Watch our YouTube Video to show how the Portalevel® MAX works

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8XaG7oM5aHA&t=48s

  1. Place the sensor on the cylinder & press ‘CAL’. This sets the unit up on each cylinder.
  2. The bar will go to 100%. Full bar graph indicates gas, no bar graph indicates liquid
  3. Move the sensor down the cylinder in small steps
  4. Look at the graph. When it disappears, you have reached liquid. 

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.

Implement Constant Monitoring

Gaseous extinguishing/suppression systems are installed to protect against special hazards in critical infrastructure as their key objective. They deliver the infrastructural resilience our advanced society requires. If the hazard is special and the infrastructure critical, then this is the case for the constant monitoring of the suppression systems that aim to deliver their protection.

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

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

The core regulation enshrined in BS EN ISO 14520 -1:2015(E) and we should be proud it exists. But let us examine what it says.

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

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

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

Fortunately lead elements of the critical infrastructure community are asking the same question. So are the world’s insurance companies.

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

Where can the Portascanner® WATERTIGHT be used?

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

Application Hatch Cover Tester

Ultrasonic hatch cover tester is best for the following applications:

Bulk Carrier Hatches

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

Watertight Doors

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

Multiple Cable Transits (MCTs)

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

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

Improve Safety Management Systems with the Portasteele® CALCULATOR

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

Fire Safety Onboard

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

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

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

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

Cost Cutting, Lack of Experience and Increasing Risks

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

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

Operating Method of Ultrasonic Technology

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

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

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

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

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

Gaseous Extinguishing Systems

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

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

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

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

Complement Door Fan Testing: Portascanner® 520

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

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

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

The White Heat of Fire Safety

Aluminium is used in hundreds of industries, especially in the fields of transportation, aerospace, packaging, building and construction. For this reason, the protection of the plants and development facilities is vital, to ensure competitive business continuity. The industry directly creates more than 155,000 jobs and is adding more yearly. With growing numbers of employees in the aluminium industry, their safety and well being has long been a commitment.

There is a need for comprehensive fire safety measures, specifically the fixed fire extinguishing systems in aluminium production and fabrication, in casthouses, foundries, recycling and reclamation plants. When aluminium is burned, it creates a very intense fire. Within the last four months alone there have been several serious fire incidences internationally, at aluminium plants. In Norton Canes, UK in August 2017, there was a serious fire which led to evacuation and over thirty firefighters tackling the blaze. In Wangara, Australia, just last month, there was a huge industrial fire at an aluminium factory, which spread and developed into a wild fire.  The protection of lives and assets against the dangers of fire is a priority for facilities managers and plant owners.

Gaseous extinguishing systems protect urgently important infrastructure against special hazards, fundamental for the safeguarding of critical facilities. However, gaseous extinguishing systems leak because they are active and dynamic systems and this threatens the consistent and reliable safety that they should offer to the space that they protect.

In fact, in the regulation ISO 14520, which is the “gold standard” of fire suppression systems, it is clearly stated that gaseous systems leak and need to be periodically checked to counter this issue:

9.2.1.3  - “if a container shows a loss of agent in quantity of more than 5 % or a loss of pressure of more than 10 %, it shall be refilled or replaced.”

Given that gaseous systems are designed specifically for a protected space or room e.g. one aluminium foundry factory floor, a 5% loss of extinguishing agent may mean that the system would not fully extinguish the fire.

Technology now exists to improve the reliability of fire suppression systems that affects the safety of all who occupies the building it protects in an event of fire.

To  ensure  that fire  suppression  systems  are  always   full and that no accidental discharge or leakage has occurred, Coltraco Ultrasonics have developed an ultrasonic liquid level indicator, the Portalevel® MAX and  the constant monitoring system the Permalevel ® MULTIPLEX. By testing and monitoring fire extinguishing systems for leaking, facilities managers and factory owners are able to exceed  standards and ensure that the gaseous extinguishing systems are able to extinguish in the event of the fire.

The easy to use Portalevel® MAX uses ultrasonic technology to pinpoint the liquid level of suppressant agent in the cylinders of the extinguishing system which makes testing is quicker and easier. Liquid level identification takes just 30 seconds, needing only one person. Combined with the Portalevel® MAX, the Portasteele® CALULATOR is an advanced calculator application, that converts the liquid level height of C02, NOVEC™ 1230 and FM-200® liquefied gaseous extinguishant agent readings taken on an ultrasonic non-destructive liquid level indicator device into the agent weight/mass.  Furthermore, the Portasteele® CALCULATOR can convert an expected agent weight back to the required liquid level allowing users to anticipate where the level should be.

