By Dr. Carl Stephen Patrick Hunter, CEO of Coltraco Ultrasonics
The NTSB (National Transportation Safety Board) have recently investigated the cause of the 2015 El Faro disaster. SS El Faro was a United States-flagged, combination roll-on/roll-off and lift-on/lift-off cargo ship crewed by U.S. merchant mariners. All 33 crew members tragically died in the sinking, when El Faro sailed from Jacksonville into Hurricane Joaquin, while heading to Puerto Rico. The wreckage was discovered more than 15,000 feet below the sea surface, Northeast of Acklins and Crooked Island, Bahamas.
The NTSB have concluded that gaps in safety management contributed to the sinking of the El Faro. One of the significant issues was “poor watertight integrity which allowed seawater into the ship” stating that this accident may have been avoided if “crew had more information about the status of the hatches”.
In fact, in the SOLAS Reg II-1/11.1 it states that hatches and watertight seals must be regularly tested: “Where a hose test is not practicable [sic] it may be replaced by [sic] an ultrasonic leak test or an equivalent test. In any case a thorough inspection of the watertight bulkheads shall be carried out.” The tragedy of the El Faro has exemplified why it is crucial for the watertight integrity of vessels to be regularly and easily tested by the crew. The importance of continually maintaining seal integrity must take a more prominent position in ship maintenance scheduling.
A lack of proper servicing of seals can lead to deterioration which endanger the lives of the crew, vessel and cargo. One British manufacturer whose mission is to deliver the Safeship® to prevent El Faro type incidents occurring again is Coltraco Ultrasonics. They are committed to improving safety for people, assets and vessels at sea. They focus on benefitting the crew; designing innovative ultrasonic solutions which the crew will be happy to use by being easy to operate, quick, accurate and a better method to traditional techniques. Thus increasing the likelihood of tests being regularly conducted, in line with regulations and even going above and beyond for more frequent testing. By so doing, the crew will be creating a safer ship.
Ultrasonics is proven to be the quickest, easiest and most efficient method of testing watertight & weather-tight seals of hatch-covers, doors, multiple cable transits. The Portascanner® WATERTIGHT is the most accurate model of its kind – proven to 0.06mm (+/-0.02mm). This is designed primarily to enhance the ease and accuracy with which critical watertight, airtight or weather tight seals can be inspected for leak sites or areas of reduced compression in the seal. The ultrasound generator emits a modulated signal of a specific frequency of ultrasound (in most cases 40,000Hz). The receiver then picks up the signal and converts it into a result indicating watertight integrity. The easy to use PortascannerÒWATERTIGHT allows crew member to check for failing seals whilst at sea which allows for prompt maintenance.
Coltraco Ultrasonics is a leading British designer and manufacturer of innovative ultrasonic technology operating in 109 countries across the offshore markets for over 30 years. This British manufacturer offers IMO SOLAS FSS Code compliant and ABS Type Approved inspection tools and constant monitoring solutions, to counter the 2 main causes of vessel loss: (1) sinking – testing watertight integrity of hatch-covers, doors and MCTs etc and (2) fire – testing gaseous fire extinguishing system agent contents, associated pipework and room integrity. These Safeship® solutions save time and cost, whilst enhancing safety of life, assets and vessel at sea. Coltraco Ultrasonics strive towards creating innovative, reliable and effective equipment to provide a level of safety that goes beyond minimal compliance regulations to true ship safety. www.coltraco.com/news.