Need to monitor Protected Space Room Integrity

Coupled to this is, is the danger of a lack Room Integrity testing after the gaseous system has been installed.  As vesselsage 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”. 

Compartmentation Integrity – complementing Door Far Testing

It is here that the value of the Portascanner  Watertight Integrity Testing Indicator is evident. This unit is a small, hand-held ultrasonic device featuring dual Decibel & Linear readings in the display and widely used in Shipping, Naval vessels, Submarines and Offshore Oil & Gas Platforms. Moreover, the unit is supported by regional Service Stations in USA, UK, Dubai, India and Singapore. Using ultrasonic technology this device is able not only to pinpoint precise leak locations, but to determine their leak apertures as small as 0.06mm with a tolerance of +/-0.02mm, making it by far the most accurate device for this function. The Portascanner also provides an interpretation of the seal for desired locations, labelling them either watertight, weather tight or full leakage site as appropriate. 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 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.

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. Portascanner 520 is a hand-held product designed to identify leak-sites in Protected Spaces.

The future is 24/7 constant monitoring.

The main issue is that without continuous monitoring, a leak could still occur at any point in between tests during a journey, and a crew member is still needed for testing. Research is being carried out by enterprises such as Coltraco Ltd. to create the most comprehensive and safe solution using ultrasonic technology.

It was found that a comprehensive, autonomous continuous monitoring system for the watertight integrity of a ship’s cargo hatches, weathertight doors and other seals is possible to be developed. One that is capable of automatically detecting emerging leak sites, alerting officers and crew to the location and severity of the leak site and logging all data by hatch cover for future review. Coltraco is looking to see this technology fully utilised by 2020, as part of a pioneering wider vessel system integration and shore-based data management. It is becoming clear that UT is developing into an integral component of watertight integrity testing for ship hatch covers in particular, and is best positioned to secure the safety of vessels in the shipping Industry. Ultrasonic readings from hatches / doors / MCTs can also be logged and trended over time which helps increase safety and can also be used for insurance companies. There is more work to be done, and the future of UT must be condition-based monitoring of hatch covers, providing continuous monitoring.

A monitoring system is required for the watertight integrity of important seals capable of automatically detecting emerging leak sites, alerting officers to the location and severity of the leak site and logging all the data from hatch cover tester for future review. Continuous monitoring of this kind has the potential to centralise a vessel’s watertight and airtight integrity into a single alarm system. When used on a warship, such a system would also allow the status of the ship to be transmitted for an analysis and response by supporting vessels.

The future of UT is increasingly moving towards constant and even automatic monitoring of the performance of all types of seals, especially critical ones. Furthermore, in the near future, low power ultrasonic generators will allow submarine crews to easily conduct watertight integrity tests without the risk of alerting enemy vessels to their presence by picking up the ultrasonic noise through the hull.

The Smart Ship is a Safe Ship.

Safety Of Life At Sea is the critical code we all wish to see implemented. Beyond saving human lives, we protect the vessel then the cargo. Today we take that further to protecting our marine environment and increasing efficiencies. We understand that the Smart Ship can be interpreted as the fully automated and unmanned vessel, but for Coltraco Ultrasonics the Smart Ship is interpreted as a safe ship and that is our priority. Using ultrasonic technology, the Safeship® is achieved by the increased monitoring of the two main causes for vessel loss: sinking and fire. Using our expertise in ultrasonic technology, Coltraco Ultrasonics achieve the Safeship® through the monitoring of watertight integrity testing and gaseous extinguishing systems, benefitting from the continuing and developing technologies of the Internet of Things (IoT).

Using technology that has come to fruition and also in development, ship owners are able to protect their crew, vessels and cargo with Smart Safeship® technologies.  This paper argues we can better implement the Smart Ship, existing regulations, and strengthen new ones, thanks to more sensor monitoring technologies which will be linked by the Internet of Things (IoT). The application of the Internet of Things and ultrasound allows the Smart Ship to be achieved here and now, with technology that is implementing and exceed regulations. Continuous monitoring solutions benefit the crew; by being easy to operate, quick, accurate and a better than traditional monitoring techniques, meaning the likelihood of their use and thus protection is much higher. Whilst regulations can be said to drive up costs in the short term, their longer-term impact can save time, costs and improve the industry. Those in the shipping industry must strive towards the Safeship®: holistic protection of their fleet.

Meeting obligations

Interviee with CEO Dr Carl Hunter.

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

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

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

Technological answers

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

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

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

What protects the crew from fire?

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

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

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

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

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

Why is this the case?

Time pressures.

Most marine servicing companies only have 4 hours on a vessel in a port to test up to 600 cylinders. It is known that it takes 15 minutes for a 2 person team to shutdown, dismantle and weigh a single CO2 cylinder, which is equal to 16 cylinders in 4 hours. Yet despite this, every CO2 cylinder on the vessel receives a “tested and certified sticker” and the marine CO2 system is certified and a certificate is issued.
As well as this, any vessel with a gaseous extinguishing system needs to consider 3 factors:

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

What measures should be taken?

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

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

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

What is the solution?

The crew must take responsibility for its own fire protection.

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

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

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

Turn Risk To Reward : know your upfront costs + maintenance costs = lifecycle cost

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

What is Portacare® ?

  • Portacare® is a total care package that provides enhanced after sales support
  • It goes above and beyond Coltraco’s Customer Care Commitment (CCC)
  • It offers a world leading support programme to our products over a 5 year term length. Coltraco Ultrasonics operates with integrity - from design to after sales care - to best support customers and provide enhanced after sales support. 

What is the CCC?

  • Customer – we invite you to benefit from Coltraco’s ethos of integrity from design to lifetime support
  • Care – we think care is better if its personal so you can arrange a phone call any time that suits you worldwide to answer your queries
  • Commitment – we want to save you cost and time, whilst helping you improve safety.