The Permalevel® MULTIPLEX is designed for permanent contents verification.  Using smart ultrasonic technology ,the Permalevel® MULTIPLEX continuously monitors fixed fire extinguishing systems for leaking agents, 24/7, 365 days a year. 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® MULTIPLEX offers the efficiency that is now a requirement for encompassing protection.

Coupled with the danger of leaking agents, room integrity is often an overlooked aspect of a suppression system installation. Room integrity requires that in the event of a fire, the released fire extinguishant must meets the sufficient “Hold Time”, in order to properly extinguish fires. Buildings age and their internal use changes and because of this,  leak sites develop.  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.

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

With the continuing developments in smart ultrasonic technology, comprehensive fire safety measures are available to aluminium plant owners and facilities managers that are easy to use, affordable and an essential addition to any fire safety management system.

Coltraco Ultrasonics is a leading British company operating in 109 countries across multiple market sectors for over 30 years.

Markets Coltraco Ultrasonics Operate In Oil & Gas

We have units in operation on rigs, platforms and offshore support vessels around the globe, notably on approximately 160 of the North Sea rigs overtime, as well as with onshore drilling, exploration and production operations. Portalevel® MAX provides drilling operators, contractors and owners, down to the OIMs and barge managers with the assurance and confidence that their fire suppression systems are operating under an enhanced safety management plan.

Marine

Coltraco’s history is steeped in the Marine sector and Today Ship Owners, Managers and Operators, Port Authorities, P&I Clubs, Towage & Salvage Operators, Shipyards and Service Stations and Marine Surveyors are among our key customers around the world. We have developed products and diversified our range to serve our customers’ needs and Portalevel® MAX is our latest upgrade.

Fire Protection

The Portalevel has been leading in the fire safety and protection sector since we first invented it in 1987 and with the 8th generation model Portalevel MAX, we are pleased to offer an enhanced means of testing and certifying fire suppression systems. This ultrasonic liquid level indicator uses safe and clean technology. Portalevel® MAX aims to reduce time and cost; it is a must-have tool for fire system protection and we have the technical know-how and credentials to verify this

Power Generation

Power plants, transmission sub-stations and distribution networks need to minimize the risks of fire at all costs. For safety critical areas such as nuclear power generation, and the conventional fossil fuel power generation, Portalevel® MAX provides a further means of improving the safety management and preventative maintenance procedures of the fire suppression systems.

Defence

Government organizations and Defense forces around the globe, particularly Naval Forces and Coast Guards, have been using Coltraco equipment for over 20 years. These capabilities are focused upon Safety & Survey applications such as monitoring Naval vessel and Fleet Auxiliary vessel Halon 1301, typically using Portalevel to monitor contents of FM-Halon, FM-200™, CO2 & NOVEC™ 1230 systems.

The Two Principles

If you are an end user, to provide an additional means to check your systems more frequently, outside the regulatory certification checks and enhance your safety management, this ultrasonic level indicator is the best choice.

If you are a servicing company, to conduct certified testing in compliance with regulations, the Portalevel is approved and certified with proven accuracy up to +/-1.5mm and to save 75% of the time to complete testing when compared to weighing cylinders. Moreover, data centres, telecommunications centres, High Rise Buildings, MTR rooms, and others are good for this device to measure the liquid levels.

Please Download PDF for further information or contact Coltraco’s Customer Service, if you want to know if Portalevel® MAX will work with your applications.

3 Reasons Why You Should Monitor Your CO2 systems

Here are 3 reasons why you should monitor your CO2 system:

  • CO2 leaks
  • A fire starts every 7 seconds around the world
  • Insufficient CO2 could mean failure of extinguishment in the event of a fire

How can you protect yourself and your facilities?

Here is a LOW COST constant monitoring device for CO2 & Marine CO2 Systems. It is called Permalevel® LOAD WEIGH. 

Why a Safesite® solution for you:

  • Easier – automatic alarm in the event of CO2 leakage
  • Better – don’t wait for one annual check, monitor 24/7, 265 days a year
  • Cheaper – highly competitive pricing

This is a must have because of this flexibility in the Permalevel® LOAD WEIGH’s applications, from data centres, tall buildings, museums, hotels to industrial sector. 

Discover more today:

How can you ensure the effectiveness of your fire suppression system?

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.

