The Portalevel® Mini Nippon

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

Technical Specifications of Portalevel Mini Nippon

Here, we have enlisted technical specs available with this liquid level indicator. Take a look!

Dimensions

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

Verifiable Agents

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

Accuracy

+/-1.5mm (1/8 inch)

Display

  • LCD Numeric Digital Display with LED Bar Graph

Power Supply

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

Classification

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

Sensor

TX/RX Dry Sensor

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

Standard Extension Rod Sensor

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

Operating Temperature

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

Warranty

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

Certificates

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

Portalevel Mini Nippon Content

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

Why buy bearing indicators?

Almost all machinery that moves requires bearings. However, they are liable to degradation over time. Bearings will fail for a number of reasons but the key take away is that ALL bearings will degrade at some point and if they are left unchecked, maintained or replaced WILL fail. Knowing the root cause of damage can help prevent future failures. According to ISO 15243, damages left undiagnosed can actually mask the underlying cause if left too long. Most decay in bearing quality occur when lubrication has been used up in the bearing. Identifying when this happens and refilling the oil in the bearing a key way of extending life span.

1. Where are bearings used?

Below are a few examples of the industries and applications in which bearings are present. Many industries have machinery that requires some form of motion enabled by bearings.

1.1. Steel production facilities e.g. Cold rolling mill machinery.

1.2. Mining industry e.g. Machinery such as crushers, stackers, conveyors, vibrating feeders, magnetic separators, slurry and vacuum pumps, classifiers, agitators and compressors.

1.3. Paper processing industry e.g. Rolls, roll alignment, balance, and the condition of the electric motors and gearboxes.

1.4. Cement industry e.g. Mills, separators, roller presses, separators, conveyors, feeders, air compressors and fans.

1.5. Thermal power industry e.g. Gas and steam turbine generators

1.6. Maritime industry e.g. Diesel engines, gas turbines and nuclear reactor powered ships utilise bearings in all areas, from crankshafts to pistons and pumps.

2. Case study of bearing failure:

On 7 March 1997, the Polish flag general cargo vessel Lodz 2 was using one of its own cranes, discharging a general cargo of steel products, including bundles of steel pipes, from no. 2 hold and tween deck. The load, weighing approximately 8.6 tonnes, consisted of 18 lengths with diameters varying up to 273 mm. As the load reached the side of the ship, there was a violent jolt and a bang as the slew bearing failed, then the crane fell from its pedestal into the port tween deck of no. 2 hold. The crane was severely damaged and the badly twisted jib had to be cut up to remove it from the ship.

3. 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 categorized 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.

See the Portamonitor

Following a fire, 40% of facilities experiencing business dis-continuity do not survive another 12-18 months afterwards.

Offshore gaseous extinguishing systems exist to serve, but we need to understand them so they can. Gaseous systems are pressurised and in that they are dynamic not passive ones. They have transformed industry safety across all sectors. However, the development of their servicing and monitoring equipment has remained stagnant, with many very advanced systems relying totally on annual inspections, or unreliable mechanical pressure gauges. These methods leave the status of fire suppression systems completely vulnerable between annual checks. These gases leak. It is not a widely-promoted fact in the fire safety industry, except by some experts, and by those who understand the physics behind pressurised gases. If the agent leaks, they may be insufficient gas to suppress a fire in the event they are activated. If there is no agent, the fire will continue to burn and may lead to catastrophe by loss of life, and certain business downtime. They are active and dynamic systems which require constant monitoring to ensure safety of life, and increase resilience and business continuity. Thus, saving time and cost long-term by improved monitoring. The “white heat” of technology shines as a beacon of hope to our industry and so too enables justification for customers to actively engage in the monitoring of gaseous fire extinguishing systems as an integrated and essential element to their business activity.

Permalevel® Multiplex is the only 24/7, 365 ultrasonic continuous monitoring system of fixed fire extinguishing systems cylinder contents. It can be configured to provide local and remote alarm. Integrated into the existing safety management systems by selected communications capabilities. Available only from Coltraco Ultrasonics, this is leading technology, coming to the market to fulfil the “Ungoverned Space” of fire safety across all industries, especially high value, safety critical ones. The Permalevel MultiplexTM is designed to ensure that fire suppression systems are always fully operational and that no accidental discharge has occurred, which could affect the effectiveness of the overall fire protection system in the event that it is required for use. The Permalevel Multiplex reduces the need for labour by introducing remote, autonomous monitoring; the systems is mobile-device friendly so it is readily available on any hand-held device with web access. This protects people, data, and high value assets by improving safety management regimes by going above and beyond simply complying with regulations. This provides protection against claims raised in the event of fire by showing your facilities have been protected and well maintained.

Coltraco Customer Care: a case study

The lesser time taken to carry out these tests is valuable to owners and ship managers in that they can demonstrate without lengthy visual inspections that the vessel is ready in all respects to carry the cargo, meaning cargo loading can commence earlier. The results determined by electronic instrumentation are also extremely valuable to vessel owners, charterers, and cargo interests because they can all be assured the cargo worthiness has been determined to a high degree thereby assuring all that the chance of cargo damage by water ingress is a very low probability is a simple solution with few limitations and is easy to learn how to operate. Testing can be completed far more quickly, by just one person, in comparison to labour and time intensive hose testing. Testing can be completed on key areas: Cable Transit Seals provide a key element in maintaining the integrity of bulk heads and watertight seals onboard Naval, Offshore Oil & Gas and Marine assets. As one of the most neglected areas onboard, having the means to quickly identify the exact location and severity of issues in MCTs can dramatically assist Contractors and Fleet Operators to enhance the flood, fire & smoke protection that a correctly installed MCT seal provides.