How can you cut risk with the Portacare® Package?

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

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

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

Portacare® is designed for customers using liquid level testing, seal integrity and condition monitoring equipment for in high value applications such as power plants, data centres and naval vessels.  Coltraco Ultrasonics is a leading British designer and manufacturer of innovative ultrasonic technology operating in 109 countries across multiple markets such as the offshore, marine, fire, renewable markets, for over 30 years. www.coltraco.com/news.

Can your business risk to lose $4.5million?

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

With predictions of much taller and more powerful turbines and thus fewer per project, ensuring that the they are in working order is essential, because the larger and fewer the turbines, the more costly they will be to operators in the event of fire damage. Due to the height and location of wind turbines, classic firefighting methods come up against their limits and therefore fire extinguishing systems that use gases such as carbon dioxide, inert gases or clean agents such as FM 200 fire suppression system

and Novec™1230, which are especially appropriate for dealing with fires in electrical systems because they extinguish the fire quickly whilst not damaging the electrical systems or the compartment in which they are being discharged. 

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

Focused on continued advancement of safety technology, Coltraco have now developed the Permalevel® Multiplex, a fixed fire suppression monitoring system, designed for continuous contents verification. 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. With guaranteed systems operations, adaptability for purpose, 24/7 remote access to the systems status, an uninterruptible power supply (UPS) and remote real-time monitoring, the Permalevel® offers the efficiency that is needed in a wind turbine.

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

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

How are we failing to protect the crew by maintaining hatch covers?

Wrongly applied and poorly maintained cargo hatch covers and sealing systems increase the risk of cargo becoming damaged by water. The most common wet cargo problems include leaking cross joints, and compression bars, rubber gaskets, hatch coamings, drain channels and cleats in poor condition.

The importance of continually maintaining seal integrity must take a more prominent position in ship maintenance scheduling as demanded by regulations:

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.”

How have hatch covers been tested traditionally?

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

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

Why are these methods no longer recommended by P&I clubs?

Various drawback come with chalk and hose testing, for instance;

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

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

What is the alternative?

Ultrasound.

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

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

Which is the best ultrasonic test kit for hatch cover testing?

Owners, managers, marine surveyors, third party servicing companies and other mariners have pledged their support for the Portascanner® WATERTIGHT for years.
For 3 simple reasons: “it is faster, better, cheaper” than any competitor. But don’t take Coltraco Ultrasonics’ word for it, here are 3 customer testimonials:

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

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

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

The Portascanner® WATERTIGHT is:

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

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

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

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

Protect tankers from the risk of explosion 

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

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

SPECIFIC AREAS OF RISK

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

SERIOUS INCIDENTS

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

 TRADITION VS TECHNOLOGY 

For the gaseous systems, the traditional method requires turning the system off, dismantling and manually weighing each cylinder on industrial scales. Routine maintenance is liable to be overlooked because the crew is unqualified to test or insufficient attention is given by the owner of the system. It’s neglected to the peril of the lives of occupants of the vessel and at the risk of crippling financial and reputational loss to the tanker.
Ultrasound should be harnessed by innovators in the safety of offshore platforms.  By utilising a sensor which acts as a transceiver, an ultrasonic liquid level indicator is capable of detecting liquid levels within any single-skinned container through transmitting an ultrasonic pulse and analysing the strength of the returned signal to determine the level of contents.  Importantly, due to the risk of explosion on the oil and gas tankers, ultrasonic liquid level indicators used on board to ensure fire safety, must be Intrinsically Safe. 

APPROVE THE APPROVAL METHODS

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

LEADING OPERATORS LEAD ON FIRE SAFETY

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

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

CASE STUDY: Corrosion in Metal Work

WHO? Vales Point Power Station

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

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

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

CASE STUDY : Oxygen Reduction System in a Data Centre

WHERE? Oxygen Reduction System, England

WHAT? A data centre is a facility that stores, manages and disseminates data.  Data centres are now supporting a variety of heavy industries such as mines.

WHY? 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, ultrasonic room integrity tester 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.

HOW? 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. 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. 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.

WHAT? The most suitable way to address periodic inspections is through the use of ultrasound. The Portascanner® 520 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, making it by far the most accurate device for this function. Portascanner® 520 also provides interpretation of the fire resistance of the desired locations, labelling them either airtight or calculates the overall leakage of the room. The advantages of being able to accurately detect the exact leak locations and size are self-evident when considered alongside the resistance to collapse and transfer of excessive heat. In a case where there is too much leakage in a room, the Portascanner® 520 is an unrivalled ideal for the rapid and accurate identification of these sites so that they can be sealed. It is lightweight, fast and easy to use, allowing leak site detection to increase its operational efficiency and speed to a degree that has never been seen thus far in the Fire Industry.

Case study 4: Transformer oil levels in a copper, lead, silver, zinc and gold mine

WHERE? Gold Mine, Australia

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

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

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

CASE STUDY Fire & Explosion:

WHO? NRG Energy

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

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

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

WHY? Gaseous extinguishing systems are pressurised, and therefore exist in a dynamic state i.e. they can leak. As supported by the BS EN ISO 14520 regulation, if clean agent cylinders leak beyond 5% of contents or 10% of pressure they will not extinguish a fire, as they will be below their design concentration.  As the “golden standard” of clean agent systems, BS EN ISO 14520 highlights the asset owner’s responsibility to check that the clean agents contents exist; that the protected space can be sealed; that the pipework used to discharge the clean agents are clear of particulates that can clog up the nozzles which reduces the amount of clean agent to the point where it cannot operate in the event of a fire.
HOW? After witnessing fire service experts undertaking ultrasonic liquid level indication in just minutes, NRG Energy were keen to change from their previous method of weighing which took over 15 minutes. The Portalevel® Max is an example of the technologically advanced techniques that the company are implementing to lead the way in safe and sustainable coal sourcing.  Portalevel® MAX is a handheld ultrasonic liquid level indicator to inspect CO2, clean agents and more liquefied gaseous agents, by one person in just 30 seconds as a safety critical asset, the Morgan Town Plant saw the necessity in investing into their fire safety.

