How to simplify your supply of calibration gases

Calibration gases (also known as span gases) are essential to the maintenance and performance of gas detection equipment on board ship. They’re used as a referencing tool and act as a comparative standard for calibrating analytical instruments.

Exposing a detector or analyser to a verified concentration of a test substance will gauge whether the sensors are responding accurately so it’s vital that calibration gases are exact and traceable to a national or international standard. However, because of the instability and impurity of the gases used and the relatively poor quality of cylinders within the industry, making sure vessels are fully stocked can be challenging.

Most calibration gases have a short shelf-life of just 6-12 months which means that they need to be replaced regularly – regardless of how much remains in the cylinder. In addition to the wastage of gas that’s gone out of date, multiple re-stocking deliveries will need to be arranged for each ship incurring freight costs, dangerous goods charges and customs’/agent’s fees.

Organising these multiple deliveries and arranging schedules takes up valuable time. The typical procurement process from enquiry to delivery has twelve steps:

  1. Ship requisition
  2. Buyer interprets information
  3. Identification of potential suppliers
  4. Raise and send RFQ
  5. Suppliers seek clarification on RFQ
  6. Buyer seeks clarification from the vessel
  7. Ship sends clarification
  8. Buyer chases suppliers
  9. Review proposals and raise PO
  10. Specification of destination port
  11. Agree delivery charges
  12. Dispatch goods

This is further complicated when using several suppliers as quality control can be an issue – different providers all need to meet the same standards. For a global fleet, arranging for a reliable supply of calibration gas can be a troublesome and time-consuming ordeal.

Martek are constantly developing innovations for the shipping industry so we’ve looked at these common problems and examined the whole process to come up with an easier and more cost-effective way of supplying calibration gas: the 1-2-1 solution.

It uses FastCalGas which has the highest production standards of any calibration gas on the market and is guaranteed to be compatible with all the leading brands of gas detectors. By using advanced materials and a mass spectrometer to analyse and verify the quality of every cylinder, only two defects have ever been reported in 30,000 deliveries, a quality yield of over 99.993%. This means that the shelf-life of FastCalGas is 27 months – a world first.

This quality and reliability is a key factor in the 1-2-1 solution which is designed to cut down on carriage and agents’ charges as well as the hidden costs that come from the time spent on administration. It simplifies the whole procurement process into one order, two years’ supply and one delivery.

1-2-1 manages the inventory of calibration gas to your vessels. To switch suppliers, you only need to pass on the inventory of gas detectors on board your fleet – or let us contact the ships directly to get the information – and we can take care of the rest. We review your gas detectors’ usage to determine your requirements and run on-going checks with vessels to arrange re-stocking after twenty-one months. In the unlikely event of your supply running low because we’ve under-calculated your usage, we’ll re-stock for free.

The cost can be spread evenly in eight instalments over twenty-four months or you can make savings with a discounted price that’s paid with the initial delivery of gas to each ship.

1-2-1 guarantees quality and saves costs. Just as importantly, it cuts down on the amount of administration and scheduling which leaves your superintendents with more time to concentrate on higher value areas of your business.

Class Guidelines: Are your hatch covers covered?

The ‘Standards for Owners’ Inspections and Maintenance of Bulk Carrier Hatch Covers’ states that: ‘more attention should be paid to hatch cover securing mechanisms and the issue of horizontal loads, especially with regard to maintenance and frequency of inspection.’

Hatch covers on bulk carriers are subject to annual inspection by Classification Societies’ surveyors. The ‘Guidelines on the Enhanced Programme of Inspection during Surveys’ (ref. IMO Res. A744(18)) notes that hatch covers sets should be surveyed open, closed, and in operation at each survey, including:

  • Stowage and securing in open position
  •  Proper fit and efficiency of sealing in closed condition
  • Operational testing of hydraulic and power components, wires, chains and link drives.

In addition to surveys performed by the Classification Societies’ surveyors, SOLAS Ch. XII states that all bulk carriers must comply with the maintenance requirements provided in the ‘Standards for Owners’ Inspections and Maintenance of Bulk Carrier Hatch Covers’ (ref SOLAS XII, Regulation 7 amended by MSC Res. 170(79)). The hatch cover maintenance plan must also form a part of the ship’s safety management system as referred to in the ISM Code.

