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September Newsletter


Welcome to the September newsletter. As I write, globally COVID deaths are now estimated to have exceeded 1 million, and more than 300,000 seafarers have been at sea for more than 17 months. While the world grapples with the challenges of a global pandemic, seafarers have continued to work tirelessly to support the global supply chain that so many of us take for granted, however, physical and mental exhaustion leads to errors and poses a huge risk to safety. I sincerely hope that international cooperation can resolve this crisis as soon as possible.

At Brookes Bell, around the world our offices are juggling changing COVID requirements, but we continue to adapt, we are available and ready to assist our customers whenever you need us. This month, John Gibson our Director of Asia has been looking at layups, we're making good progress with our new laboratory, our cargo scientist Wen Li talks about some of the challenges of her role and we shine a light on our software department.

Wishing you a safe and healthy month ahead,

Anthony York, Chief Operating Officer

Norwegian Cruise Line chooses Brookes Bell’s Safe Return to Port Solution

Norwegian Cruise Line has chosen Brookes Bell’s Safe Return to Port solution for its Breakaway class of vessels. The SRtP Onboard™ software helps with the management of the response to casualties by providing crew with relevant guidance to support each situation and restore system functionality.

Brookes Bell, the leading international multi-disciplinary marine, scientific and technical consultancy, has been contracted by Norwegian Cruise Line to deliver its innovative software solution SRtP Onboard™ across its Breakaway Plus class of vessels. Brookes Bell was engaged directly by the Meyer Werft shipyard for these tasks whose close collaboration greatly enhanced the final output to Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd.

The software was installed on the newly launched Norwegian Cruise Line ship, Norwegian Encore in December 2019 including the delivery of training to all crew involved. The software will be rolled out across other vessels including Norwegian Escape, Norwegian Bliss and Norwegian Joy by 2020.

The SRtP Onboard™ software assists with the management of the response to casualties by providing crew with relevant guidance to support each situation and restore system functionality. The software monitors the response in real time and simplifies a complex logistics process by assigning tasks to groups, either through Wi-Fi connected devices or in paper format, with the required details needed to complete the actions.

Following the introduction of the Safe Return to Port regulations in July 2010, the responsibility to show continuous compliance across a vessel’s lifetime, post build, lies with the operator. SRtP Onboard™ supports demonstration of compliance to Flag by recording all SRtP drills and also complies with the specific requirements of the Bahamas Authority Marine Notice 03.

The system is designed to provide an onboard knowledge base which can be improved after every drill, continuously increasing the efficiency of the SRtP casualty response process.

Vittorio Vagliani, Head of Software at Brookes Bell said: “SRtP Onboard™ is a tried and tested solution to assist vessel operators manage the regulatory requirements and prove compliance. Our solution also goes beyond compliance, providing the crew with a wealth of useful information on the systems onboard”

Giovanni Canu, Vice President Special Projects and Operational Support at Norwegian Cruise Line, said: “In order to ensure our fleet is ready for the operational requirements of Safe Return to Port regulations, we selected Brookes Bell’s SRtP Onboard™ software. This offers an efficient and informative solution that has already successfully been installed on Norwegian Encore and will be installed on the rest of our Breakaway Plus class vessels. We also expect to extend this solution to Norwegian Breakaway and Norwegian Getaway.”

Practical Considerations When Laying Up High-Value Vessels

Laying up a vessel is a complex decision, incurring significant costs, and as a result proper planning is vital, says John Gibson, our Head of Asia.

Even in these COVID times, obviously the need to layup a vessel has to be weighed, and with a significant downturn in cargos, it is may be better, operationally, to merely slow steam rather than to commit to the significant costs of layup – or indeed to either sell or scrap the vessel.

However, if the decision to layup has been made, proper planning is a must. All plans should be fully detailed and approved by class, flag state, local authorities, and the vessel’s P&I and H&M machinery insurers.

First and foremost is the need to find a sheltered cosy bed where the vessel can be laid up. Typically, there are a number of traditional areas where layups take place, including Loch Striven up in Scotland, Labuan over in Malaysia.

It is important that the seas and the seabed conditions allow the vessels to be safely anchored and moored together with little fear of the vessels shifting. In this respect, the annual wind and weather conditions for those locations should also ensure that that the anchorage is not susceptible to hurricanes or typhoons.