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

Coltraco Ultrasonics have now developed a fixed fire suppression monitoring device, the Permalevel® MULTIPLEX ultrasonic level indicator which is designed for permanent contents verification. The continuous monitoring system is  designed  to  ensure  that fire  suppression  systems  are  always  fully operational and that no accidental discharge has occurred, which could affect the effectiveness of the overall fire protection system in the event of a fire. The device uses the Internet of Things (IoT). IoT enables a worldwide transmission of data starting from sensor to sensor to the microprocessors and to the facilities manager or maintenance team. Instead of waiting for annual checks, it would improve safety to have these cylinders constantly monitored using ultrasonic sensors. Now, by coupling with IoT developments, this enable their status to be visible to safety managers and building owners.

The neglect of continuous monitoring - of the fundamental protection provided by the gaseous extinguishing systems - is to the peril of the lives of occupants of the premises and at the risk of crippling financial and reputational loss to the facility comprising the critical infrastructure.

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

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

The risk is worsened by the ageing nature of many bulk carrier ships in particular. There is also a degree of bending/deformation that naturally occurs in ships during travel, which puts pressure on hatch covers and can damage sealing. A recent wave of inexperienced crew members has swept across the shipping industry as a cost-saving mechanism, leaving vessel maintenance and hatch cover testing to decrease in quality. While hatch covers are often perceived as indestructible due to their large size and bulky exterior, in reality they are complex, finely made structures that need to be handled with care, a point that many mariners do not realize.

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

The use of UT is far more efficient than the traditional methods described in the previous section, taking less time and requiring no clean up while being in a portable, light-weight model for ease of use. Due to its convenience, UT tests can be conducted more frequently and can contribute to safety management and preventative maintenance procedures on board.

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

  • Ultrasound is merely acoustic (sound) energy in the form of waves of high frequency that are above the human audible range.
  • Portascanner™ uses ultrasound to test the integrity of confined spaces and can detect leak sites as small as 0.06mm.
  • Portagauge™ uses ultrasound to test the internal and external corrosion on pipework and cylinder wall thickness to an accuracy of +/-0.1mm.
    • Globally we are known for the design and manufacture of 11 different model types of Portalevel™ liquid level indicators.  Accurate to +/-1.5mm for CO2, FM-200™ , NOVEC™ 1230, HFC-225 & 227, remaining Halon systems, FE-13™, FE-25™ and FE-36™.
    •  We can monitor these extinguishing systems 24/7 with the fixed, data-logging and autonomous monitoring system, Permalevel™ Multiplex & Permalevel™ Single Point. Signals from these fixed monitoring sites can be monitored centrally at the customer location and remotely globally.

Smart Solutions

This is the “ungoverned space”; but in it technology offers many solutions. Who today would object to vehicle safety restraint mechanisms? Who today would willingly replace a “chip and pin” credit card with one requiring only a signature? As the world changes, so must our industry integrate technological solutions to provide a bulwark against wider industry misinterpretation and minimal, even occasional and flagrant, disregard in the application of standards and good global engineering practise, creating standards which all can understand and apply.

The “white heat” of technology shines as a beacon of hope to our industry and so too enables justification for customers to actively engage in the monitoring of FM 200 fire suppression system
as an integrated and essential element to their business activity.

Why use ultrasound to test for watertightness?

Proper definitions of watertightness are crucial for proper maintenance of seals.

Watertightness and airtightness could be defined mathematically, using this formula for approximating the flow rate Q through an aperture: 

Q = the flow rate of fluid through the aperture (where the term ‘fluid’ here is taken to mean an ideal liquid or gas)
A = is the area of the leak aperture
g = the acceleration due to gravity acting on the fluid, and
h = the head of fluid.

This equation (which contains simplifications) is used to demonstrate how since no two meeting surfaces in a seal can ever truly be perfectly aligned, a leak aperture will always exist which will allow leaking of some rate under a head of water. Watertightness is hence defined as a maximum water leakage allowance per minute.
High pressure watertight doors are designed for pressures in excess of 100' (30.5m) (this is equivalent to to a pressure of 299 kPa/ or 3 bar). Typical applications include protection for ship power plants, high-pressure chambers, hydro-electric plants and diving/decompression chambers which are often found on oil platforms and support vessels. In these sensitive areas a small 1m2 watertight door is often expected to be able to resist the weight of 30 tonnes of water without buckling or allowing the protected compartment to flood, and as such the requirement for frequent and accurate preventative maintenance on these seals cannot be overstated.