CASE STUDY: Fire Safety in a Coal Powered Power Station

WHO? NRG Energy

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

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

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

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

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

What risk does fire pose to the crew onboard vessels?

Lives are at stake. This is unacceptable.

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

What protects the crew from fire?

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

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

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

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

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

What measures should be taken?

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

There is a call to respond to regulations with a rigorous attitude, to go above and beyond, to provide security of life and infrastructure.
Currently, there is a failure to protect the lives of the crew. Ensuring the safety of the crew is not an option, it is a requirement.

What is the solution?

The crew must take responsibility for its own fire protection.

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

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

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

ACT NOW: Nuclear Power Plants Are Safety Critical

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

The International Atomic Energy Authority state clearly in the Fire Safety in the Operation of Nuclear Power Plants standards that the effects of a single failure in fire safety systems, such as a system not performing its required function, can be detrimental. One example of this is the Chernobyl disaster a catastrophic nuclear accident which cost approximately 18 billion roubles and had a huge human impact. In this disaster a  combination of inherent reactor design flaws, together with the reactor operators arranging the core in a manner contrary to the checklist for the test, eventually resulted in uncontrolled reaction conditions that flashed water into steam generating a destructive steam explosion and a subsequent open-air graphite fire.  This fire produced considerable updrafts for about 9 days, that lofted plumes of fission products into the atmosphere, with the estimated radioactive inventory that was released during this very hot fire phase, approximately equal in magnitude to the airborne fission products released in the initial destructive explosion. Over thirty years later and investment into the site is still required, with Flamgard Calidair providing fire shut off dampers to the Chernobyl, as part of an €1.5 billion multinational engineering project. With fires at nuclear power plants still occurring, such as the 2017 power plant explosion at Flamanville, deemed “very serious” by industry experts, the call for advanced technology is of most importance. A significant technical issue led to a blast in the turbine hall in the unit, although there was no radioactive leak, a thorough investigation is being conducted into the concerning event.

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.

Industrial Application Case Study: Portalevel® MAX INDUSTRIAL testing Ammonia in Aerospace Component Factory

The UK aerospace industry is the second biggest in the world, with sales in the sector of £31.1billion last year. The aerospace industry is widely seen as the instigator of technology change in engineering disciplines. Within the bounds of manufacturing, the aerospace industry is the important testbed for developments in automation, assembly and inspection. The developments in the engineering of aerospace components often have implications for many other engineering sectors. Coltraco Ultrasonics received a request from an aerospace component manufacturer for an engineering solution for their manufacturing process.

A manufacturer of high end components for Aerospace and other high end engineering based in Wolverhampton, approached Coltraco for assistance with its monitoring of ammonia. The facilities manager met with Coltraco at a show in Birmingham, weeks prior. The facility runs 24/7, 265 days a year and is the size of around 2-3 football pitches. The facility is concerned mainly in manufacturing high end actuators that are installed on a range of civil and defence systems. Actuators are integral parts of modern engineering and their production is essential. The customer uses ammonia in a nitrating process in which ammonia is applied to heated metal, infusing the metal with the Nitrogen. This can have beneficial outcomes such as making the metal infuse with Nitrogen to make it harder, tougher and with higher melting temperatures. The factory asked Coltraco for a solution with its monitoring of the contents within the ammonia cylinders. This is specifically significant because if improperly managed, ammonia may threaten the safety of workers. To check that the ammonia cylinders had enough contents for a run, the manufacturer had been manually weighing the cylinders. However, manually weighing cylinders is inefficient, time consuming, risks damaging the system and injuring the personnel conducting the laborious test. This method also has been shown to incur waste which was costly to the manufacturer.

Coltraco presented an innovative non-invasive, accurate method that is quicker, much easier for the operator to test and thus, saves money. After a formal assessment by a Coltraco Engineer, the Portalevel® MAX  INDUSTRIAL was found effective in accurately and quickly identifying the liquid level indicator within the ammonia cylinders. Portalevel® MAX INDUSTRIAL allowed for more efficient operations and reduced waste by ensuring partially empty cylinders were not returned to the gas supplier. Coltraco offer comprehensive customer service and therefore designed an in-house testing and recording process that was compatible with the manufacturers current monitoring processes.

The Portalevel® MAX INDUSTRIAL builds on Coltraco Ultrasonics’ 30 years’ experience in designing, manufacturing and supporting ultrasonic liquid level indicating equipment, in 108 Countries and numerous market sectors and environments. The development program was born out of the desire to further improve on Coltraco’s existing 8 designs and taking on board feedback and opinions of our customers.

The trial and implementation stimulated interested in developing an Ammonia Portasteele® Calculator program to allow accurate conversion of the liquid level to agent mass/weight. The Portasteele® is an advanced calculator application, that currently 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 Portasteele® offers unparalleled efficiency, ease of maintenance and simple training. This advanced technology is supplied on a stand-alone rugged hand-held 7” touch screen tablet which makes these advanced calculations in real time. Data is stored on the Calculator so the crew or service technician are able to easily send servicing reports back to the shore based managers or directly to customers, without having to manually upload the results onto a computer. Furthermore, the Portasteele® can convert an expected substance weight back to the required liquid level allowing users to anticipate where the level should be. The adaptability of Coltraco’s technology allows programs to suit the requirements of their customers purpose.