Moreover, especially with high value vessels such as LNG tankers, the temperature and humidity at the location should not be too extreme or at least should not vary too much. The marine growth on the underwater hull will be a factor when choosing the right location.

However, it is not just the environmental and seabed conditions that are important when it comes to choosing a location – the location should be close enough to major trading areas and other vessels to facilitate both the layup and reactivation process. As such, it should also be close enough to shipyards and third-party assistance, such as harbour and salvage tugs, and to allow for ease of manning the vessel during the layup and reactivation without being too close to active shipping lanes.

The latter being also a requirement in order to maintain the safety and security of the vessel, particularly from the likes of pirating or theft. The ability to be able to cost effectively maintain a limited, skeleton, crew is one of the reasons why Loch Striven and Labuan are highly featured when laying up vessels for extended periods.

However, manning levels must still be high enough to ensure that security issues such as fires or floods are properly provided for whilst still ensuring that the costs of layup are kept as low as possible. Critical equipment such as bilge and fire pumps along with fixed and portable firefighting systems need to be kept ready for use should something go wrong.

In addition to maintaining critical equipment required for any casualty response, the level of maintenance of the vessel's other equipment, tanks, and hull itself needs to be planned for, and those plans need to be approved again by both class and the vessels insurers.

For tanks and critical equipment, such as the main and auxiliary engines, preservation methods may be carried out. For example on LNG vessels, cargo tanks, cargo equipment, and pipeline and valves are often fully inerted to eliminate as much oxygen as possible and to maintain and a dry, atmosphere of nitrogen so as to minimise the chance of any long term corrosive effects.

It is fair to say that the more maintenance is carried out on the vessel and her equipment during the layup period, the easier and shorter any reactivation time will be.

Furthermore, part of the process of choosing the area where the vessel or vessels are to be laid up depends also on the length of period which the they are to be laid up, which can range between a few days to about over ten years. This will affect the time needed for reactivation as well as the allowable levels of crewing required by local regulations.

Also, when the vessel is to be laid up for a long period with minimum manning, then it is critical that the mooring calculations are properly carried out and approved by the vessels class, local requirements, and insurance.

However, as we are seeing now, it is not always possible to know or to predict how long the vessels may be laid up for. This can make a big difference when it comes to the needs and demands of reactivation. If layup plans are sufficient, then it is likely insurance claims during layup should be minimal, and with good planning and some luck, then the insurance claims during reactivation will be, at the very least, acceptable.

Spotlight on software

Brookes Bell has developed a unique set of software products to support operators, shipyards and ship designers, helping them to meet regulatory requirements during a vessel’s design process and when it’s operational. The specialist team led by Vittorio Vagliani, Director of Software Engineering, is based in Glasgow and offers a number of specialist software tools for the passenger vessel industry.

Based on a strong experience with the SOLAS Safe Return to Port regulations, Brookes Bell offers two unique products in this field: SRtP Onboard™, a software tool that supports the crew in managing the response to an SRTP casualty or drill, and Systema™, a tool created for ship designers and shipyards to evaluate the level of redundancy of a ship’s systems against the SRTP provisions and IMO guidelines. The regulations work on the basis that the ship is its own best lifeboat, and cover systems primarily in four areas; power and propulsion, safety, navigation and communication and safe areas.

Vittorio explains that Brookes Bell’s EVI™ software product is an advanced pedestrian dynamics tool used for evacuation analysis. It allows shipyards and ship designers to assess their vessel designs against the latest IMO regulations. Talking about the Safe Return to Port software, Vittorio says that: “Systema™ has been successfully applied to circa 18 cruise ship designs to date, users can create a digital twin of all the systems onboard the vessel, modelling how each one is interconnected and dependant with the rest.

“For example, it might be used to show how the freshwater systems are connected to specific pumps, which in turn are dependent on power from a switchboard. This modelling allows the evaluation of the implications of any damage and how in the event of such damage, the onboard systems might be restored with manual actions. This is an incredibly complex task and for the average cruise ship means evaluating more than 20 different interconnected systems against hundreds of differing potential casualties.”

Traditionally, safe return to port studies have been desktop-based studies using the Failure Mode and Effect Analysis (FMEA) methodology. The major downside of FMEA is that it cannot model every possible failure mode. By comparison, Systema™ can incorporate all the required systems, in detail, and it provides an accurate and repeatable evaluation of redundancy, highlighting the local and global implications of any casualty and calculating critical failures. Ultimately, Systema™ is created to support certification and automatically develops the documentation necessary to prove that the system design is compliant and to obtain Class approval.