By greatly reducing the chance of water ingress occurring – lives can be saved, vessel integrity, and cargo at sea – by implementing safer, improved and innovative methods, as mentioned above, of hatch cover testing. Coltraco measure their improvement in safety by continuing their Research & Development programmes with their partnered universities. Coltraco also base their improvements through customer feedback which they value strongly. The below is a testimonial from Captain J.F. Holmes, Botrans Ltd:

“Having recently returned our Portascanner® Watertight unit to the makers, Coltraco, for servicing and calibration, we are extremely pleased at the level of co-operation we received back from them, not only in continuing feedback but also in the manner in which the Company Management perceived our requirement from a cost effective means in bringing, not only the unit, but the carriage and storage container, back up to an operational condition, in a time sensitive and timely manner. The unit itself undergoes a relatively hard life in the field and on site, whilst in the hands of experienced surveyors but also in a tough environment. Our Portascanner® Watertight 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. Be that as it may, the added bonus from the unit's return is the updated readout and software which permits a more definitive execution of the reporting and documentation when on site, testing weather deck closing devices. Our dealings with the Coltraco Management and Servicing Team has been a gratifying experience and feel sure with the returned, serviced, calibrated and updated Portascanner® Watertight unit, it will continue to give us the professional edge in being able to continue to offer a complete service to Ship Owners and Time Charterers and other interested parties in the protection of transporting their commodities for years to come.”

Implement Constant Monitoring

Gaseous extinguishing/suppression systems are installed to protect against special hazards in critical infrastructure as their key objective. They deliver the infrastructural resilience our advanced society requires. 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 their protection.

The assumptions in the installation, commissioning and maintenance of gaseous extinguishing systems is that they are highly pressurised but risk leaking and discharging. The regulations that sensibly underpin this assumption aim to identify their leak identification at an interval of every 6 months. A cup of water stands at 1bar pressure – approximately 14.5 psi. Gaseous systems vary in pressure from FM-200® or NOVEC™ 1230 at 25-30 bar, CO2 at 50 bar or 720 psi to Inergen at 300 bar or 4,500 psi. These are very highly pressurised systems. In engineering terms, they are “dynamic” systems, not passive ones.

So why then does the fire industry not constantly monitor them?

The core regulation enshrined in BS EN ISO 14520 -1:2015(E) and we should be proud it exists. But let us examine what it says. BS EN ISO 14520 -1:2015(E) reasonably assumes that the execution of its provisions is entrusted to people qualified and experienced in the specification, design, installation, commissioning, testing, approval, inspection, operation and maintenance of systems and equipment, and who can be expected to exercise a duty of care to avoid unnecessary release of extinguishant. Attention is drawn to the Montreal Protocol on substances that deplete the ozone layer. It is important that the fire protection of a building or plant or any other critical infrastructure be considered as a whole. Gaseous extinguishant systems form a part of the available facilities, but it should not be assumed that their adoption necessarily removes the need to consider supplementary measures, such as the provision of portable fire extinguishers or other mobile appliances for first aid or emergency use, access by a Fire Rescue Service or any other measures that can be applied as part of a wider fire protection plan.

Gaseous fire systems deliver the very resilience we need. But resilience means the permanence of capability and functionality. That permanence can only be delivered by constant monitoring of the systems that enable it.

The science of a gaseous extinguishing system is a complex one. The mathematics that underpin its science are demanding ones. But in simple terms gaseous systems are pressurised and in that they are dynamic not passive ones. They are there to protect critical infrastructure in a a safe and expeditious manner in the only way that a gaseous system can. We would not imagine an alarm system exists without monitoring it 24/7, but why are we still leaving unattended the very automatic gaseous clean agent extinguishing systems that protect us when even the core regulations of its installation and maintenance specifically allude to its potential to accidentally discharge or leak its contents ? Fortunately lead elements of the critical infrastructure community are asking the same question. So are the world’s insurance companies.

But should our own fire industry not answer the question by implementing constant monitoring 24/7/365 before it is asked of them by the very people it is helping protect ?

Protecting your crew: using ultrasonics to create a Safeship®

The NTSB (National Transportation Safety Board) have recently investigated the cause of the 2015 El Faro disaster. SS El Faro was a United States-flagged, combination roll-on/roll-off and lift-on/lift-off cargo ship crewed by U.S. merchant mariners. All 33 crew members tragically died in the sinking, when El Faro sailed from Jacksonville into Hurricane Joaquin, while heading to Puerto Rico. The wreckage was discovered more than 15,000 feet below the sea surface, Northeast of Acklins and Crooked Island, Bahamas. 

The NTSB have concluded that gaps in safety management contributed to the sinking of the El Faro. One of the significant issues was “poor watertight integrity which allowed seawater into the ship” stating that this accident may have been avoided if “crew had more information about the status of the hatches”.

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

A lack of proper servicing of seals can lead to deterioration which endanger the lives of the crew, vessel and cargo.  One British manufacturer whose mission is to deliver the Safeship® to prevent El Faro type incidents occurring again is Coltraco Ultrasonics. They are committed to improving safety for people, assets and vessels at sea. They 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.

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

Avoid negligence and work towards creating the Safeship® with Coltraco Ultrasonics.

Coltraco Ultrasonics is a leading British designer and manufacturer of innovative ultrasonic technology operating in 109 countries across the offshore markets for over 30 years. www.coltraco.com/news.

Safesite Solutions: the future is 24/7 constant monitoring

Faced with this problem, a leading UK Nuclear family approached Coltraco Ultrasonics in 2003 and commissioned the first Permalevel®. Focused on continued advancement of safety technology, Coltraco have now developed the Permalevel® Multiplex, a fixed fire suppression monitoring device, designed for permanent contents verification. The Permalevel®  Multiplex    is  designed  to  ensure  that fire  suppression  systems  are  always  fully operational and that no accidental discharge has occurred, which could affect the effectiveness of the overall fire protection system in the event of a fire at a nuclear power plant.

The application of the Permalevel® reaches further, with customers using this equipment in alternate specialist and confidential manners to ensure safety in the station. 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 now a requirement at nuclear energy sites. The likes of the Atomic Energy Authority asked Coltraco Ultrasonics to tailor make them a solution to constantly monitor a special application using the Permalevel® Single Point for over 10 years.