Ultrasonic Testing of seals

Ultrasonic Technology is being rapidly adopted as a safe, easy and accurate method of identifying seal leak sites and has been quickly adopted by the Royal Navy to quickly identify any incorrectly installed MCT's. UT equipment has now been in service for 3 years aboard HMS Albion and HMS Bulwark, and has also recently been adopted this year by the Indian Navy, and Indian Coast Guard.

Different models of equipment vary, but in general UT equipment consists of two main units; a generator and a receiver. The generator produces an ultrasonic modulated tone, usually at a round 40kHz which is positioned on one side of the seal. The receiver is then used by the operator from the far side of the closed seal. If at any point the seal is imperfect, the ultrasonic signal will be able to pass though the seal through the leak, which can then be detected by the receiver. Some models of ultrasonic watertight compartment doors testing are capable of detecting leak apertures as small as 0.06±0.02mm in size. UT testing seals can provide the sensitivity to detect the smallest leaks, and can give two different types of readout scale: linear and decibel. The linear scale provides an intuitive measurement of the leak size, whereas the decibel scale allows for comparison of standards set by international classification societies. Use of UT is far more efficient that the methods described above, taking less time, requiring no clean up and is used in a portable, light-weight model for ease of use. Due to its convenience, UT tests can be conducted more frequently and can contribute to safety management and preventative maintenance procedures on board. Moreover, the accuracy of this method is unrivalled, and leak sites can be identified and specifically located quickly for the operator. Furthermore, ultrasonic indicators use safe and green technology; it that does not violate any environmental codes, which also means there are no IATA transportation restrictions

C.S.P. Hunter, G.H.C. Hunter, C.M.E. Hunter, S. Watson, J. O’Connor, ‘2016 sees hatch cover watertight integrity testing extended to 24/7 continuous monitoring&2020 look ahead to vessel system
Integration and shore-based data management’, RINA Smart Ships Conference, 2015

Portascanner® WATERTIGHT: What is in the package?

The Portascanner® WATERTIGHT is made up of a generator and receiver. The receiver is capable of receiving the signals and conversion is made which results into the indication of W/T integrity. Portascanner® WATERTIGHT is multiple cable transit areas testing device.

What is in the Portascanner® Watertight package?
It consists of extension rod connector, Gain 1,2,3, Volume Up and Down Buttons, LCD Visual Display, Mode, On and Off Buttons and Headphone Connection. It is tuned for detecting the particular frequency of ultrasound ways.

  • It possesses audio and visual outputs.
  • Sensor rod is attached to it, a user can scan the seal at close range.
  • LCD screen shows the visual output of detected signal.
  • The visual data received can be converted to decibels (dB) reading which is perfect to be tested to certification society standards.
  • Bar graph representation is also available.
  • With standard jack of 3.5 mm, a headphone is attached to the receiver to receive audio signals.

The operation of  the generator of the cable transit watertight areas testing is mentioned below:

  • It is placed on one side of the sealed compartment and turned on.
  • Sensor rod is utilized to scan the seal by user, standing on the other side of the compartment
  • Increased signal strength will be shown apparently for leak sites.
  • The numerical display and volume of audible signals can easily show the strength of the signals received by the receiver.

The Ungoverned Space of Marine Fire Safety

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

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

Who would build a ship or offshore platform and install a power generating or auxiliary machinery without installing emergency power systems or monitoring their condition states? Who today would consider installing an alarm system without monitoring its overall status, not only its actuation, and integrating the whole system into the ship safety management system, with central monitoring being an essential part of it? These are basic engineering principles: building in redundancy and constantly monitoring critical systems. 

Traditionally, the industry cares little about this ungoverned space, with too few qualified engineers considered subject matter experts. Yet when it comes to marine fire maintenance, never mind continuous monitoring, of gaseous fire extinguishing systems, there is a lack of knowledge amongst the majority of the industry, regarding the potential risks. Awareness should exist about the huge expenses incurred by fire, both in terms of costs upfront from the damage and long-term due to reputation and unknown losses or damage to seafarers, vessel integrity, and cost of downtime and recovery. Above all is the risk to human life presented by fire. Poor maintenance of suppression systems risk accidental fatalities due to lack of training about the lethal properties of CO2 & Marine CO2 Systems (the predominant suppressant agent used on vessels, because it is the cheapest whilst being highly effective): when released it reduces oxygen levels to extinguish fire. Limited appreciation of the need for room integrity testing of protected spaces leads to minimal regulation compliance which could mean a failure of the fire system suppressing a fire because the room is unable to hold the discharged gas due to leaks of the space into which it actuates.

