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FLIR infrared cameras help to ensure safety at sea

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article image VTIS uses a FLIR infrared camera to detect mechanical, electrical and electronic faults on Royal Navy ships
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Thermal imaging technology from FLIR Systems is being employed by a leading ship servicing company for real-time identification of static and dynamic mechanical, electrical and electronic faults to ensure an agreed level of ship availability.

VT (formerly Vosper Thornycroft) Integrated Services (VTIS) has recently won several through-life support contracts to provide ship- and shore based services for Royal Naval ships. Implicit in these contracts is the maintenance of an agreed level of ship availability.

Responsible for ensuring a safe working environment for the ship’s crew especially when at sea, VTIS chose to invest in its own FLIR infrared camera.

The VT Group is an international government services provider whose activities are divided into two businesses, VT Shipbuilding and VT Support Services.

While VT Shipbuilding designs and builds a wide range of vessels for the Royal Navy and navies throughout the world as well as for the commercial market, VT Support Services serves both military and commercial sectors.

VTIS specialises in providing cost efficient support programmes and services to customers from both VT business divisions.

Responsible for developing the organisation’s capabilities in both land based and marine projects, Head of Maintenance Engineering, David Houghton led the team that tested various makes of thermal imaging cameras.

After assessing features including detector resolution, image update rate, accuracy, thermal sensitivity, instantaneous field of view, image storage and availability of a built-in digital camera across multiple infrared cameras, the team selected the FLIR camera.

Key factors that favoured FLIR infrared cameras included the quality of support for both camera and software, the duration of that service and associated costs.

VTIS also chose FLIR Reporter software packages to complement the FLIR infrared camera.

One of the first applications for the FLIR infrared camera, according to David Houghton was to support the Echo Class and River Class ships operated by the Royal Navy under a Contractor Logistic Support contract.

The camera is used to detect and diagnose faults in a wide range of systems and equipment on these ships, which include: 

  • Propulsion system comprising main engines, gearboxes and propeller 
  • Diesel generators, switchboards and distribution panels making up the power generation and distribution system 
  • Fuel oil, lubricating oil, heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems 
  • Fresh, salt, black and grey water systems 
  • Fridge and freezing plant 
  • Fire, bilge and ballast systems 
  • Radar, navigation and communication equipment 
  • Emergency power generators 
Regular testing of these systems is required to ensure compliance with the rules and regulations for Classification Societies, the Maritime and Coastguard Agency and the newly introduced SOLAS Regulations.

The latter requires areas of a ship whose surface temperature may exceed 220°C to be subject to regular thermal imaging surveys.

During one of the surveys with the FLIR infrared camera, an exhaust sensing line of a diesel generator showed a temperature in excess of that permitted under SOLAS Regulations. The insulation around the line had perished, a situation if left undetected would have ruptured the line, causing fuel to spray onto the diesel generator exhaust sensor and potentially resulting in a major fire in the engine room.

In addition to the safety implications, a high capital cost would also have been incurred in replacing the affected plant and associated engine room equipment. David Houghton concludes that the FLIR infrared camera has already proved its worth.

FLIR infrared cameras are available in Australia from FLIR Systems Australia

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