The Portascanner® 520 is the most mathematically accurate device available providing precise data concerning leak locations and aperture. It is unrivalled in its precision, non-invasive methodology and ease of use, and is the first unit of its kind to be available for a holistic approach to fire safety in complement to Coltraco’s range of equipment for testing fire extinguishing systems.

It is perfectly positioned to work alongside Door Fan testing in order to meet the total requirements for fire safety regulations and ensure the continuous fire protection of rooms using Clean Agent Fire Suppression systems. As Door Fan Testing has been proven to be a reliable and trusted method of room testing by industry experts, it is expected that its dominance shall continue in the near future. The immediate use of the Portascanner® lies in its improvement of the final stage of room integrity testing –  the search for leak sites in the case of a leakage excess –  for which it can vastly improve accuracy and operational efficiency. A device such as this has never been used before in this industry, and is the first to place emphasis directly on this important aspect of room integrity testing.

Gaseous extinguishing instillations are difficult systems.

There are few who understand them in all their complexity. Vessels extinguishing instillation are its essential defence against the risk of fire at sea. The main factor that needs to be understood is that they must be able to actuate, or release their gas, in the event of a fire. Surely an extinguishing instillation should extinguish? This may seem like an obvious point, but on further investigation the difficulties with this statement arise. What if the extinguishing instillation cannot actuate fully because there isn’t enough gas within the cylinder? Gaseous extinguishing systems are highly pressurised, the risk of leaking and discharging is accepted as part of their use, shown in the regulations that demand their upkeep e.g. IMO SOLAS FSS Ch5. 2.1.1.3:

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

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

Adding to this, the details of their leakage within the regulations which is troubling. ISO 14520-1 clearly states that:

“If a container shows a loss of agent quantity or a loss of pressure (adjusted for temperature) of more than 5 %, it shall be refilled or replaced”

Given that the gaseous systems are designed specifically to the individual need of the vessel then a 5% loss of agent may mean that they would not fully extinguish the fire. In a recent article by the Maritime Executive, Captain Madden urged crews to routinely and properly inspect and test fixed firefighting systems; “too often they are found with… concerns about leakage”. The only way to determine a cylinder is free from leakage is to check its contents. But if the crew cannot weigh their own cylinders, because they are not certified to do so, then how is it possible?

CO2 UK Marine Equipment Directive (MED) UK/EU legislation with US Coast Guard Mutual Recognition 7.3.2.6:

“Means should be provided to verify the liquid level in all the cylinders, either by weighing the cylinders or by using a suitable liquid level detector.”

Our expertise

We pride ourselves in researching, designing and manufacturing the most up to date, efficient and hardy ultrasonic liquid level detectors. The MAX Marine is designed primarily for maritime applications where either third party service companies or the vessels’ crew themselves inspect large fire suppression systems of up to 600 cylinders. The ease of operation in comparison to weighing, increases the ability of more regular and frequent checks, improving fire safety management onboard. Our 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. Using ultrasonic technology - to pinpoint the liquid level of suppressant agent in the cylinders of the extinguishing system- testing is quicker and easier.

Portalevel® MAX enables its users to go above and beyond minimal regulations compliance, thus becoming industry leaders. It’s not just us that say we lead the industry, we have recently been shortlisted for the Seatrade Cruise Awards, ‘Supplier of the Year’, because of our supply to Carnival Cruises. Carnival Cruises chose Coltraco to supply the Fleet with the UL-Listed and ABS approved Portalevel® MAX Marine. The Carnival Fleet is made up of 25 vessels, varying in size from 70,000-120,000 dwt, accounting for 21% of the worldwide cruise market. The safety of their ships is integral for the continuation of their business success and it can be for yours too.

Combined with the MAX Marine, The Portasteele® 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 maintenance of instillations has to be a priority. It need not be expensive or time consuming, we will support you in ensuring the safety of your crew and vessel. Tragic case studies of incidents such as MSC Flaminia prove that fire safety onboard must be a priority. We are proud that we can make your critical safety processes more effectove. There is no reason to minimally comply with the regulations and chance the effectiveness of the gaseous extinguishing instillation. We are here for you.

The Ungoverned Space of Marine Fire Safety

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

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

Who would build a ship or offshore platform and install a power generating or auxiliary machinery without installing emergency power systems or monitoring their condition states? Who today would consider installing an alarm system without monitoring its overall status, not only its actuation, and integrating the whole system into the ship safety management system, with central monitoring being an essential part of it? These are basic engineering principles: building in redundancy and constantly monitoring critical systems. Traditionally, the industry cares little about this ungoverned space, with too few qualified engineers considered subject matter experts. Yet when it comes to marine fire maintenance, never mind continuous monitoring, of gaseous fire extinguishing systems, there is a lack of knowledge amongst the majority of the industry, regarding the potential risks. Awareness should exist about the huge expenses incurred by fire, both in terms of costs upfront from the damage and long-term due to reputation and unknown losses or damage to seafarers, vessel integrity, and cost of downtime and recovery. Above all is the risk to human life presented by fire. Poor maintenance of suppression systems risk accidental fatalities due to lack of training about the lethal properties of CO2 (the predominant suppressant agent used on vessels, because it is the cheapest whilst being highly effective): when released it reduces oxygen levels to extinguish fire. Limited appreciation of the need for room integrity testing of protected spaces leads to minimal regulation compliance which could mean a failure of the fire system suppressing a fire because the room is unable to hold the discharged gas due to leaks of the space into which it actuates. Gaseous extinguishing/suppression systems are installed to protect against special hazards in critical infrastructure at sea. They deliver the infrastructure resilience our advanced maritime society requires. If the hazard is special and the vessel is critical, then this is the case for the constant monitoring of the fire systems that aim to deliver their protection. There is a lack of knowledge of the characteristics of the various extinguishants and the types of fire for which they are suitable. For too many years the industry has been left to too few brilliant experts to determine safe outcome.

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

Speaking volumes

Leakage of fire suppression agents from firefighting systems remains an ongoing, complex problem, and one that is often incorrectly attributed to system failure. OMT speaks to Coltraco Ultrasonics about the extent of such incidents and the solutions developed by Coltraco to combat undetected leakage

The offshore sector may still be mired in recession at present, but the need to retain a vigilant eye on fire safety remains as vital as ever.

