is normally for 3-5 years of cover although we are happy to discuss shorter or longer term lengths.

Can I have one package to cover all of my devices?

Yes, if you have multiple sets across different locations, we can offer a single Portacare® package to manage all your units.

What are the turn around times?

The turnaround times for calibration is 2 days, workshop repair 5 days and factory repairs 14 days.

The Smart Ship Is a Safe Ship

The Smart Ship can be a Safe Ship by implementing new technology such as that developed by Coltraco Ultrasonics. The neglect of continuous monitoring of the fundamental protection provided by the gaseous extinguishing systems and watertight integrity imperils the lives of ship’s crews and occupants and at the risk of crippling financial and reputational loss to the tanker owner. Continuously monitoring gaseous extinguishing systems and watertight integrity with the aid of IoT raises awareness of the safety critical need to implement and exceed regulations, through continuous inspection.

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 & marine CO2 systems, 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®.

Avoid Downtime or Shutdown with the Firetest® Package

In the event of downtime or shutdown to fire, there could be catastrophic effects to high value assets, such as critical mining infrastructure
Coltraco Ultrasonics is a British designer and manufacturer of Safesite® ultrasonic and instrumentation and constant monitoring systems.

The Firetest package protects your critical assets:

Create a Safer Ships

Gaseous extinguishing systems are highly pressurised, the risk of leaking and discharging is accepted as part of their use, shown in the regulations that demand their upkeep e.g. IMO SOLAS FSS Ch5. 2.1.1.3:

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

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

Coltraco Ultrasonics focus on benefitting the crew; designing innovative ultrasonic solutions which promote safety culture, which the crew will be happy to use by being easy to operate, quick, accurate and a better method to traditional techniques.

The Portalevel® MAX Marine is designed primarily for the vessels’ crew to themselves inspect large fire suppression systems of up to 600 cylinders. The ease of operation in comparison to weighing, increases the ability of more regular and frequent checks, improving fire safety management onboard. Coltraco’s innovative method of inspecting leaking cylinders with ultrasonics CO2 & marine CO2 systems, enables identification in under 30 seconds using Portalevel® with one person, instead of the traditional 15 minutes, with two people laboriously weighing.

This can be in-between the statutory annual maintenance and certification intervals provided by shore-based contractors. Thus, increasing the likelihood of tests being regularly conducted, in line with regulations and even going above and beyond for more frequent testing. By so doing, the crew will be creating a safer ship.

What are bearings and how are they used?

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

Steel production facilities

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

Mining industry

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

Paper processing Industry

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

Cement industry

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

Thermal power industry

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

Maritime industry

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

 

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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