Vittorio adds: “In many ways the industry is still evolving how it deals with the IMO regulations for a ship’s safe return to port and Systema™ provides a step improvement in capability, detail and comprehensiveness of an evaluation when compared to a traditional FMEA.

“Cruise ships in particular are getting bigger than ever before and far more complex, with more and more at stake, designers and operators need to be as confident as they can be that every eventuality has been comprehensively planned for.”

He continues: “Our team is made up of highly qualified experienced specialists capable of developing bespoke software for both in-house and commercial applications. Our projects cover everything from evacuation modelling, Safe Return to Port and sea keeping analysis to decision support systems. We have the tools and the expertise to offer owners, operators and designers unrivalled insights and business intelligence in this challenging regulatory area.”

Brookes Bell's new metallurgy, fuel testing and paint analysis laboratory takes shape...

Work is well underway on our new high-end laboratory which will deliver comprehensive metallurgy, fuel testing, paint analysis and advanced non-destructive testing facilities. The new 8,000 sq. ft facility is being built in the northwest of the UK (near Liverpool) and will be up and running in the next month.

We are at a critical, but exciting stage as the paths of the project, which were once remote from each other, start to converge. We will soon reach the end of the building stage and will straight away begin the fit out of our new equipment.

There will be an opening event, albeit virtual, and we will provide more details soon. Click here to see the latest time lapse video showing our new laboratory taking shape.

Meet a Brookes Bell Expert

After completing her MSc and PhD in Chemistry, Wen Li wanted a job where she could apply her scientific knowledge direct to daily life, and where she could actually see the tangible contributions of her work. She about her role as a cargo scientist with Brookes Bell.

Making the switch to the maritime industry and ditching the usual corporate attire of high heels and makeup did not cross my mind at all when I was considering my career options initially.

Having obtained my MSc and PhD in Chemistry at The University of Manchester in the UK, I wanted a job in which I could apply my scientific knowledge directly to daily life, where I can actually see the tangible contributions of my work.

I took the plunge and joined a London-based bioengineering start-up for wastewater treatment, where I was responsible for developing and scaling up a novel bio-based material for the capturing of micropollutant in wastewater using my knowledge of chemistry.

However, when I was approached by Brookes Bell to join as a consulting cargo scientist, I had no hesitation to make the switch. As an avid traveller, I must admit I was particularly drawn to the travel prospects of the job. This was something new for me – definitely a break from my usual desk-bound job – and I could still apply my scientific knowledge at a practical level.

Having joined Brookes Bell in December 2018, the journey so far has not disappointed me. Just last year, I easily travelled for more than a quarter of the year to various ports in China, from the North to the South, and I was truly fascinated by developments at the port area which I never knew before.

The practical learning experience on the job has been extremely rewarding for me as I get to learn more about the maritime industry every day. I have dealt with and been involved in claims for various types of cargo damage, such as grains and especially soybeans, chemical contamination, fruit deterioration, contamination to frozen seafood, liquefaction of Ball clay cargo, fire investigation of self-heating cargo in containers, to name a few.

I also attended laboratories to witness testing and visited local factories for investigations of loss where needed.

China is the world’s largest importer of soybeans. So naturally, a bulk of the claims I see involve this type of cargo.

Just last year, I dealt with many soybean cases which claimed for self-heating damage of the cargo by the receivers. Most of them were caused by delay of voyage and/or original low quality of the cargo. For these disputes, I did inspection onsite during discharge and visited few soybean processing factories.

At this stage, I cannot stress how important it is to gather the right evidence and obtain a representative sample of the alleged damaged cargo – not only for grain cargoes, but for all types of cargoes – as it is essential for our investigation of causations of a case.

If there are no reliable samples to be analysed, there would be nothing much we or other professionals can use for investigation. This is an essential step in evidence gathering, which the outcome of a dispute usually hinges on.

While I can comfortably investigate a claim on my own now, I still remember that it was not always smooth sailing for me when I first joined – I was still very new to the industry and had little understanding of the various types of cargoes.

Thankfully, I was provided training at Brookes Bell who have given me a good understanding of the maritime industry to tackle the daily demands of my job. I was also able to quickly pick up the ropes under the guidance of my very experienced mentors, who are also extremely supportive and nurturing. To me, Brookes Bell is like a supportive family that I can count on 24/7, especially when I am out on a case.