The responsibility for hatch covers lies with the ship’s operator. Gaskets, seals, retaining channels and resting pads are all subject to wear and tear so monitoring is essential to make sure they’re kept weather tight. Regular checking and maintenance is much cheaper and more effective than major repairs or incidents caused by neglect.

The 50 million GT, A- rated North of England P&I club continues to experience three to four claims each year valued between US$ 500,000 and US$ 1,000,000 for water-damaged cargoes resulting from hatch cover defects. Tony Baker, head of the club’s risk management department said:  ‘The cost of preventing these losses can usually be measured in a few thousand dollars or less. Often all that is necessary is the replacement of some defective rubber seals, some minor repairs to steelwork or sometimes just cleaning down a coaming.’

The best way to ensure your hatches are functioning correctly is by ultrasonic testing. This is much more accurate than both water-hose leak detection and chalk testing as it shows when you have the required compression and provides a precise location for any leakages. It’s more convenient too as you don’t need to interrupt your operations – the test can be carried out by one person and doesn’t rely on the hold being empty.

Ultrasonic testing equipment can be easily stowed and carried on ship so that you can check your hatch covers regularly. Hatchtite – our ultrasonic testing device – is particularly low-maintenance as it has a runtime of 40 hours and only needs calibrating after five years instead of the usual one. It’s also Type Approved by ABS, fully compliant with IACS Unified Requirement U.R.Z17 and approved by insurers and P&I clubs.

To find out more please email us info@martek-marine.com

Are your hatch covers costing you a fortune?

Over 40% of all P&I claims are due to damaged cargo caused by water ingress from hatch covers – even the smallest leak can do extensive damage to cargos like steel and paper that are sensitive to seawater. It costs the industry $46.9m per year and reports of leaking hatch covers are the most frequent cause for selecting a vessel for an unscheduled condition survey.

Hatch covers and locking devices are the responsibility of the ship’s owners and operators so close attention to maintenance is vital in making sure vessels are cost-effective. Regular and efficient testing can save companies millions in claims for damaged cargo.

Ultrasonic testing is the most accurate way to ensure your hatches functioning correctly. This uses a transmitter in the cargo hold to emit ultrasound waves which can then be picked up by a receiver outside the closed hatch to determine whether there are any leaks. Unlike hose and chalk tests which only show if there is contact between the rubber packing and compression bar, ultrasonic testing indicates when you actually have the required compression.

Some hatch cover testing systems, like our Hatchtite device, go even further.

The effectiveness of an ultrasonic tester is determined by the amount of sound energy reaching the hatch cover and most transmitters emit in an upward direction. However, because of its unique dome configuration, Hatchtite is able to give complete cover in even the largest of holds by using 13 transmitters. This makes it 1,000 times more powerful than any other device on the market. Rated as IP66 and measuring in dBs to meet P&I clubs and DNV regulations, it’s also designed to be cheap to maintain and operate so its run time is 40 hours instead of the usual 10. It only needs calibrating after 5 years and can even be lowered down into the hold regardless of whether the ship is empty or loaded so there’s no need to disrupt operations.

We’re confident that using Hatchtite is the most comprehensive and cost-effective way to help you keep your cargo free from water damage. Contact us today for more information.

The Shocking Truth: Sudden Cardiac Arrest at Sea

Sudden Cardiac arrest is the world’s biggest killer. Every year, it claims the lives of three million people worldwide and 140,000 in the UK alone, more than breast, prostate and lung cancer combined. Obesity, smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, high blood pressure and a cholesterol heavy diet can all be contributing factors, but a healthy lifestyle doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re free from risk.

Sudden Cardiac Arrest can strike anyone, anywhere at any time – even the fittest and active. In recent years there have been many high-profile cases among sports people: Fabrice Marumba the Premiership footballer who collapsed on the pitch during a televised match; Marc-Vivien Foé of Manchester City and Cameroon; Phil O’Donnell of Motherwell; the golfer Bernard Gallacher, Ice-hockey players Rich Peverley and Jiří Fischer and the tragic deaths of rugby star Danny Jones and Belgian footballer Gregory Mertens who both died within the space of a month.