Turn Risk To Reward : know your upfront costs + maintenance costs = lifecycle cost

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

What is Portacare® ?

  • Portacare® is a total care package that provides enhanced after sales support
  • It goes above and beyond Coltraco’s Customer Care Commitment (CCC)
  • It offers a world leading support programme to our products over a 5 year term length. Coltraco Ultrasonics operates with integrity - from design to after sales care - to best support customers and provide enhanced after sales support. 
  •  

What is the CCC?

  • Customer – we invite you to benefit from Coltraco’s ethos of integrity from design to lifetime support
  • Care – we think care is better if its personal so you can arrange a phone call any time that suits you worldwide to answer your queries
  • Commitment – we want to save you cost and time, whilst helping you improve safety.

How can you cut risk with the Portacare® Package?

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

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

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

Portacare® is designed for customers using liquid level testing, seal integrity and condition monitoring equipment for in high value applications such as power plants, data centres and naval vessels.  Coltraco Ultrasonics is a leading British designer and manufacturer of innovative ultrasonic technology operating in 109 countries across multiple markets such as the offshore, marine, fire, renewable markets, for over 30 years. www.coltraco.com/news.

A CALL FOR CONSTANT MONITORING OF WIND TURBINES

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

If the hazard is special and the infrastructure critical then this is the case for the constant monitoring of the suppression systems that aim to deliver the protection of them. Inspection should include an evaluation that the extinguishing system continues to provide adequate protection for the risk.
Coupled to this is a complete 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.  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 Standards or ISO 14520, yet remain ‘loose’ enough to prevent enclosure damage at discharge.  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.

It is accepted that in wind turbines vibration can loosen connections while dirt, dust, and temperature extremes are known to cause unwarranted discharge. Additionally, openings in the turbine housing significantly inhibit achieving the designated agent concentration. Devising a solution to overcome these challenges can add significantly to the weight in the turbine.

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

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

Call for Continuous Monitoring

Continuous monitoring is no longer an option; it is essential for the protection against special hazards in critical infrastructure. Clean agents are designed to operate in limited spaces where there is a need for speed of suppression given the asset risk and where the space is occupied by people. They deliver the infrastructural resilience our advanced society requires. The assumptions in the installation, commissioning and maintenance of gaseous extinguishing systems is that they are highly 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.

Could you afford the financial and reputational damage of an engine fire onboard?

Fires on board ships can be devastating, to crew, vessel and cargo. Fire safety standards on board cannot afford to slip.

At sCould you afford the financial and reputational damage of an engine fire onboard?

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 the of biggest threat 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.

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, this is all the time.

“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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. In other cases It was found that the filter cover bolts were improperly tightened and there was a lack of proper inspection routines.

3 key areas for regular inspection is important

The ungoverned space is the area where either the regulations or the protecting systems of the critical infrastructure are not effectively providing consistent and reliable safety. This life-threatening issue must be dealt with, with specific regard to loss of contents in fixed fire extinguishing systems and need for improvements to room integrity testing.

The neglect of the basic routine testing and maintenance of 3 key areas substantially increases the risk of an onboard engine room fire:

  1.  the cylinder agent content in the fire extinguishing installations, commonly CO2, FM-200®, Novec™1230, halons;
  2. the associated pipework;
  3. and the room integrity of the protected space into which the suppressant agent discharges;

Some smart Safeship® solutions

  1. Ultrasonic liquid level indicator: to identify the agent liquid level in under 30 seconds with 1 competent user*
    1. Compared to 15 minutes by laboriously weighing with 2 personnel, qho must be qualified in fire safety inspections, which most crew are not
    2. Complies with IMO SOLAS FSS Code 2.1.1.3 which requires crew to have the means onboard to test the installation agent content
  1. Ultrasonic thickness gauge, ultrasonic flow meter, acoustic emissions bearing indicator: all efficiently inspect and provide condition monitoring of
    1. metal work,
    2. pipework and
    3. rotating machinery

3. Ultrasonic watertight and airtight integrity indicator: to identify leak sites in compartments. To ensure that the protected space 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

The danger is shown in the statistics. 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 action to be taken now.

ea, fire poses one the of biggest threat 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.

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, this is all the time.

“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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. In other cases It was found that the filter cover bolts were improperly tightened and there was a lack of proper inspection routines.

3 key areas for regular inspection is important

The ungoverned space is the area where either the regulations or the protecting systems of the critical infrastructure are not effectively providing consistent and reliable safety. This life-threatening issue must be dealt with, with specific regard to loss of contents in fixed fire extinguishing systems and need for improvements to room integrity testing.

The neglect of the basic routine testing and maintenance of 3 key areas substantially increases the risk of an onboard engine room fire:

  1.  the cylinder agent content in the fire extinguishing installations, commonly CO2, FM-200®, Novec™1230, halons;
  2. the associated pipework;
  3. and the room integrity of the protected space into which the suppressant agent discharges;

Some smart Safeship® solutions

  1. Ultrasonic liquid level indicator: to identify the agent liquid level in under 30 seconds with 1 competent user*
    1. Compared to 15 minutes by laboriously weighing with 2 personnel, qho must be qualified in fire safety inspections, which most crew are not
    2. Complies with IMO SOLAS FSS Code 2.1.1.3 which requires crew to have the means onboard to test the installation agent content
  1. Ultrasonic thickness gauge, ultrasonic flow meter, acoustic emissions bearing indicator: all efficiently inspect and provide condition monitoring of
    1. metal work,
    2. pipework and
    3. rotating machinery

3. Ultrasonic watertight and airtight integrity indicator: to identify leak sites in compartments. To ensure that the protected space 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

The danger is shown in the statistics. 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 action to be taken now.