To some degree, offshore oil and gas companies are still haunted by the blaze and explosion that destroyed the Piper Alpha oil production platform in July 1988, causing the deaths of more than 160 personnel aboard the structure – a tragedy that resulted in some much-welcomed ‘toughening up’ of offshore safety requirements.

All the same, fire-related incidents still occur aboard many offshore assets, putting the burden on owners and operators to ensure that safety standards do not slip. This burden becomes more onerous when one considers that the majority of offshore companies are scaling back their budgets at present, as well as warm-stacking and cold-stacking some of their most valuable vessels and rigs.

However, companies have a duty to ensure the protection of personnel, as well as a natural incentive to safeguard some of the most expensive assets to be stationed at sea – as well as their own reputations – and fire safety is a factor that simply cannot be neglected. This is not purely a problem for the offshore sector: a study conducted by the Finnish Transport Safety Agency has revealed that, between 2004 and 2010, 800 fires were logged in European waters, approximately 10% of which were classed as ‘serious’ and 25% of which required external assistance to successfully extinguish.

Tailor-made installations

Dr Carl Hunter, chief executive and managing director of UK-based ultrasonic technology solution developer Coltraco Ultrasonics, tells Offshore Marine Technology: “Part of this issue is to do with the maintenance of gaseous fire extinguishing installations. Typically, an offshore rig or platform will be equipped with a number of these installations, a typical 45Kg C02 cylinder measures 1800mm in height and 250mm in width. The number will be determined between the asset owner and the contracted firefighting system provider, and be tailored to the specific vessel area.”

As such, the fire extinguishing installation may either contain CO₂ - which, as an oxygen-suppressing substance, is suited to unmanned areas aboard the vessel/platform, including machinery spaces – or FM ™200 or Novec ™ 1230, which are preferred, non-toxic and environmentally friendly choices for the wheelhouse, crew quarters and mess.

Equally as important, Hunter continues, this tailored arrangement will see the firefighting system provider determine the correct amount of extinguishing agent for each area. “the design concentration itself will have up to 20% excess applied to the overall installation,” he explains. So, if it is calculated that it will require 100kg of agent to successfully suppress a fire in a particular vessel area, the system provider might allocate three 50kg cylinders to cover this location.

Agent leakage

With this in mind, it is therefore quite shocking when Hunter recounts: “Anywhere between one-in-ten to one-in-five cylinders, when inspected, have been found to be partially or fully empty.” He adds: “We hear about onboard fires and vessels reporting that the extinguishing installations ‘failed’ to put out the blaze – but failure would have been impossible had these installations been checked to ensure they were full.”

Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon for gaseous extinguishing agent to leak from these cylinders. “This is to be expected when such firefighting equipment is stored on land, let alone aboard a vessel for 365 days a year,” says Hunter. In an offshore environment, fluctuations in temperature (especially if an offshore asset is transferred between climes as disparate as those of the North Sea and offshore Brazil, for example) and structural stress can acerbate damage of the cylinders’ seals and cause accidental discharge of the extinguishing agent.

“Gaseous extinguishing systems are highly pressurised,” Hunter adds. “The risk of leaking and discharging is accepted as part of their use in the regulations that demand their upkeep.”

The result? A depleted cylinder, containing only half of its allocated agent, runs out of the substance before the fire is properly suppressed. Subsequently, the fire rages on, destroys the area and possibly spreads to other sections of the vessel – or even produces an explosion. Later, in the post-incident analysis, the cylinder is incorrectly judged as to have ‘failed’.

Crew qualifications

The regulations mentioned by Hunter include ISO 14520-1:2015, which specifies: “If a container shows a loss of agent quantity or a loss of pressure (adjusted for temperature) of more than 5%, it shall be refilled or replaced.” Even a loss of 5% can be sufficient to ensure that the cylinder does not play its full role in quelling the fire.

In addition, IMO’s International Code for Fire Safety Systems (FSS Code) – and, in particular Chapter 5, section 2.1.1.3, which focuses on checks for fixed installations such as these cylinders – states: “Means shall be provided for the crew to safely check the quantity of the fire-extinguishing medium in the containers.”

This latter requirement throws up several questions. The wording of that particular section has a worrying vague ring to it. Hunter clarifies: “This code specifically states that the crew must test its 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, the next question should be: is the crew necessarily trained or qualified to conduct such checks? As Hunter puts it, most seafarers undertake adequate drilling training when it comes to fire response, but not so many are actually instructed in how to correctly calculate the volume of agent in each cylinder. This can be a complex and time-consuming process, involving shutting down each cylinder and dismantling it, weighing it to ascertain the amount of extinguishing agent, and then assembling and reinstalling it again.

Hunter estimates that this process usually takes a minimum of 15 minutes, and requires input from two able-bodied persons, per cylinder. Taking this as baseline, consider a platform or floatel equipped with anywhere from 200 to 600 such cylinders: properly dismantling, weighing and reassembling each one constitutes a prolonged and unenviable task. It is a task that needs to be done, as Hunter highlights: “When a ship is at sea, it must be its own fire service,” he says. Unfortunately, though, the tedious and repetitive nature of this work can lead to far bigger problems, such as corner-cutting, rushed and inadequate checks and even deliberately fraudulent reporting.

“It’s not so much the major players – the BPs or Shells – that give cause for concern: it’s some of the smaller operators who are more likely to skimp on safety checks,” Hunter warns. Given the complex and specialist nature of these firefighting systems, and of gaseous detection in general, it can be difficult to know what to look for when assessing the validity of safety reports. This can be a particular hurdle for new surveyors or port inspectors, he adds, and particularly for those who have, to date, spent more of their time in the office or classroom than at sea.
“We’ve heard of surveyors, straight out of college and unused to maritime culture, boarding vessels where crew members have thrown down a bathroom scale next to the firefighting cylinders, to try to convince them that they are conducting regular safety checks,” Hunter says. In some cases, crew members have even intimidated inexperienced or nervous surveyors and inspectors into backing down and giving their seal of approval: in other parts of the world, corruption can be sufficient to get the right boxes ticked.