Gaseous extinguishing/suppression systems are installed to protect against special hazards in critical infrastructure at sea. They deliver the infrastructure resilience our advanced maritime society requires. If the hazard is special and the vessel is critical, then this is the case for the constant monitoring of the fire systems that aim to deliver their protection. There is a lack of knowledge of the characteristics of the various extinguishants and the types of fire for which they are suitable. For too many years the industry has been left to too few brilliant experts to determine safe outcome.

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

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

Beware the Cost of Cheaper Price.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Despite the difficulty that shipping businesses are subjected to, fire safety standards on board cannot begin to slip. Fires on board ships can be devastating, to crew, vessel and cargo. There is a call to respond to regulations with a rigorous attitude, to go above and beyond, to provide security of life and infrastructure. Water mist FM 200 fire suppression system must be maintained so that they can provide the protection that they are intended for: protecting lives, assets and vessels whilst at sea.

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

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

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

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

Why chose the Portalevel® MINI Nippon?

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

Technical Specifications of Portalevel Mini Nippon

Here, we have enlisted technical specs available with this liquid level detector. Give it a look!

Dimensions

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

Accuracy

+/-1.5mm (1/8 inch)

Power Supply

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

Sensor

TX/RX Dry Sensor

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

Standard Extension Rod Sensor

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

Verifiable Agents

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

Display

LCD Numeric Digital Display with LED Bar Graph

Classification

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

Certificates

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

Warranty

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

Operating Temperature

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

Portalevel Mini Nippon Content

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

Continuous Monitoring of Fire Suppression 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 FM 200 fire suppression systems are always   stored at their designed concentration and that no accidental discharge has occurred, which could affect the effectiveness of the overall fire protection system in the event of a fire. The neglect of continuous monitoring - of the fundamental protection provided by the gaseous extinguishing systems - is to the peril of the lives of occupants of the premises and at the risk of causing financial and reputational loss to the facility comprising the critical infrastructure.

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

Fire Innovation of the Year 2018: Portasteele® Calculator

Traditionally cylinders are manually weighed by turning off and dismantling each one, which may be risky and takes on average two people 15 minutes per cylinder.

To solve this problem, Coltraco Ultrasonics developed the innovative 8th generation Portalevel® MAX:  handheld ultrasonic liquid level indicator to inspect CO2, clean agents and more liquefied gaseous agents, by one person in just 30 seconds. Combined with the Portasteele® CALCULATOR these liquid level heights are converted into the weight of agent. This tablet based advanced calculator application is the first in the world to provide agent weight readings without physically weighing the cylinders to comply with regulations.

It is the first level indication method to take account of the temperature affect on the agent height. PortasteeleÒ CALCULATOR provides instant real-time results which can be recorded then emailed directly for datalogged audit trail. By replacing the use of manual calculation and formulae, Portasteele® CALCULATOR makes the whole process of fire suppression system servicing simple and effective.

This is a safer, more efficient and cost saving method to service fire cylinders. The technological innovation ensures an entirely user friendly and industry leading device.

See the Portasteele® CALCULATOR Here:

Test Your Fire Suppression Systems

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

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

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

How can ultrasound protect your vessel against water ingress?

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

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

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

Coltraco Ultrasonic 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.

Comply with ISO 14520: Check your Compartmentation

Current Situation:

Before installing Clean Agent fire suppression systems the integrity of the building structure commonly undergoes “Door Fan Testing’. This test determines the Peak Pressure and Agent Hold Time necessary for ensuring the effectiveness of these fire suppression systems. As required by NFPA 2001 and ISO 14520 standards to calculate the overall leakage of a room, this room integrity tester with ultrasonic technology is a great option.

Limitations:

Locating exact leak sites is currently done by a “puffer test” with smoke. However, such current methods do not provide precise, accurate results on leak location or size.

Solution:

Today, the industry can benefit from using the Portascanner™ Integrity Test Indicator alongside the Door Fan Testing for a complete and comprehensive regulatory room test. Ideal for precise leak detection, Portascanner™ is an exceptionally accurate (to 0.06mm) and fast method. It is the first of its kind, intuitive to use, non-invasive, and consequently, is of immediate use to the Fire Industry.

Package Offered with Portascanner 520:

Portascanner 520 is an ultrasonic room integrity tester introduced by Coltraco. It offers some great content in a pinned packaging. Coltraco Limited, UK, offers following contents:

  • Receiver Rod:

The user directs the rod at areas they will to survey. Any escaping ultrasound if received by the rod and sent to the main unit is recorded.