Why the industry is failing to comply with ISO 14520

In the event of fire, lives depend on systems that are appropriately designed for their specific environments. Why then, asks Carl Hunter, is the industry failing to comply with regulations?

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

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

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

Key Facts

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

SOURCE: Aviva Insurance, 2012

APPROVED DOCUMENT B (ADB)

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

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

ISO14520-1:2015(E)

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

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

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

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

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.

Meeting minimum fire standards is not enough

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

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

The technology exists right now to solve this problem.  

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

See the Portascanner® 520 Here.

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Ultrasonic Room Integrity Testing for Compartmentation

Key Facts

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

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

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

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

Standardisation in the Shipping Industry

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

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

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

Case Study:

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

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

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

Smart technology provides the crew and ship owners with ease of inspection and understanding their extinguishing systems. However, the crew will not be able to refill the gaseous extinguishing system, and instead must rely on notifying the marine servicing company when they arrive at a port, despite the fact that they may only be at the port for a very short amount of time. Due to time pressures, the risk of not being able to find a contractor in time to fill the cylinders in the event of leakage is one that could jeopardise the safety of the entire ship when it is time to set sail.

Continuously monitoring the cylinders with ultrasonic sensors that utilises IoT can avoid this, because the network contribution. Using IoT enables the advance notification of the crew and shore based services whilst at sea. Therefore, preparations to address the issues can be made prior to docking to ensure the issues are resolved given the minimum time they have.

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

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

FIRETEST SOLUTIONS TO DELIVER THE SAFESITE

ISSUE: Fire suppression systems at risk of accidental discharge which could affect the effectiveness of the overall fire protection system in the event of a fire.

SOLUTION: Permalevel® Multiplex, a fixed fire suppression monitoring system, designed for continuous contents verification

RESULT: With guaranteed systems operations, adaptability for purpose, 24/7 remote access to the systems status, an uninterruptible power supply (UPS) and remote real-time monitoring, the Permalevel® offers the efficiency that is needed in a wind turbine.

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

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

Protect tankers from the risk of explosion 

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

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

SPECIFIC AREAS OF RISK

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

SERIOUS INCIDENTS

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

 TRADITION VS TECHNOLOGY 

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

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

APPROVE THE APPROVAL METHODS

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

LEADING OPERATORS LEAD ON FIRE SAFETY

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

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

What is a watertight hatch and how should it be maintained?

A watertight hatch cover is designed to prevent the passage of water in either direction under a head of water for which the surrounding structure is designed.  Many mariners may think hatches are robust, monolithic structures, thereby failing to appreciate the small tolerances on panel alignment and gasket compression. It is better to think of hatches as complex, finely-made structures, to be handled with care.

Wrongly applied and poorly maintained cargo hatch covers tester and sealing systems increase the risk of cargo becoming damaged by water. The most common wet cargo problems include leaking cross joints, and compression bars, rubber gaskets, hatch coamings, drain channels and cleats in poor condition.
Proper weathertightness is a key factor in keeping cargo dry. To ensure that the hatch covers are weathertight the sealing system needs to be in a good condition. 

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

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

Owners, managers, marine surveyors, third party servicing companies and other mariners have pledged their support for the Portascanner® WATERTIGHT for years. The Portascanner® Watertight is an Ultrasonic Test Kit for Cargo Hold Watertight compartment doors testing.

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

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

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

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

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.
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.

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.

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’.

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 andheld unit fits in the palm of the hand monitor pings an ultrasonic signal into the cylinder, which allows the user to “pinpoint the liquid level of suppressant agent”, Hunter says. In this way, the liquid level height has been obtained under 30 seconds for a competent user.

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. The app is installed on a  ruggedised 7” tablet. The user inputs information related to: the extinguishing agent type [ie, CO2, FM 200 fire suppression system, etc]; the cylinder dimensions; the temperature of the agent; and the liquid level height. The Portasteele® app then instantly provides the agent’s weight.

Understand and Apply Standards in the Maritime Industry

Shipping, Naval and Oil and Gas are all safety critical sectors which can have catastrophic and expensive results in the event of fire.

The size of vessels and the on-board technology have been subject to a constant process of optimization. But safety measures, in particular in respect of fire protection, have been left lagging behind in the face of ever bigger, ever better container ships. Fire protection has been largely untouched due to the fact that cargo is more commonly being transported in containers rather than as bulk cargo, and has been for decades. The current firefighting facilities remain inadequate in the face of the capacity of such vessels. Fire therefore remains an ever-present risk on the high seas.

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.

Anecdotal experiences –

  • Safety pins being retained in position in the cylinder valves after installation.
  • Marine CO2 systems with 20% of the CO2 cylinders installed on commercial shipping being empty or partially filled.
  • Over-filled and under-filled cylinders.
  • Pipework and cylinders freshly painted but with severe internal corrosion.
  • Room integrity testing with questionable results and with the room integrity remaining un-monitored after testing.
  • Liquefied extinguishants being confused by installers with Inert gas systems.
  • There exists a lack of understanding of the organic compounds of some liquid extinguishants and their corrosive effect on the cylinder in the event of condensate ingress.
  • Shipping companies not implementing the FSS code of the IMO SOLAS regulations.
  • We have been regularly asked how to operate portable Portalevel™ liquid level indicators on dry powder extinguishers.

Marine servicing companies bid to service a ships CO2 & marine CO2 systems; this can comprise 200-600 x 45KG CO2 cylinders per ship. These are under high 720 psi/ 50 bar pressure. They can discharge accidentally. One of the highest probabilities of discharge occurs during their maintenance. Some service companies estimate that at one time 20% of a ships CO2 cylinders have discharged or partially leaked their contents and there are over 55,000 commercial vessels at sea at any time. On average each cylinder will take 40 minutes to dismantle, weigh, record and re-install. Too many times therefore good servicing companies may not have the physical time to perform the inspection required.