Even today, whenever I try to explain to my family and friends what I do at Brookes Bell, many of them are still pretty much clueless and only have a vague understanding of my job!

However, that is completely understandable as the nature of my work is very dynamic and brings me different sets of challenges each time – all which I thoroughly enjoy and keeps me thinking on my feet.

August Newsletter


Welcome to the August edition of the Brookes Bell monthly news digest. For those in the northern hemisphere, I hope you are managing to grab at least a few days of summer vacation even though coronavirus is hampering international travel.

In an eclectic mix of articles this month, we look at the importance of maintenance and testing; we call for a coherent platform for maritime expert witnesses in Asia; and we put a spotlight on our unique scientific and cargo expertise. In addition, Mike Liu, one of our fuel chemists, explains what keeps him busy each day.

At Brookes Bell we continue to be as busy as ever and I’m proud to say that we’ve not allowed coronavirus to hamper the service we deliver to you, our clients. Our teams remain online and fully accessible and please feel free to contact any one of us if you think we can help.

Anthony York, Chief Operating Officer

The importance of Verifying Cooling Water Treatment Tests

Brendan Cuffe, Director of UK discusses the importance of testing a vessel’s cooling water treatment, based on a case he was called to investigate recently.

He joined the vessel in question, in South Korea, after receiving instruction from the P&I Club to investigate a generator engine failure on a refrigerated cargo ship. The vessel had experienced the loss of generator engines Nos. 2 and 3 while on loaded passage from New Zealand with a cargo of kiwi fruit.

Over ten days, high exhaust temperatures in the different generator engines meant that they were shut down intermittently. The cylinder heads were removed and replaced which seemed to reduce exhaust temperatures temporarily. The generators also suffered extensive water leakage which led to the ‘o’ rings being replaced and when this proved a temporary fix, further repairs to the ‘o’ rings involved adding a steel filled epoxy putty to try and give a smoother surface in the cylinder head valve seat pocket for the exhaust valve seat ‘o’ rings to seal against.

After ten days of running repairs the crew were exhausted and the Chief Engineer concluded that it was beyond their ability, with the tools and spares to hand, to carry out effective repairs and resolve the problem.

Further water leakage, rising cooling water temperatures and fluctuating pressure meant that the generators were stopped causing the vessel to blackout. For the next three days it was not possible to run the refrigeration plant to maintain the cargo temperature between ports, with the exception of the cargo fans on fresh air.

After extensive discussions with the crew and inspection of the vessel, the generators and constituent parts, Brendan concluded that the water leaks had occurred as a result of corrosion to the valve seat pockets in the cylinder heads. His further investigations established that this was because of the failure to maintain an adequate reserve or corrosion inhibitor within the freshwater cooling system.

He discovered that no corrosion inhibitor (Dieselguard NB powder) has been supplied to the vessel for almost two years, and while the consumptions were recorded in the Monthly Report of Monthly Chemical and Gas Consumption as adequate, they took no account of the amount of make-up water being added to the system due to losses from leakages and maintenance.

Furthermore, he discovered that while monthly water test reports were submitted by the vessel, indicating that an adequate reserve of chemical was being maintained, in reality the tests had often not taken place and the records submitted were false.

As a surveyor, Brendan provides expert inspection, comprehensive surveying and consultancy services, helping clients by quantifying damage and repairs, helping to settle liability disputes and claims.

In this case he was able to provide the client with a detailed report outlining the timeline and series of errors that had led to the generator engines failure, which then enabled the ship operator to address the serious operational failings.

Cargo ventilation good practice guide – updated and re-published

Our two experts, David Anderson and Daniel Sheard, working in conjunction with North P&I Club have updated and re-published the acclaimed loss prevention guide “Cargo Ventilation – A Guide to Good Practice”.

The guide provides invaluable advice to shipowners and seafarers on ventilating cargoes. It explains the principles of ventilation, both in practical and scientific terms, as well as providing a ship’s master with the knowledge they need to decide when to ventilate and when not to, tackling a few common myths along the way.

The second edition builds on that solid foundation, with added sections that stress the importance of maintaining accurate ventilation records.

Please contact North P&I for more details.