  • Generator:

The generator is an ultrasonic generator with three transducers. These transducers emit a strong signal in one direction that fills that room/space with pulses of ultrasound.

  • Receiver:

The receiver processes and displays any ultrasound that emitted from a leaking space. The results are visually presented to the user on the internal screen as well as outputted to external headphones.

  • Headphones:

Any ultrasound that is identified by the unit is outputted as audible readings via external headphones.

Why do you need to calibrate?

Like an annual MOT on your car, calibrations service your equipment to ensure it is as accurate and reliable as when you first purchased it.

How often? In accordance with ISO 17025 for testing and measuring equipment, annual recalibration is recommended for companies complying with this regulation. Whilst there are some companies who offer 5 year calibration certificates, Coltraco Ultrasonics believe that we should follow the guidance set out in the regulations and thus offer 1 year calibration certificates.

Where can you calibrate your unit? Calibrations must be conducted in a Coltraco approved centre: either with us in the UK at the above address or with our ODA (Organisational Delegated Authority) Service Centres overseas.

How long will it take? We will always ensure that the turn-around-time is as short as possible. We aim to have the unit returned to you within a maximum of 10 working days, no matter where in the world our customers are. If required, replacement loan units can be made available for the duration that your unit is away for recalibration.

If your unit has been damaged whilst operating, we can repair it for you. Factory level repairs for the electronics, display module and membrane control panels have to be carried out in our facilities in the UK. Time scales for unit returns may vary depending on the severity of problem. If your unit has been damaged please contact our Support Department with a brief description of the problem and we will organise this for you as quickly as we can.

Fire at Sea: What do the marine insurers say?

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

Much research has been conducted in the statistics of fires at sea. According to the VTT technical research centre in Finland the frequency of fires resulting in a total loss is 〖10〗^(-8) nmi (nautical miles). This is based on the average vessel travelling 60,000 nmi each year. This would mean that if there was only one vessel in the world, it would need to travel 100 million nmi for it to ‘statistically’ have one occurrence of fire resulting in total loss. However, given that there are roughly 55,000 commercial vessels over 1,000 dwt at sea it can be calculated that there is expected to be 33 vessels a year with fire resulting in total loss (calculations below).

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.”

FIRE EXAMPLES

There are numerous example of fire at sea, with just a few included below:

 (a) MSC Flaminia, 2012

In July 2012, the container ship was exposed to an uncontrollable fire which tragically lead to three fatalities and two severely injured crew members, as well as dire damage to the ship structure and its cargo. In this example, the actuation of the CO2 system failed when it actuated without instruction in the engine room, although the discharge was intended for cargo hold 4, which turned off the auxiliary boiler and auxiliary fan for the main engine. This led to an out of control fire which required three salvage tugs to deal with the effects of the explosions and fire. However, the extent of the fire meant that the salvage teams could not enter the vessel for 4 days. Cargo areas 3-7 in the ship were significantly damaged and the ships structure was weakened, requiring replacement. Under the pressures, the hatch covers lost their integrity and bulkheads were severely damaged which led to water ingress in all the cargo. The ruling from this event has stated that $280 million of liability will be shared as a result of the incident .

2.4 (b) Barzan, 2015

On September 2015, a fire was detected inside one of the cargo holds of Barzan, a Maltese registered container ship. The fixed CO2 system was used but due to a number of leaks in the CO2 line, the required amount of gas did not reach the cargo hold to be effective to smother the fire. The starboard fire main line then developed a large leak at a joint in the under deck passage way and had to be isolated. This restricted the fire-fighting efforts to only the port side, and rendered the starboard side water drenching system unusable. The safety investigation concluded that although the CO2 system and fire mains had been tested satisfactorily prior to the vessel’s delivery in May 2015, the quality of the workmanship had contributed to the subsequent failure of both systems .

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

Solutions for any vessels marine gaseous extinguishing system exist:

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

Fires Happen: it’s Time to Act

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.) One of the highest probabilities of discharge occurs during their maintenance. Some marine service companies estimate that 20% of a ship’s CO2 cylinders have discharged or partially leaked their contents at some point in their lifetime.