Protect critical infrastructure at Sea

Coltraco Ultrasonics implemented the Safeship® initiative, to promote protecting critical infrastructure at sea. The two main causes of vessel loss are sinking and fire. A lack of proper servicing of watertight and weathertight seals can lead to deterioration which can endanger the ship, cargo and lives of the crew through flooding and the potential of capsizing. Secondly, bad industry practice is unacceptable when fire risk may have catastrophic results due to risk to life, downtime in operation due to ship safety and repair work and incalculable reputational damage. The crew, cargo and vessel must be protected when at sea because it is it’s own fire brigade without accessibility to typical emergency services.

As a result, Coltraco designed the FLEETSAFE: a package of innovative safety tools to combat the above and comply with regulations

With this package the hatch-covers, doors, MCTs, compartments, pipework, hulls, bulkheads, rotating machinery, pumps, sprinkler systems and gaseous extinguishing installations are protected. The package is based on integrity, from design, through to life-time support, and is accurate, reliable and easy to use for any crew members.

The initiative will continue to work over the longer term by ensuring regulations are implemented and encouraging operators, owners and managers to go above and beyond to secure the Safeship® through minimising risk. Coltraco Ultrasonics focus on benefitting the crew; designing innovative ultrasonic solutions which promote safety culture, which the crew will be happy to use by being easy to operate, quick, accurate and a better method to traditional techniques. This can be in-between the statutory annual maintenance and certification intervals provided by shore-based contractors. Thus, increasing the likelihood of tests being regularly conducted, in line with regulations and even going above and beyond for more frequent testing. By so doing, the crew will be creating a safer ship.

Portalevel® MAX Transformer – world leading Safesite® solution

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

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

Background

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

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

Portalevel MAX application 1

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

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

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

Portalevel MAX application 2

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

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

The Portalevel MAX Transformer is an invaluable tool that has helped thousands of customers worldwide reduce their annual maintenance costs and contribute to a more efficient servicing routine.

Fire in Wind Turbines are a Critical Safety Issue

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

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

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

Focused on continued advancement of safety technology, Coltraco have now developed the Permalevel® Multiplex, a fixed fire suppression monitoring system, designed for continuous contents verification. 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. With guaranteed systems operations, adaptability for purpose, 24/7 remote access to the systems status, an uninterruptible power supply (UPS) and remote real-time monitoring, the Permalevel® offers the efficiency that is needed in a wind turbine.

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

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

Gas systems leak - it's official! The need for improving safety by continuous 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.

Technology now exists to improve the reliability of fire suppression systems that affects the safety of all who inhabits the building it protects in an event of fire. Regulations which often govern the quality of fire safety systems installed should hence reflect the latest advancement of technological innovations in its industry in order to uphold fire safety to its highest standards.

Gaseous Extinguishing Systems

The regulations are not extensive enough to deal with the risks presented in gaseous systems. In ISO 14520 which is the “gold standard” of clean agent fire suppression system, clauses 9.2.1.3 in 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, the regulations highlight the need for periodic maintenance because it is known  that the gaseous systems leak and need to be  periodically checked. Given that the gaseous systems are designed specifically to the individual need of that enclosure, a 5% loss of agent may mean that they would not fully extinguish the fire.

Coltraco have developed a fixed fire suppression monitoring device, 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.

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

 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.

“Safely check the quantity of the fire extinguishing medium in the containers.”

Sailing alone and at sea throughout the year, and without the ability to call upon the emergency services as a land-based asset might. This is recognised with marine insurers and especially with the International Union of Marine Insurance (IUMI): “Fire protection on board is not unlike fire protection in buildings: If a fire breaks out and is not quickly brought under control, all that is left is a ruined shell, fit only for the wrecking ball. In turn, in the case of ships, a total write-off. To better protect the cargo on container ships, with a value running into many millions, it makes sense to modernize the on-board facilities for containing and extinguishing fires.”

As vessels become larger and more sophisticated, a greater financial interest is tied up into one ship, meaning that the risks are magnified if the vessel would get into difficulties e.g. a fire. From a marine insurer's perspective, it is a simple equation: the larger the vessel, the more cargo it will carry, and hence the greater the sum insured.

Posed threat of loss of crew, vessel and the cargo guidance by the German Insurance Associations has set out an ‘improved concept’ for firefighting facilities on container ships. Vice Chair of the IUMI Loss Prevention Committee, Uwe-Peter Schieder, explained: “We believe a new technical solution is needed to improve current firefighting practice on container vessels, particularly as these ships are continuing to grow in size

The regulations that currently govern gaseous extinguishing systems are the IMO SOLAS Fire Safety Systems (FSS) Code and the BS EN ISO 14520 standards.

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

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

THE SOLUTION?

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

Address the two main causes of vessel loss

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

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

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

Fire system incident offshore: technician struck by high pressure extinguishing cylinder 

Reinforces need for non-invasive FSS servicing

06 August 2018

SHELL UK Limited has been fined for health and safety breaches after a technician was struck by a cylinder and left severely injured on the Brent Delta offshore installation. 

Aberdeen Sheriff Court heard how, on 10 November 2014, technicians were required to replace a gas cylinder within a system used to extinguish fires. When one of the technicians rolled what he thought was an empty cylinder along the floor and took off the protective cap, he realised that it was a fully charged cylinder. The trigger mechanism on the cylinder was activated causing a loud bang and the instantaneous release of the cylinder contents in a white cloud of concentration.