Handheld solution

For its part, 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 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 height. 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.

The ‘ungoverned space’

Of course, these solutions cost money, and there is no doubt that Coltraco Ultrasonics has products it wishes to sell. However, Hunter counters: “Some of the offshore platforms out there cost up to US$1-3 billion, before you consider annual maintenance and manning costs: why would any owner quibble about a solution that costs about US$1,000 and which can save them significant costs and time in the long term ? It’s akin to investing in a new house but deciding to not buy a fridge, in order to ‘save money’.”  There are also elements that money cannot replace – such as lost lives and a shattered reputation within the industry – should a rig or platform fail to contain a serious conflagration. Hunter comments: “Chances must not be taken when lives are at risk and when a vessel is at sea: this is all the time.”

Still, the message would appear to be spreading. Hunter estimates that Coltraco’s technology is present aboard “90% of all offshore platforms in the North Sea, 20% in the Gulf of Mexico and 30% across Asia,” and the company exports approximately 89% of its output, covering 109 countries, across 19 sectors (including maritime and naval, energy and power).

What does remain unknown at this stage is how the lay-up of myriad vessels, rigs and platforms in the past two to three years might have affected their onboard firefighting systems. As Hunter mentions, even during periods of lay-up, most responsible owners and operators will continue to carry out maintenance checks aboard these assets, with fire management system contractors presumably ensuring that any leaking cylinders are indeed refilled or replaced, as per ISO requirements.

However, we cannot assume this is the case for every company and every asset. Coltraco Ultrasonics has subsequently developed the concept of the ‘ungoverned space’ – described as being “an area where either the regulations of the protecting systems of the critical infrastructure are not effectively providing consistent and reliable safety.” We cannot know how many such ‘ungovernable spaces’ are out there – but, in the event of permanently shut-down or cold-stacked assets, there could be sufficient neglected areas to put the entire vessel or structure at risk.

Hopefully, when the offshore sector bounces back from its current doldrums, owners and operators will be well equipped to recommence operations as quickly as possible. Whatever solution they turn to, however, they would strongly be advised not to neglect their firefighting systems before they return to work: the consequences, otherwise, could prove disastrous.

The Mathematics of Monitoring Gaseous Extinguishing Systems & Room Integrity

Applying Mathematics

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

Clean Agents

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

We achieve this

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

Constant Monitoring  of Gaseous Extinguishing Systems

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

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

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

Room Integrity Monitoring - There remains a wider problem too

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

Conclusion

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

Wind turbines require an active fire protection system

It is estimated that 0.3-0.5 fire incidents occur per 1000 wind power stations (onshore and offshore) every year (Technical Research Institute of Sweden). 10-30% of all loss-of-power-generation incidents in wind power plants are due to fire.

Potential ignition sources are mainly inside the nacelle where there is fast moving machinery (generators, gearboxes e.t.c) which creates heat and combustible oil and solid material in the. Even with the incredible engineering and safety measures in place, a fire can ignite and develop, leading to the possible complete destruction of the turbine.

Wind turbines require an active fire protection system, which includes but is not limited to detection (of flames, heat, gas, and smoke), alerting personnel and rescue services, and activating systems for fire suppression or extinguishing. Due to the height and location of wind turbines, classic firefighting methods come up against their limits and therefore fire extinguishing systems that use gases such as carbon dioxide, inert gases or clean agents such as FM-200® and Novec™1230, which are especially appropriate for dealing with fires in electrical systems because they extinguish the fire quickly whilst not damaging the electrical systems or the compartment in which they are being discharged.

Regulations demand maintenance of the systems to ensure that they are operational in the event of a fire: ISO 14520-1:2015(E) assumes that these systems accidentally discharge and leak. 9.2.1.3 The storage container contents shall be checked at least every six months as follows. a) Liquefied gases: for halocarbon agents, if a container shows a loss of agent in quantity of more than 5 % or a loss of pressure (adjusted

for temperature) of more than 10 %, it shall be refilled or replaced.”

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

Coltraco have now developed the Permalevel® Multiplex, a fixed fire suppression monitoring system, designed for continuous contents verification. Permalevel® 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.

Where can the Portascanner® WATERTIGHT be used?

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

Application Hatch Cover Tester

Ultrasonic hatch cover tester is best for the following applications:

Bulk Carrier Hatches

The Portascanner® Watertight is used onboard bulk carriers for inspecting the Watertight or Weather-tight hatches for leak sites. The magnetic generator can be positioned just inside the hold, on the hatch combing, removing the need to climb down to position the generator at the bottom of the hold on the tank top.

It is used by the crew for regular maintenance to dramatically reduce the risk of cargo damage from water ingress, and by Marine surveyors for carrying out P&I, Classification Society or Insurance surveys.

Watertight Doors

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

Multiple Cable Transits (MCTs)

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

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

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

Beware the Cost of Cheaper Price.

Globalisation is accepted now as part of who we are. It is often strange to hear this in the UK when we have been a globally trading nation for over 400 years. For the many today who see its advantages, there are a greater number who are its consequence, both amongst the bottom 20% at home in the West but also those who are exploited in the East. Behind this are the developing countries who enable globalisation, but who, individually, do not always share in its benefits. Others take advantage of it whilst not implementing its practises or requirements. For example, manufacturers in the West see their ideas and innovations replicated by some in the East, by companies who do not always adhere to the same standards in either their manufacture or delivering the quality and specifications they claim. Underlying this is a negligence towards their servicing and calibration.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monitoring Gaseous Extinguishing Systems

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

Monitoring Room Integrity

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

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

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

Fires on board tankers can be devastating, to crew, vessel and cargo. Fire safety standards on board cannot afford to slip. Sailing alone and at sea throughout the year, and without the ability to call upon the emergency services as a land-based asset might. Although the value of the marine assets that fire systems protect is increasing rapidly, the competitiveness of the free market places great pressure on cost cutting. Often, cheap systems only minimally comply with the regulations and, in fact, there are very few qualified engineers who may be considered experts on the subject matter.