Highest Honours for Luigi Petrone

This month we congratulate Luigi Petrone Ph.D, our senior scientist and coatings consultant on successfully passing the ICorr Level 3 Coatings Inspector examination. This accolade is the highest award for coatings inspectors aiming for recognition as leaders in their field. ICorr Level 3 inspectors are both highly skilled and experienced in coating failure analysis, surface preparation and cleanliness, test instruments, coating specifications, interpretation of normative documents, and safety. In addition, they will have proven their technical knowledge and problem solving ability across a range of issues that may arise on site. Congratulations, Luigi!

Spotlight on Scientific and Cargo Expertise

At Brookes Bell, scientists provide unrivalled technical knowledge relating to the transportation of all types of commodities. Martin Jonas, Director of Science UK, and Tim Moss, Director of Science Asia, share how their team tackles loss prevention, especially for dangerous cargo, and utilise their specialist expertise for cargo claims.

Many things can go wrong with commodities when transported by sea. Perishable commodities such as soya beans are commonly damaged by self-heating during the voyage arising from high moisture at loading or delays en route; transportation of bulk commodities such as fertilisers can turn dangerous when they start to undergo self-sustaining decomposition, releasing large amounts of toxic gases and thermal energy in the process; minerals such as iron or nickel ores may abruptly liquify during shipping and pose dangers for the vessel.

One unique aspect of our team at Brookes Bell is that we have a broad team of high-calibre scientists with decades of specialised experience in various commodities, as well as specialist knowledge in coating, fire and marine biology. With our industry reputation, we are also usually called in during maritime litigations to provide expert witness opinions and evidence.

When it comes to loss prevention, particularly for dangerous cargo, many shippers are unfortunately unaware of the regulations involved. Moreover, poor handling and storage of spoilable cargo will frequently result in large losses and huge claims.

With our strong in-depth knowledge and scientific cargo expertise, we assist our clients with interpreting and meeting the regulatory requirements for the transportation of bulk cargo under the International Maritime Solid Bulk Cargoes (IMSBC) Code, as well as shipment of dangerous chemicals under the International Maritime Dangerous Goods Code (IMDG) Code, as laid out by the International maritime Organization (IMO).

In addition, we regularly advise shipowners and insurers on the appropriate storage and transport conditions for bulk foodstuffs including grains, soybeans, sugar and how to mitigate losses from damages such as deterioration, spoilage, heating and contamination, and provide expert advice to commodity traders in contractual quality disputes between cargo buyers and sellers and expert evidence in GAFTA or FOSFA arbitrations.

Similarly, we also have the expertise for the categorisation and declaration of dangerous goods, and we can also assist with the UN Standard Tests which define the hazard classes.

Our team also work closely with our other divisions at Brookes Bell to provide clients with a truly multidisciplinary and integrated approach to cargo transportation or dispute resolution. This allows us to apply the highest standards of scientific and technical knowledge to even the most difficult situations.

Putting our expertise to the test, our team was recently called in when a bulk carrier carrying soybeans from South America to China experienced engine damage midway during transportation. Working together with the other divisions, we promptly flew our team to the South African port that the vessel had docked at, to assess the engine damage as it underwent repairs. However, it was a race against time as the soybeans that the vessel was carrying were starting to show early signs of spoilage.

With our strong practical experience, we were able to advise the shipowners accordingly and facilitated the successful trans-shipment of the soya beans to another vessel. Due to the timely intervention, the soybeans were still in good condition when discharged, thereby helping our client avoid a potential cargo claim that could go up to tens of millions of dollars.

Besides loss prevention, we also provide expert witness opinions and manage disputes whenever there is a claim.

All spoilable cargo will be naturally damaged over time, even when stored in the most optimal conditions. Our team’s strong technical knowledge allows us to accurately determine the root cause, be it natural or human error and accurately assess the damage. For more complex or unusual cases, we are able to tap into the wide range of in-house disciplines available at Brookes Bell to reconstruct the situation.

Our team is also highly focused and experienced in the art of evidence gathering. This is essential for arbitration in maritime cases as they can usually end up in hefty claims, especially when evidence presented is incomplete or lacks the sufficient analysis and rigour.

Using their trained eyes, our Brookes Bell scientists are able to go into the scene and objectively assess the situation and gather the right type of evidence.

With offices in Asia and the UK, our team of scientists also often provide round the clock real-time support and monitoring – please get in touch with us to find out how we can help.

Creation of Expert Witnesses Forum in Asia to Support Maritime Arbitration in the Region

Our head of Asia, John Gibson, explains why the region needs a platform for maritime expert witnesses to underpin the growth and development of shipping services in Singapore and beyond.