The force of the gas release caused the technician to drop the cylinder to the floor causing a valve to shear. This resulted in both cylinder and valve becoming projectiles which struck and severely injured a second technician.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found the company failed to take suitable and sufficient steps to ensure risks associated with handling of pressurised cylinders were eliminated. The company also failed to remove pressurised cylinders which were not suitable for use in a safe and secure manner and also failed to ensure the provision of appropriate information and instruction in respect of the handling and use of energised gas cylinders.

Shell UK Limited of Shell Centre, London pleaded guilty to breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and was fined £60,000.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector David Josiah said, “This incident could so easily have been avoided by simply carrying out correct control measures and safe working practices.

“Companies should be aware that HSE will not hesitate to take appropriate enforcement action against those that fall below the required standard.”

6 times award winning company, Coltraco Ultrasonics, core Safesite® and Safeship® technologies, which comprise the FLEETSAFE and FIRETEST packages, are in the monitoring of fire extinguishing systems, primarily pressurised liquefied gaseous ones as well as sprinklers, by their flagship UL and ABS approved Portalevel® MAX range of products and unique fixed monitoring system, Permalevel®. Using Coltraco Ultrasonics contents monitoring, Portalevel® MAX, would have alerted the technician at once that he was managing a highly pressurised and filled CO2 cylinder.

World leading Coltraco Ultrasonics, are at the forefront in providing highly accurate and easy to use technology, to ensure that safety of technicians lives, assets and infrastructure are always achieved and required standards are met and exceeded.

Who are Coltraco Ultrasonics?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Passenger ship fire safety push:ropax and passive protection

Giorgio Lauro (Promat): Current standards should be revised to reach a more feasible time elapse for evacuation in case of fire.

There is currently a big push to improve the fire safety of ropax ferries and to drive passive fire protection. Rebecca Moore reports 

Work to improve ropax fire safety has become a major area of activity following several high-profile incidents in recent years – and this has been underlined by industry association Interferry’s work in this area.

Interferry attended the fifth annual session of the IMO's Ship Systems and Equipment (SSE) Sub-Committee, which took place 12-16 March.

Among several fire-related issues, the European Commission (EC) presented proposals arising from its Fire Safe 1 studies, primarily on electrical connections and alternatively powered vehicles.

Interferry chief executive Mike Corrigan explained “We argued that while technically robust, some proposals such as fitting earth fault breakers are practical for newbuilds but not necessarily for existing ships, which the EC also plans to include.” He said that any requirements on existing ships “must be more generic in nature”, allowing for adaptations to the ship's current systems.

He added “Our concern is that good ideas for new ships could be killed off by the EC because the proposals simultaneously push for retrospective application, albeit with a fairly substantial delay to conform to new regulations.” For instance, positioning of vehicle deck sprinkler and nozzles could be optimised for new ships, but would be “very cumbersome” to address for existing ships.

Japan and China also submitted several potential risk-mitigation options, many of which were very reasonable proposals, Mr Corrigan commented. But he warned that Interferry emphasised “the need to avoid working with a general wish list”.

“After the Costa Concordia accident, the IMO spent several years trying to remove items of a less defined nature and we maintained that such generalities should be avoided regarding ropax fire protection.”

Mr Corrigan said the “most concrete” outcome of SSE5 was the development of a structure for interim guidelines, to be further developed in a correspondence group between now and the SSE6 sub-committee meeting.

Peejay V sinking

In 2016, the ferry Peejay V caught fire and sunk off the coast of Whakatane, New Zealand. Fifty-three passengers were on board at the time of the incident, one person suffered smoke inhalation and there was a total loss of the vessel.

The New Zealand Transport Accident Investigation Commission has investigated the cause of the incident and concluded that a lack of understanding of the CO2 fixed fire-fighting system contributed to the sinking of PeeJay V. One of the significant issues was “the CO2 fixed fire-fighting system installed in the engineroom could not be fully effective in extinguishing the fire because the space it was protecting could not be fully closed down” and this was partly because “the builder and operators of the vessel did not fully appreciate the principles of how the CO2 fixed fire-fighting system operated”.

Coltraco Ultrasonics chief executive Carl Stephen Patrick Hunter told Passenger Ship Technology that such an incident could happen again. “The risks remain. So unfortunately, another incident could happen again. For as long as ships do not check and maintain the contents of their CO2 fire extinguishing systems against the risk of accidental discharge or slow leakage, there will remain high risk of the fire system being unable to deliver the design concentration of CO2 required to extinguish the fire event.”

He commented that currently the industry services its systems, “often from the lowest bidder” to gain its certificate which enables its insurance. He explained “This inevitably leads to situations in which the CO2cylinders are not individually checked, since the lowest bidder will often be under time pressures that inhibit their ability to service them properly.”

Elaborating on why he thought there is a lack of understanding and servicing of fixed fire-fighting solutions, Dr Hunter said “Designing, installing and maintaining fixed gaseous fire-fighting systems is more complicated than commonly thought and requires scientific understanding to ensure they remain fully operational at all times. The race to the bottom in price means that fire engineers and servicing teams do not always have the training required. Better respect for the industry and fire safety needs to be adhered to, to ensure safety of life, assets and infrastructure.”

Gaseous extinguishing systems are highly pressurised, he said, and the risk of leaking and discharging is accepted as part of their use, shown in the regulations that demand their upkeep. IMO SOLAS FSS Ch5. 2.1.1.3 states that ‘means shall be provided for the crew to safely check the quantity of the fire extinguishing medium in the container’.

But Dr Hunter said “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.”

He warned that the crew are “often not trained or certified to shutdown, dismantle, weigh and reinstall the gaseous cylinders – the traditional method [of testing fire suppression systems]”.
Highlighting how Coltraco’s testing system benefited crew, he said that its Portalevel Max ultrasonic liquid level indicator – designed primarily for the vessels’ crew to themselves inspect large fire suppression systems of up to 600 cylinders – enables one person to test the contents of a cylinder in 30 seconds, compared to traditional manual weighing with two people testing the cylinder contents in 15 minutes.

