Get the right equipment for measurement in marine applications

Frank Frenzel_

January 17th, 2021 


Frank Frenzel

Global Product Line Manager, Measurement & Analytics

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Ships are complex objects. With their many boilers, engines, power plants, water processing and handling systems and cargo pumping and handing equipment, they are almost small process plants in their own right. We look at why correct specification of instruments and analyzers is so important for marine applications and provide advice for how to make the right choice.

Measuring, monitoring and controlling the many fluids that are part and parcel of daily operation on a ship is not a trivial task in shore-based installations, but when the plant is at sea, a host of other specialized considerations need to be taken into account.

For example, a ship’s energy management system that is not functioning optimally will affect energy efficiency and counteract the owner’s efforts to run a sustainable operation. Even more importantly, dangerous pressure levels, particularly in safety critical systems such as fuel supply tanks and lines, can endanger passengers and crew.

Instrumentation is therefore vital to keep a check on these parameters and processes. Common uses for marine instruments include controlling alarm and power systems, managing the level of engine fluid, fuel and oil and maintaining the correct level of ballast fluid.

However, the challenging environment at sea throws up some unique conditions that seaborne instrumentation must handle. These can include extremes of temperature and humidity, the ever-present risk of salt and its corrosive effects and the fact that a moving ship means that measuring instruments must work as effectively in rough seas and inclined at angles away from the vertical.

Ensuring that instruments conform to these requirements is the role of certification bodies such as DNV, OIML and IMO. For example, DNV specifies that instruments must withstand a salt-contaminated atmosphere up to 1 mg salt per m3 of air and a relative humidity of 100% for some temperature classes. Other specified conditions include acceleration, explosive atmospheres, temperature shock, wind, rain, snow, ice, dust and mechanical shock or bump forces equivalent to 20 g of 10 ms duration.

These are quite specialised requirements and not all vendors will be able to supply instrumentation that meets them.

There is also the operational and user aspects to consider. Can the instrumentation be installed at the necessary site easily? How will it communicate with the ship’s control system? What about readability of displays in dark areas or where the atmosphere in the space makes reading of meters difficult?

Extremes of temperature and other environmental factors could lead to degraded performance and mean that the instrument needs to be recalibrated more often than if it were sited in a more stable environment on land. How easy it is to calibrate? Does your onboard engineering staff have the skills to do it themselves or is specialist help required?

When it comes to maintenance or repair, being at sea far from your vendor’s facilities could be another challenge. What about access to specialist help, parts or service manuals or specialised test equipment?

Because of all these factors, choosing the correct instrumentation to meet a ship’s needs can be complicated and time consuming.

Saving time and cost and avoiding the potential errors involved means you should look to your suppliers for help. They should be able to supply a full-service offering.

This is where ABB’s strengths come to the force. ABB can help you at all stages, beginning at the start with equipment specification and selection, right through to complete lifecycle management and support. In terms of products, ABB offers a range of certified instruments and analyzers, ensuring its equipment is ideally suited for marine applications. All instrumentation devices come complete with certification from leading international organizations including DNV and the IMO.

Equipment is backed up by technical service and support to ensure that any problems can be quickly rectified. Several devices offer ABB Ability Remote Assistance, providing secured connectivity to ABB support. With ABB helping you choose and maintain your onboard measuring instruments, you can be assured of smooth sailing.

Smoother sailing on the seven seas

The topic of certification is just one of the Seven Cs in our marine campaign, which covers key areas where ABB’s measurement technologies and service and support can help marine operators and shipping companies to optimize their performance whilst minimizing their environmental impact.

For more watch our Seven Seas TechTalks webinars.

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