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

Serious cases of tanker fires and risks have been reported in the past year. In September 2016 a Pemex oil tanker had a serious fire in the Gulf of Mexico, on which it was carrying 80,000 barrels of diesel, 71,000 of gasoline and 16,000 barrels of desulfurized gasoline. In March 2017 there was an explosion on a Chinese Tanker, in which 3 crew members went missing and serious damage to the vessel was caused. Even as recently as July fire safety is still being neglected, with the crew of the tanker MT IBA reporting empty fire extinguishers (despite transporting crude oil) and leaking life boat’s hydraulic system with no means of testing.

So why is fire safety still being ignored?

The UK P&I Club have suggested that extended periods of time on board a ship without a fire incident can lead to complacency and therefore a failure of prioritizing prevention methods and fire incident practices. It is impossible to prepare for all eventualities on a vessel, and it is often easier to influence the prompt detection of fires and their effective extinguishment, and these factors therefore play a key role in minimising fire damage aboard vessels.

The Ungoverned Space is the area where either the regulations or the protecting systems of the tankers are not effectively providing consistent and reliable safety. This life-threatening issue must be dealt with, with specific regard to loss of contents in fixed fire extinguishing systems and need for improvements to room integrity testing. Even in 2017, gaseous fixed fire extinguishing systems are often overlooked, and are misunderstood at all levels: owners, managers, chief engineers and crew.

Look after your installations or pay the price of fire

Tankers extinguishing installations are its essential defence against the risk of fire at sea. The main factor that needs to be understood is that they must be able to actuate, or release their gas, in the event of a fire. Gaseous extinguishing systems are highly pressurised, the risk of leaking and discharging is accepted as part of their use, shown in the regulations that demand their upkeep e.g. IMO SOLAS FSS Ch5. 2.1.1.3:

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

Adding to this, the details of their leakage within the regulations which is troubling. ISO 14520-1 clearly states that:

If a container shows a loss of agent quantity or a loss of pressure (adjusted for temperature) of more than 5 %, it shall be refilled or replaced

Given that the gaseous systems are designed specifically to the individual need of the tanker then a 5% loss of agent may mean that they would not fully extinguish the fire. Manual weighing is not only laborious, but also dangerous to the crew conducting the servicing.

Innovative Solutions

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

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

Addressing fire at sea is critical, especially when all owners and managers are seeking to reduce risk, cut costs and surge on safety. Owners and managers, to servicing companies and insurers - use Coltraco Ultrasonics.

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

Oxygen Reduction System and Need for Monitoring:

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

Testing of the Server Room:

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

Results:

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

Conclusions:

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

Identify Problem Areas in Seals

The Portascanner® Watertight is used onboard bulk carriers for inspecting the Watertight or Weather tight hatches for leak sites. The magnetic generator can be positioned just inside the hold, on the hatch combing, removing the need to climb down to position the generator at the bottom of the hold on the tank top.

This hatch cover tester is used by the crew for regular maintenance to dramatically reduce the risk of cargo damage from water ingress, and by Marine surveyors for carrying out P&I, Classification Society or Insurance surveys.

Multiple Cable Transits (MCTs) with Hatch Cover Tester

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

Watertight Doors with Hatch Cover Tester

Watertight Doors on offshore Oil & Gas Rigs, Naval and Marine Vessels are regularly inspected & maintained to ensure the integrity of the Bulkheads and watertight barriers are secure. If these areas are neglected, there can be drastic impacts on flood prevention in the event of a major incident, which is exactly what the Portascanner helps to avoid.

Removing old fashioned and inaccurate chalk testing, the Portascanner® Technology provides a very quick and accurate method to identify problem areas and fix the issues that exist within these seals.

What is the Portamarine®?

The Portamarine is used for the inspection of CO2 & Marine CO2 Systems.

Portamarine® comes with other accessories enclosed in the box when you make a purchase. These accessories are vital to assure the accuracy of the device. They majorly include 200mm Multi Banked Extension Rod, Ultrasonic Gel, Dry Sensor and Main Unit, which is a protected IP65 Enclosure. Moreover, this ultrasonic gas leak detector comes with other different features that are mentioned below. Give a glance!

  • Three years warranty
  • Can measure multibank rows 2- 4 deep
  • Ultrasonic Technology (No Radiation and Non-Intrusive
  • Lifetime Support
  • Fast operation (Service a cylinder in under a minute)
  • Class approved
  • Lifetime Support
  • Calibration and Training Certificates Available
  • Accurate to 1.5mm

For further information, you can download PDF

Achieve the Safeship® - work with Coltraco Ultrasonics

Coltraco Ultrasonics develop and manufacture monitoring solutions, to counter the 2 main causes of vessel loss: (1) sinking – testing watertight integrity of hatch-covers, doors and MCTs etc and (2) fire – testing gaseous fire extinguishing installations agent contents, associated pipework and room integrity. These Safeship® solutions save time and cost, whilst enhancing safety of life, assets and vessel at sea. Coltraco Ultrasonics’ core capabilities in fire relate to safety critical and high value environments in which fixed gaseous fire extinguishing systems are used. With respect to fire sfatey there are three main areas : (1) liquefied gaseous agent contents, (2) non-liquefied gaseous agent contents [in development] and their associated pipework, as well as (3) the Room Integrity of the protected space into which the agent discharges. A holistic Safeship® approach. The technological basis is in ultrasonics. Coltraco designs, manufactures and supports a world leading range. Their expertise developed from their flagship invention (the Portalevel® liquid level indicator), to 23 products and 8 constant monitoring systems today. Enabling customers to be in compliance with regulations and go above and beyond for best practice.