Historically, London has been the go-to place for international maritime arbitration. This comes as no surprise with its long history as one of the leading shipping centres in the world and its excellent geographical location. Even today, London continues to attract more than 80% of maritime disputes worldwide.

In 2019, the London Maritime Arbitrators Association (LMAA) received a total of 2,952 arbitration appointments, up from 2,599 in 2018. Even against the coronavirus backdrop, arbitration appointments are ongoing, with LMAA using web conferencing and remote hearings to get things done.

Similarly, this has continued the rise in demand for expert witnesses in London as the need for maritime arbitration grows.

Just last month, the Baltic Expert Witness Association (BEWA) was launched in London, as users of its previous Baltic Exchange Expert Witness Panel, including lawyers and P&I clubs, identified the need for a centralised and defined avenue where expert witnesses could be found.

However, while there are Expert Witness Institutes and the BEWA in London, there has been a lack of an equivalent institute in Asia Pacific to promote the professional standards of experts witness in the region to support the growth of maritime arbitrations in Asia.

While London still leads as the venue of choice for international maritime arbitrations, there are moves towards Asia.

In particular, Hong Kong, Shanghai and Singapore are in the spotlight, having been named among the top five port cities in the world for three consecutive years according to the 2019 Xinhua-Baltic International Shipping Centre Development Index.

The growth of these Asian port cities, as major maritime centres, has allowed maritime arbitrations to grow in tandem in the region. Despite London’s strong status as an international maritime arbitration center, these cities are gearing up with strong competitive advantages for maritime litigation.

According to the London Arbitrators Association, Singapore Arbitrators Association and New York Arbitrators Association, Hong Kong, Shanghai and Singapore have attracted the highest number of maritime arbitrators behind London. These cities are also home to some of the largest concentrations of maritime law firms in the world, based on data from Legal 500 and Chambers.

Maritime arbitration is developing rapidly in Asia as the nature of many cases requires a deep understanding of the geographical nuances and Asian context to navigate them successfully.

Handling a casualty, and the aftermath, can be very complex as it is likely to involve a range of expertise such as marine engineering, naval architecture, fire response and investigation and metallurgy amongst many other skills.

A regionally based institute will be able to provide support for experts from all professional disciplines and other occupations requiring skills and judgements to appear in courts and tribunals in Asia Pacific. The presence of an institute will also encourage lawyers to engage these expert witnesses with confidence wherever their specialised knowledge is required. We believe the time has come for such an institute.

Membership should be extended to qualified professionals from any discipline, practicing experts with relevant qualifications and references from lawyers and courts, actual experts who have gained experience, as well as lawyers or professionals who deal with and engage experts.

Meet the Team – Mike Liu, Fuel Chemist

Having joined Brookes Bell in late 2018, it has been a wonderful journey for me in my role as a fuel chemist so far. Personally, it has been a fulfilling experience as my role now brings me on board vessels – something that I could never experience in my previous jobs. In many ways, it was also big step up from my previous role as a Technical Services Manager handling fuel and lubricant solutions.

In particular, 2020 has been an exciting year for me, especially with the implementation of the International Maritime Organization (IMO)’s low sulphur requirement which took effect on 1 January. With the implementation of IMO 2020, the shipping industry has seen an unprecedented increase in bunker disputes. As many start to use the new Very Low Sulphur Fuel Oil (VLSFO) to meet the new requirement, it has resulted in widespread impact for all players, ranging from suppliers to shipowners.

As a fuel chemist, it has been a very busy period with a spike in the number of claims and arbitration for engine breakdowns. Just in the first half of this year, about 70-80% of the bunker fuel disputes I attended came from purification issues or engine breakdowns from using the new low-sulphur fuels. Many of these claims are newly observed issues associated with the implementation of the VLSFO, and the full extent of the issues is still not clear.

In order to tackle the root cause of these issues, fuel chemists need to have a keen scientific understanding of different fuels and their chemical components. Luckily, my experience in previous roles has given me an in-depth technical understanding of bunker fuels to investigate and test the samples accurately, allowing me to successfully defend against many claims on behalf of my clients.

Furthermore, a unique aspect of Brookes Bell is that we work in a multi-disciplinary team which allows us to adopt a multi-faceted approach to resolving a dispute. This allows me to work closely with my colleagues from the other divisions such as marine engineers to advise our clients holistically. This has also benefited me greatly since we can share our thoughts and knowledge across the teams to address new challenges arising from the new fuel, which allows us to service our clients better.