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

“CO2 bottles leak”

Yet although this poses high levels of risk to the service companies and the crew, because gaseous extinguishing systems are highly pressurized, the risk of leaking and discharging is accepted as part of their use and this is shown in the regulations that demand their upkeep e.g. IMO SOLAS FSS Ch5. 2.1.1.3:

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

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

A Call for Crew to Inspect Fire System Cylinder Contents

Using an ultrasonic liquid level indicator is the only way that the crew can safely test their CO2 without disturbing them. If marine companies implemented the IMO SOLAS FSS codes by testing safely and quickly (just 30-60 seconds per cylinder) by using liquid level indicators and marine servicing companies were able to do their work without allowing for time pressures, then marine safety would be far safer.

Bad industry practice is unacceptable when fire risk may have catastrophic results due to risk to life, downtime in operation due to ship safety and repair work and incalculable reputational damage. The crew, cargo and vessel must be protected when at sea because it is it’s own fire brigade without accessibility to typical emergency services. This is a call to respond to regulations with a rigorous attitude, to go above and beyond, to provide security of life and infrastructure.

How have seals been tested traditionally?

The Swedish Club has released a report warning bulk carrier operators to pay attention to water damage. The 2018 Swedish Club report, Wet Damage on Bulk Carriers, which has been prepared in cooperation with DNV GL, and MacGregor, identifies heavy weather and leaking hatch covers as the most common and the most costly type of wet damage claim. With the average cost for a wet damage cargo claim being almost $110,000, this is alarming.

 According to the report, wrongly applied and poorly maintained cargo Hatch cover testing 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.

 As stressed in the report, 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. 

 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  This test should help identify any leakage from the hatch joints, although the exact location of the leakage sight cannot be pinpointed. Various drawback come with this test, for instance;

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

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

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

 CASE STUDY 1: 

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

CASE STUDY 2:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Main Cause of Vessel Loss is Sinking

As the main cause of vessel loss is sinking, the maintenance, testing and monitoring of watertight hatches, doors and multiple cable transits on vessels is essential. A watertight hatch cover tester 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.

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

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

Comply with regulations the easy way: ultrasonic

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

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

For example, the IMO SOLAS FSS code enabling Officers and Crew to test their fire systems or their watertight integrity in port and at sea. The IMO SOLAS FSS Code states that every ship “must have the means for the crew to check the contents of the CO2 & marine CO2 systems. The crew cannot dismantle and re-install a CO2 system. The Portalevel™ MAX Marine means they can check each cylinder in 30 seconds without disturbing it. Thus, there are IMO codes, Class regulations, Port Authority suggestions which are all well known within shipping. And yet there is one regulatory body which is totally neglected: the BS EN ISO 14520 Gaseous Extinguishing Systems is the global standard for a ship’s fire system. It specifically states that if a gaseous system loses 5-10% of its contents then it is not “safe”.

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

Why chose the Portalevel® MINI Nippon?

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

Technical Specifications of Portalevel Mini Nippon

Here, we have enlisted technical specs available with this liquid level detector. Give it a look!

Dimensions

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

Accuracy

+/-1.5mm (1/8 inch)

Power Supply

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

Sensor

TX/RX Dry Sensor

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

Standard Extension Rod Sensor

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

Verifiable Agents

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

Display

LCD Numeric Digital Display with LED Bar Graph

Classification

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

Certificates

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

Warranty

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

Operating Temperature

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

Portalevel Mini Nippon Content

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

Overview of the Portascanner® Watertight

What is it?

The most mathematically accurate handheld ultrasonic watertight integrity tester indicator in the market to 0.06mm (+/-0.02mm).

What does it do?

The main purpose of the equipment is to identify the exact location and severity of leak sites in any watertight, weathertight or airtight seal.

Why is it the best?

The focus in developing the equipment was to make this process as simple, quick and accurate as possible.

Who needs to use it?

Commonly used to test leaks in hatch-covers, doors, bulkheads, hatches, Multiple cable transit areas testing device and NBCW (nuclear, biological, chemical warfare) seals in shipping, oil and gas and defence.

Generator

  • Maximum Range of 100meters, making it more than capable of measuring even the largest holds on modern bulk carriers
  • Magnet fitting allows easily positioning on the hatch combing during testing, saving significant time and no the need to climb down into the hold
  • Disposable 9V batteries so no reduction in battery effectiveness over lifetime of the equipment
  • Highly durable case for longevity of use
  • Very lightweight and compact for easy of transportation, storage and movement around the vessel. Weighing just 430 grams

Receiver

    • Two methods of reading: Linear Readout – _Very simple – _larger the reading = larger the problem. Easy to calculate Weathertight value (10% of OHV & explained below)

Decibel Readout – _Preferred method by Surveyors to report in and provides option for logarithmic scale

    •  
    • SPA Feature – _Allows the operator to increase the sensitivity of the reading to operate over larger distances
    • Highly directional – _Designed to make it especially sensitive to identify the exact location of any leak site
    • Accuracy – capable of detecting leak sites as small as 0.06mm
    • Hard aluminium case for longevity of operation and protecting the internal electronics
    • Receiver components can also be used for use with the Permascanner® Dynamic in the event operators want to inspect the impact of the hatch cover seals whilst the vessel is at sea.