Coltraco has developed the Portascanner® Watertight which is the industry standard in ultrasonic watertight integrity testing. The Portascanner® Watertight is used onboard bulk carriers for inspecting the Watertight or Weathertight hatches for leak sites. It is accurate to identify leak site apertures to 0.06mm that is a world-leading accuracy and used to ensure watertightness of vessels to protect crew, vessel, cargo and cargo claims. The unit is capable in conducting watertight tests with the cargo in-situ and produces no water run-off that can cause damages to cargo. The unit is light and intuitive to use, with magnetic base to ease the use of its miniature ultrasound generator. The Portascanner® Watertight has two main components – a generator and receiver. The ultrasound generator emits a specific frequency of ultrasound (40,000 Hz). It is magnetic so can be attached onto a wide range of surfaces within sealed areas. The receiver then picks up the signal and converts it into a result indicating W/T integrity. The magnetic generator can be positioned just inside the hold, on the hatch combing, removing the need to climb down to position the generator at the bottom of the hold on the tank top. It is used by the crew for regular maintenance to dramatically reduce the risk of cargo damage from water ingress, and by Marine surveyors for carrying out P&I, Classification Society or Insurance surveys.

Purpose of Installation of Hatch Cover Tester

  • Connect the Rod and Headphones to the Receiver and place the Generator into the compartment to be tested.
  • Fix the Generator by the magnet to any metallic surface not far from the seal being inspected.
  •  Switch the Generator ‘Onʼ and all the readings will dramatically increase.
  • Leaving the cover of the seal being tested open and check around the seal to ensure a strong signal is being received at all points.
  • The compartment is then closed and the inspection of the seal begins.
  • If there is a leak or area of weak seal compression readings will increase.
  • By moving the Sensor to where the signal is strongest, the operator can identify the exact location and extent of any leak site and steps can be taken to fix this issue.

Interactive Training Programme

We have developed a programme to educate users (particularly non-native English speakers) quickly and simply on how to use our equipment.

Optional Accessory

Extended Hi-Life Generator Additional standard generators can be used when testing large holds and the Extended Hi-Life Permascanner™ Generators can provide up to 10 days continuous testing whilst at sea.

Portacare™

Opt in package provides through-life maintenance support, enabling customers to cap the cost of ownership and optimise operational availability. For one annual fee, Coltraco will cover all repairs and calibration costs, and the customer is guaranteed priority assistance in spares and repairs. In the event of component obsolescence, Coltraco guarantees to exchange the unit for a like-for-like model type at no additional charge. The Portacare™ package does not cover customer-induced damage, but as a Portacare™ customer you have priority to repairs and spares with a 25% discount. Upgrade to Portacare™ TMSS PREMIER, which covers all repairs, calibration, and guarantees an advance-exchanged unit is always ready-to-ship. You can also download PDF for more information.

For further information, contact Coltraco Customer Care

Why buy bearing indicators?

Almost all machinery that moves requires bearings. However, they are liable to degradation over time. Bearings will fail for a number of reasons but the key take away is that ALL bearings will degrade at some point and if they are left unchecked, maintained or replaced WILL fail. Knowing the root cause of damage can help prevent future failures. According to ISO 15243, damages left undiagnosed can actually mask the underlying cause if left too long. Most decay in bearing quality occur when lubrication has been used up in the bearing. Identifying when this happens and refilling the oil in the bearing a key way of extending life span.

Where are bearings used?

Below are a few examples of the industries and applications in which bearings are present. Many industries have machinery that requires some form of motion enabled by bearings.

Steel production facilities e.g. Cold rolling mill machinery. Mining industry e.g. Machinery such as crushers, stackers, conveyors, vibrating feeders, magnetic separators, slurry and vacuum pumps, classifiers, agitators and compressors. Paper processing industry e.g. Rolls, roll alignment, balance, and the condition of the electric motors and gearboxes. Cement industry e.g. Mills, separators, roller presses, separators, conveyors, feeders, air compressors and fans. Thermal power industry e.g. Gas and steam turbine generators Maritime industry e.g. Diesel engines, gas turbines and nuclear reactor powered ships utilise bearings in all areas, from crankshafts to pistons and pumps.

Case study of bearing failure:

On 7 March 1997, the Polish flag general cargo vessel Lodz 2 was using one of its own cranes, discharging a general cargo of steel products, including bundles of steel pipes, from no. 2 hold and tween deck. The load, weighing approximately 8.6 tonnes, consisted of 18 lengths with diameters varying up to 273 mm. As the load reached the side of the ship, there was a violent jolt and a bang as the slew bearing failed, then the crane fell from its pedestal into the port tween deck of no. 2 hold. The crane was severely damaged and the badly twisted jib had to be cut up to remove it from the ship.

Better equipment can help industrial sector to progress more

From the point where the world has begun up till now, the world is seen tremendously improved and advanced whereas unbelievable things yet have to come. Catering requirements and needs has become a matter of significant level whereas various sectors have several needs to be assisted. Though the technology has advanced unbeatably yet it needs something to keep a check on it for safety purposes. Coltraco understands the factor of this industrial need, which makes it to come with monitoring and measuring instruments qualified for various purposes.

For better functioning and improved safety measured can easily be assured by the advanced technology introduced by various manufacturers. Liquid Level Indicator is considered to be one of the superb measuring and monitoring instrument of fire extinguishers in numerous and diversified industries since so long. Being risky to health, it was considered difficult to be operated in the gone days but today, due to the simplicity, awareness between people and revolution, people name it to be more easy and reliable.

As man has grown up to be sharper and smarter, it has made sure to take things with simple and easy to use with advanced technology and consume really little time span. Considering the industry manufacturing measuring instruments for fire extinguishers, liquid gas level indicator is known to be that one thing which is absolutely impossible to be kicked out of industries including houses need them to assure safety of their family. Numerous inventions and improvements have been seen in the related technologies to make sure the device is easy and simply to use along with giving maximum output. Ultrasonic technology is the most common advancement made to this industry, which is being in process, by Coltraco since 1987.

Qualified in the related industry, ultrasonic liquid level indicator is massively demanded by business and industrial sectors. You will find numerous companies in United Kingdom and United States of America, which are reasonably producing the fire extinguishing monitoring products for industrial sector. The reasons for this device to be so successfully are broadly illustrated below:

Accuracy

Ultrasonic level indicator is efficient to give the accurate reading for various liquid levels in vessel, cylinders and pipeline whether long or wide. Moreover, these points cannot be measured or judged with a naked eye. Sensitive to detect ultrasonic sound waves, it gives off the guarantee to give more accurate results.