Heart attacks (myocardial infarction) and Sudden Cardiac Arrests are both heart-related problems, but they are very different. A heart attack is a plumbing problem whereas a Sudden Cardiac Arrest is electrical – a disruption in the heart’s rhythm which interrupts the pumping of the blood. Sometimes a heart attack (which may not be fatal) can trigger a Sudden Cardiac Arrest. The victim will then collapse and become unresponsive, stop breathing, and have no detectable pulse. Many people have no idea that they have an abnormal heart rhythm until they’re hit by a cardiac arrest. Even regular screening isn’t guaranteed to identify a problem as symptoms aren’t always present and heart conditions can develop at any time.

The probability of Sudden Cardiac Arrest is also increased significantly by factors like gender and age. Men are at greater risk than women and fall victim earlier in life – generally over the age of 45. It’s estimated that over 25% of officers on ships from OECD countries are over 50 years old and well over 50% are over 40. There are other considerations that come with conditions on board ship too. Cardiac infarction and electric shocks after the failure of technical equipment are major issues but drowning, hypothermia and trauma to the chest caused by impacts or falls are also potential contributors. Studies have suggested that ischemic heart diseases are the most common causes of death on board merchant vessels and, in 2005, German ships were reporting an average of five cardiac arrest cases every year.

The treatment of Sudden cardiac arrest depends on a chain of survival:

  1. Immediate recognition of cardiac arrest and activation of the emergency response system
    2. Early CPR with an emphasis on chest compression
    3. Rapid defibrillation
    4. Effective advanced life support
    5. Integrated postcardiac arrest care

The ‘rapid defibrillation’ is a life-saving electric shock that restores the heart’s rhythm to normal, and it’s this link in the chain that can prove problematic. A quick response makes all the difference and if a victim is shocked within sixty seconds, their chance of survival can be as high as 90%. Within five minutes, there’s still a 70% chance but after this, it drops by 10% every minute.

Sir Ranulph Fiennes who suffered a Sudden Cardiac Arrest while waiting on the tarmac at Bristol airport said: ‘I was extremely lucky that a mobile defibrillator unit and the expert assistance of the Blue Watch of the Bristol Airport Fire Station were immediately on the scene.’ Fiennes, along with other famous names like Bernard Gallacher and Steven Gerrard, has been prominent campaigners to get defibrillators stationed in out-of-hospital settings and there’s certainly been a raising of public awareness about the issue in recent years. The units available on the market are increasingly simple to use, even without any medical training, and rely on voice prompts and visual cues to provide treatment. Despite the panic, some people may feel in an emergency situation, an Automatic External Defibrillator (AED) cannot be used to shock if the patient isn’t suffering from a cardiac arrest and it’s practically impossible to make a mistake. Because of this, more and more people have access to AEDs in schools, sports venues, tourist locations and workplaces – and they’re saving lives.

However, if your workplace is aboard a vessel out at sea, hours away from a hospital or medevac, and a crew member suffers a Sudden cardiac arrest, their chances of survival are practically zero. Unless there is a defibrillator in the medical chest. All companies have a legal duty of care to their employees and in a situation where their staff do not have access to medical help and a defibrillator is the only chance of survival then surely all companies would see it as their duty to protect their employees by ensuring that they all have access to one.

Germany was the first country to recognize that having a defibrillator onboard is the only treatment for Sudden Cardiac Arrest and they were the first flag state to introduce legislation that legally requires seagoing merchant vessels to carry AEDs. This was way back in 2012 and the rest of the world has been very slow to follow suit. The Maritime and Coastguard Agency recommends that passenger vessels should undertake a risk assessment and, in February of this year, the Queensland State Government in Australia made it law that all dive operators must carry AEDs after ten tourists died from sudden cardiac arrest over a period of just six months.

When your vessel is properly fitted with medical equipment and your crew are appropriately trained you should be ready to react to almost any medical emergency. More and more passenger vessels are taking responsibility to prepare for the unfortunate event of a Sudden Cardiac Arrest by fitting their vessels with AED’s as standard equipment but for some reason, merchant vessels – with all their increased risks – are being neglected when it comes to sudden cardiac arrest. After six years, Germany remains the only country to take positive, preventative action to try and safeguard the lives of their merchant crews.