Despite the ongoing challenges that VLSFO bring to the maritime industry, I see a lot of potential for it to be a viable fuel as scientists are still exploring ways to improve the existing formulation. Undoubtedly, IMO 2020 is a step in the right direction towards greater environmental sustainability.

Looking ahead into the future, we need to prepare ourselves for challenges that future fuels such as Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) and ammonia may bring. Though they may be cheaper and greener than current fuels, future fuels currently carry a certain safety risk for shipping during storage and combustion. However, I am excited for what the future may bring for the maritime industry as we prepare for IMO 2030.

Brookes Bell gives go ahead for dedicated metallurgy, fuel testing and paint analysis laboratory

Today, Brookes Bell – the global technical and scientific consultancy - announced plans to develop a high-end laboratory to deliver comprehensive metallurgy, fuel testing, paint analysis and advanced non-destructive testing facilities.

Aimed at delivering a more comprehensive service to its maritime clients - and to support entry into new markets - the new 8,000 sq. ft facility will be commissioned in the northwest of the UK (near Liverpool) and will come on-line in October 2020. It will house an inspection and testing facility, a light industrial/engineering space and offices.

Ray Luukas, Chief Technical Officer at Brookes Bell, explains the rationale behind today’s announcement:

“For many years we have enjoyed a widespread reputation for delivering high quality maritime consultancy delivered by our team of master mariners, naval architects and marine engineers. More recently, we expanded our offer to include a range of associated scientific and technical services including metallurgy consultancy. Today, our in-house metallurgists work alongside other team members to provide our clients with more comprehensive advice on issues such as wire rope failure, container collapses, welding defects or failure of engine components. We are seeing an ever-growing demand across a wide range of industries – both on and off shore – for more technical and complex metallurgy and related services and the creation of our new laboratory will allow us to deliver that”.

Metallurgy testing plays an important role in understanding how materials behave in certain environments and, as such, is not specific to the maritime industry. With increasing demand coming from within and outside maritime, Brookes Bell sees scope for using the new testing facility to help develop business in several market segments including traditional maritime, superyachts, and the energy and industrial sectors more generally.

The laboratory will also house a new fuel-testing facility reflecting the increase Brookes Bell is seeing in fuel-related investigations and claims. Poor quality fuel often leads to extensive and expensive machinery damage. The new facility will not only test fuel to ISO 8217 standards to highlight substandard samples and to help identify the causes and origins of fuel-related problems, but will also have facility for more complex investigative analyses, including GCMS, FTIR and ICP.

Paint analysis to investigate causes of tank and hull coating failures will also be conducted using state-of-the-art digital microscopes and software. Coating flakes can be inspected and analysed to determine causes for a range of faults including blistering, detachment, cracking, rust formation and inadequate antifouling protection. Brookes Bell’s in-house experts will provide independent, comprehensive and accurate advice.

Ray Luukas comments further:

“As our new laboratory comes on-line, we will create a high-end metallurgical consultancy and technical unit which will include non-destructive testing as well as paint analysis and fuel testing. This type of facility is rare and we will use it to deliver value-added services to our clients as well as a driver to help us achieve our expansion ambitions”.

Brookes Bell’s new laboratory will be built in Bidston, Wirral, UK and will comprise:

  • enhanced metallurgy inspection and testing facilities;
  • a modern laboratory;
  • offices and training facilities;
  • space for complementary services including fuel testing, advanced non-destructive testing and paint analysis.

July Newsletter

Building starts for Brookes Bell’s new state-of-the art laboratory

The contracts have been signed and construction is about to begin on our new fuel testing, metallurgy and non-destructive testing (NDT) centre.

Chief Technical Officer, Ray Luukas, says:

“This is an exciting next step, the contracts have been signed for the fit out, construction commences on 3 August and the building is scheduled to be completed – coronavirus permitting – on 23 October.

“This will be a significant diversification of our services, but the new laboratory is just one aspect -we’ve also made extensive investments in new equipment and have hired some exciting highly skilled experts to head up these services.”

Our new laboratory, which represents an investment of £1.8million, will boast a variety of new equipment, including the Olympus DSX1000 digital microscope, the first of its kind in the UK. It has been purchased for a wide range of metallurgy and forensic engineering investigations, with many other applications including advanced paint flake analysis. It will allow the user to switch between a range of magnifications and inspection methods with ease while examining the microscopic aspects of broken and fractured components.