“The ease of operation in comparison to weighing, increases the ability of more regular and frequent checks, improving fire safety management on board,” he said.

Coltraco Ultrasonics has launched its Safeship concept to prevent PeeJay V-type incidents occurring again. Dr Hunter said Safeship promotes protecting critical infrastructure at sea.

He said “This is a call to respond to regulations with a rigorous attitude, to go above and beyond, to provide security of life and infrastructure.”

 As a result of SafeShip, Coltraco designed FleetSafe, a package of safety tools to comply with regulations, which includes:

With this package, hatch covers, doors, compartments, pipework, hulls, bulkheads, rotating machinery, pumps, sprinkler systems and gaseous extinguishing installations are protected. “The package is based on integrity, from design, through to lifetime support, and is accurate, reliable and easy to use for any crew members,” said Dr Hunter.

Passive fire protection push 

Belgium-based Promat is pushing forward its case for passive fire protection. Tests carried out with Promaguard – a new generation product used for passive fire protection and thermal insulation, based on microporous technologies – are said to have demonstrated a level of performance which, the company claims, would enable a modification of the Solas A60 standards, which require a 60-minute safe evacuation time, to A180 standards, with evacuation enabled within three hours.

Explaining why he felt it necessary to change the regulations, Promat marine segment manager and naval architect Giorgio Lauro told Passeger Ship Technology “The actual highest passive protection standards are A60, meaning 60 minutes of structural fire protection and insulation to allow persons on board to follow escape routes and abandon the ship in case of fire.”

But he pointed out such standardisation refers to the first safety regulation established at the time when SOLAS came into force in 1974. “We have to be aware that, at that time, ships’ dimensions and number of passengers were very small compared to the actual giant cruise ships, where more than 6,000 people are hosted in 350 m long vessels,” he said. “Should it be the case to revise such a standard to reach a more feasible time elapse for evacuation in case of fire?”

Along with Interferry members, Mr Lauro attended the IMO SSE5 sub-committee meeting in March, where the fire protection sector discussed, among other issues related to fire on the roro deck, the enhancement of passive fire protection for fire containment, as requested by the document MSC 97/19/3. Mr Lauro said this would allow a discussion on enhancing the passive fire protection standards to be raised. “All of this process, if successful, will take at least another two years,” he observed.

There have been other developments within the drive for passive fire protection. Class society RINA last year launched a service called Fire Risk Mitigation, which includes periodical onboard checks such as passive fire protection verification throughout the ship’s life, hot spot assessment in machinery spaces, and electrical equipment verification and maintenance in specially categorised spaces and other areas classified as hazardous. “The scope is to verify that the likelihood of a fire occurring in machinery compartments is as low as possible,” commented Mr Lauro.

In terms of its Promaguard solution, Promat has tested solutions and achieved certification with performance in excess of one hour. Mr Lauro said that Promaguard A240 Plus, for example, can achieve more than four hours insulation in case of fire. “We are still focusing on extra fire insulation performance by extending the interest to the naval sector where the survivability of ships is a must and ship’s evacuation is the last option,” he commented.

Commenting on the benefits of using Promat lightweight passive fire protection alongside non-combustible furniture, Mr Lauro said that it saves insulation and outfitting weight compared to chipboard or mineral wool, and boosts the ship’s energy efficiency design index.

“Although initial cost seems higher, savings for logistic must be taken into account (four to five times less volume for transportation, storage and handling on board),” he said, adding that the ship’s survivability of fire can be achieved with a reduced use of active fire protection, leading to less weight, complexity and through-life maintenance costs.

RINA welcomes Coltraco Ultrasonics’ CEO to the Board of Trustees

Coltraco Ultrasonics  Chief Executive, Carl Stephen Patrick Hunter, has been welcomed onto the Board of Trustees at  The Royal Institution of Naval Architects   (RINA), an internationally renowned professional institute at the heart of surface and sub-surface ship design. 

Formed in 1860 and established by Royal Warrant RINA occupies a central and essential role at the heart of British and global maritime with 70% overseas members and Consultative Status at the International Maritime Organisation.

Commenting on the appointment, RINA Chief Executive, Trevor Blakeley says:

“The Royal Institution of Naval Architects is very pleased to welcome Carl Stephen Patrick Hunter as a member of its Board of Trustees. Carl brings a wealth of experience in the maritime community. Such experience, together with his commitment to the Institution, will be invaluable in the governance of the Institution and in developing its standing as an international professional institution, responsive to the changing needs of the global maritime industry. Carl is a prime example of the adage, ‘If you want something doing well, give it to a busy man’. The Institution is grateful for his time.”

Coltraco Ultrasonics’ CEO, Carl S P Hunter is a Fellow of RINA and of IMarEST, an Associate Fellow of the  Nautical Institute and is also a Council Member for the Maritime & Defence Security Group. Carl also sits on the Society of Maritime Industries  BMEA Council, is a member of the Honourable Company of Master Mariners and a Council Member for the Europe Technical Committee, American Bureau for Shipping (ABS).

Carl Hunter said:

"I am delighted to join the Board of Trustees of the Royal Institution of Naval architects. RINA is at the heart of who we are as a maritime nation. It began as a learned society in London in 1860 and was soon established under Royal Warrant. Today 70% of its members are from overseas. I warmly welcome the opportunity to support the Board and President and the continued growth of RINA under the able leadership of its Chief Executive, Mr Trevor Blakeley. This is the maritime century and RINA will continue to play its essential role at the very centre of ship design and construction."

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 gas suppression system and the pressure of non-liquefied gases such as Inergen or Nitrogen.

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