Continuous Monitoring of Fire Suppression 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 FM 200 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.

“Safety First” should not simply be a tag line

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

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

Fire safety is still an “ungoverned space”

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

Anecdotes of bad practice

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

Innovation offers Smart Solutions

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

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

Fire Innovation of the Year 2018: Portasteele® Calculator

Traditionally cylinders are manually weighed by turning off and dismantling each one, which may be risky and takes on average two people 15 minutes per cylinder.

To solve this problem, Coltraco Ultrasonics developed the innovative 8th generation Portalevel® MAX:  handheld ultrasonic liquid level indicator to inspect CO2, clean agents and more liquefied gaseous agents, by one person in just 30 seconds. Combined with the Portasteele® CALCULATOR these liquid level heights are converted into the weight of agent. This tablet based advanced calculator application is the first in the world to provide agent weight readings without physically weighing the cylinders to comply with regulations.

It is the first level indication method to take account of the temperature affect on the agent height. PortasteeleÒ CALCULATOR provides instant real-time results which can be recorded then emailed directly for datalogged audit trail. By replacing the use of manual calculation and formulae, Portasteele® CALCULATOR makes the whole process of fire suppression system servicing simple and effective.

This is a safer, more efficient and cost saving method to service fire cylinders. The technological innovation ensures an entirely user friendly and industry leading device.

See the Portasteele® CALCULATOR Here:

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.

Protecting the merchant fleet

Research coordinated by IMO has indicated that between 30% and 50% of all fires on merchant ships originate in the engine room and 70% of those fires are caused by oil leaks from pressurised systems. There are generally two types of engine room fires: oil or electric. Engine room fires are one of the most common fires on ships due to the running machinery, and sources of fuel and ignition within them. Oil fires are the most serious. Mechanical issues such as fracture, fatigue failure and also under-tightened components or seals may result in catastrophic occurrences.  Furthermore, it was noted, that high pressure fuel delivery pipes should be covered with jackets capable of containing leaks in case of pipe failure. There is a call to respond to regulations with a rigorous attitude, to go above and beyond, to provide security of life and vessel.

Contain the risk of fire

Vice Chairman’s of the International Union of Marine Insurance (IUMI) stated that to global shipping, major fires on container ships are among the worst hazards. Part of the problem is as container ship sizes have increased, the firefighting equipment on board has not experienced the same development. In their 2015 annual report, the USCG identified that the greatest deficiency onboard ships was its firefighting appliances.  An example of where the risk has become a danger is the CCNI Arauco. On the CCNI Aruco, 300 firefighters were needed after an unsuccessful seal and flood of the vessels hold with CO2. The hatch had to be flooded and then foam was used to bring the fire under control. The main difficulty comes from the inadequate equipment which the crew had to tackle the fire and as a result there has been calls for the technology to change.

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:
 the cylinder agent content in the fire extinguishing installations, commonly CO2, FM 200 fire suppression system®, Novec™1230, halons;

  • the associated pipework;
  • and the room integrity of the protected space into which the suppressant agent discharges;

Some smart Safeship® solutions

  • Ultrasonic liquid level indicator: to identify the agent liquid level in under 30 seconds with 1 competent user*
    • Compared to 15 minutes by laboriously weighing with 2 personnel, qho must be qualified in fire safety inspections, which most crew are not
    • Complies with IMO SOLAS FSS Code 2.1.1.3 which requires crew to have the means onboard to test the installation agent content

 

  • Ultrasonic thickness gauge, ultrasonic flow meter, acoustic emissions bearing indicator: all efficiently inspect and provide condition monitoring of
    • metal work,
    • pipework and
    • 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.

Test Your Fire Suppression Systems

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

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

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

Safety first

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

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

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

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

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

Coltraco offer Portalevel brand liquid level indicators and 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.”

How can ultrasound protect your vessel against water ingress?

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

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

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

Coltraco Ultrasonic 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.

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