Simple Usability

Liquid level indicator is simple and easy to install and use respectively. Fortunately, due to the integrated magnets help you mount the device to the system you want to monitor in regards to be control and observe. Majorly, these devices commonly come with easy functioning and display, which gives off better-calculated results. Moreover, DVDs and Online Training Videos are also provided for better training and quick usage.

Friendly for Health

As it requires no contact with specific object you are interested in determining, it makes it environmental healthy for humans around. There are moments when you have to look and monitor poisonous gases and health hazardous acids, which can be really dangerous if done manually but with Liquid Level Indicator, it becomes easy and safe.

Though being so helpful and safe, Ultrasonic Liquid Level Indicator comes in reasonable prices without any compromise on quality.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Specifications of  the Portalevel® Max

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

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

Graphical Presentation of Portalevel Max 8th Generation

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

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

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

Improve Safety Management Systems with the Portasteele® CALCULATOR

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

Engine room safety

Safety first

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

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

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

Marine servicing

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

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

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

Unsafe solutions

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

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

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

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

Meeting obligations 

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

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

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

Technological answers

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

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

Ultrasound

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There is now development of the world’s first portable ultrasonic tank liquid level indicator. Coltraco have just launched the world’s first instrument to enable ships to monitor the compartment door open/closed access status when they enter the Ships CO2 Room. This is known as Portascanner™ 14520 and is a dual-function unit that can also permanently monitor the “Protected Space” of the ships’ compartment to ensure that it will “hold” the CO2 or NOVEC™ 1230, should it be discharged into it. Coltraco are dedicated to developing semi-fixed systems with the Portascanner™ Watertight Compartment Door and Portascanner™ Multiple Cable Transit Areas next year, so that shipping companies can test these structures at sea over varying load and weather states enabling them to calculate leak site aperture.

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

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

ISO 14520 Door Fan & Room Integrity Leak Detection Testing:

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

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

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

Regulations

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

Current Testing

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

Call for Awareness: Fire at Sea

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

FIRE SAFETY IS MORE THAN ANOTHER TICKBOX

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

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

Engine room fires are often reported but there are many more instances where problems with the fire system may not reach the public eye. In a ship’s fire extinguishing system, there may be 600 x 45kg/100lb cylinders of CO2. The CO2 is a highly effective liquefied gaseous extinguishant designed to displace oxygen and suppress a fire. But they are under high pressure, often more than 50 Bar, and they can leak or accidentally discharge. Common knowledge suggests 20% of marine CO2 cylinders leak. If personnel are around when they discharge fatalities can occur. To inspects cylinder contents, the system is turned off, the cylinders dismantled, weighed and re-installed by certified personnel, which the crew are not. 30 years ago, marine servicing companies used radioactive-sourced level indicators, but these were damaging to health and subject to IATA transportation, licensing and storage requirements. The first handheld liquid level indicator to use ultrasonic technology provided a quick, accurate and safe means for anyone trained - from a marine servicing company, to chief engineer or crew member - to test the cylinder contents. This Portalevel® was designed and manufactured by Coltraco Ultrasonics who have since developed the technology to the 8th generation Portalevel® MAX Marine which can test all common clean agents.

LEAKING HATCHCOVERS? DOORS & MCTs MUST NOT BE FORGOTTEN.

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

Are you protected from fire?

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

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

Simply put, the ‘ungoverned space’ is the area in the fire industry where either the regulations or the protecting systems of the critical infrastructure are not effectively providing consistent and reliable safety. Coltraco repeatedly push for this life-threatening issue to be dealt with, with specific regard to loss of contents in fixed fire extinguishing systems and need for improvements to room integrity testing.

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

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

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

Fire Safety in the Aluminum Industry

When aluminium is burned, it creates a very intense fire. The industry directly creates more than 155,000 jobs and is adding more yearly. With growing numbers of employees in the aluminium industry, their safety and well being has long been a commitment. There is a need for comprehensive fire safety measures, specifically the fixed fire extinguishing systems in aluminium production and fabrication, in casthouses, foundries, recycling and reclamation plants.

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

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

Fire Safety Onboard

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

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

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

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

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

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

Operating Method of Ultrasonic Technology

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

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

To make any inquiry, please contact Coltraco Customer Service.

Complement Door Fan Testing: Portascanner® 520

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

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

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

Continuous monitoring is no longer an option

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

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

Gaseous extinguishing systems leak and discharge: fact.

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

The Portasteele® CALCULATOR is an advanced calculator application, that converts the liquid level height of C02, NOVEC™ 1230 and FM-200® liquefied gaseous extinguishant agent readings taken on an Portalevel® MAX into the agent weight/mass.  The PortasteeleÒ CALCULATOR is the first in the world to provide agent weight readings without physically weighing the fire suppression cylinders to comply with fire safety regulations. This is a safer, more efficient and cost saving method to service fire cylinders. The PortasteeleÒ CALCULATOR is based on a stand-alone 7” tablet computer which makes calculations in real time and logs the results, allowing the software to be used immediately in the field.

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

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

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

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

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

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

ADDRESSING OUTDATED ENGINE ROOM SAFETY

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

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

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

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

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

Meeting obligations

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

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

Technological Answers

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

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

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

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

Reduce your chances of sinking

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

ease the use of its miniature ultrasound generator.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gaseous Extinguishing Systems

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

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

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

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

Room Integrity and Compartmentation

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

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

APPROVED DOCUMENT B (ADB)

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Conclusion

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

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

CASE STUDY – Engine Room Fire

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

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

Case study: Engine Room Fire 2009

Here are the facts of this case study:

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

Could you afford for this crippling financial, physical and reputational damage to happen to your crew and vessel? The correct answer for any ship owner, ship manager and P&I club is “No.”

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

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

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

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

People are priceless

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

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