Added to which, over the last year we have recruited high-level chemists to lead and deliver the new services while expanding the NDT team with highly skilled specialists. The bigger team is well established and will provide a much more flexible onsite service with ample capacity to expand to meet customers individual requirements in marine engineering, industrial mechanical engineering, manufacturing and energy applications. Ray Luukas adds that:

“At the moment, much of our NDT work is centred around marine and energy services, but NDT opportunities are prevalent across many industries, similarly our metallurgy work is focused on the maritime sector, but metal is used everywhere. The new laboratory will act as a focal point to expand well beyond our traditional markets to offer unique, bespoke services everything from heat exchanger tube analysis to teak underdeck inspection for superyachts and aluminium superstructures.

“One thing that has become very clear in the last few months as a result of the global pandemic is that diversification is key to businesses survival and success. As a company that was established back in 1903, we are well versed in being ahead of the curve and anticipating new business developments.”

Introducing our new Fuel Services Technical Lead

We are delighted to welcome Jenny Davies, who joins Brookes Bell this month as our Fuel Services Technical Lead.

Jenny will be managing the establishment of the new Fuel Testing facilities, which will include advising on new equipment, drafting all the management procedures and securing the new laboratory’s industry accreditations, including the ISO17025 standard.

She has worked for many years in the environmental sector developing methods for persistent organic pollutants. She specialises in analysis environmental forensics by mass spectrometry and is skilled in laboratory management, ISO 17025 Quality Management Systems, test methods and analytical techniques.

Her last role saw her develop a laboratory and its services from just ten chemists to 180 specialist technicians with an accompanying range of services.

Judith Fergus passes professional exams with flying colours

Our Marine Coating Consultant, Judith Fergus has passed her latest professional qualifications with flying colours, despite having to sit the exams remotely and having to talk her examiner through a step by step practical for one of the exams, as a result of coronavirus restrictions.

Judith Fergus has successfully passed the ‘Institute of Corrosion Examination for the Coating Inspector (including Offshore and Marine)’ which involved 60 hours of self-learning modules, five written papers and one practical for ICorr Level 2. She scored high marks in each of the five parts of the examination but achieved 100% pass mark in the General Examination.

Judith has also passed the ‘IMO Performance Standard for Protective Coatings (PSPC)’ exam meaning she is now also a qualified IMO PSPC Paint Inspector for new builds.

Congratulations Judith!

Spotlight on Metallurgy, Inspection & Non-Destructive Testing

Brookes Bell’s metallurgy division is highly skilled in the investigation of quality issues, defects and any failures in any type of metallic component, Ken Kirby, Director of Metallurgy and NDT explains what his team cover in their work.

Our metallurgists examine the properties of metals and materials, exploring way they behave in different environments, such as when exposed to high temperature or when loaded, analysing the behaviour of the metal or material and determining how this interaction might have affected the component during service.

In many ways a forensic investigation is like looking at disassembled jigsaw puzzle; it’s complex but the majority of pieces of the puzzle are there, and we recreate the circumstances and piece together the clues to establish a picture of what really happened.

Our role in an investigation can be quite adversarial, and we often come up against other specialists and experts presenting their findings, so it is very important to determine all the facts. In the field, metallurgists have at their disposal advanced means of analysing material properties, such as Non-Destructive Testing (NDT) methods and can identify important evidence that would not be apparent to an unskilled observer. The metallurgy department at Brookes Bell has several, highly skilled NDT experts who are trained in the use of various advanced techniques, such as Eddy Current array, Phased Array Ultrasonic Testing (PAUT) and Time of Flight Diffraction (TOFD) to name but a few methods at their disposal.

Our work is very varied, we could be investigating a crane failure one day or corrosion to the holds of a vessel the next. In the case of corrosion to a vessel, for example, it is widely known in shipping that sulphur is corrosive to steel if it’s wet, but it’s often loaded wet and so there needs to be a means of providing corrosion protection to the holds before loading. If that corrosion protection fails, then a lengthy investigation and repair often follows. There are so many aspects to deal with in corrosion cases, particularly following carriage of sulphur, and it requires a combination of both experience and knowledge to deal with such issues.

Another example of work commonly undertaken by our metallurgy department is crane wire-rope failures. Wire ropes are subjected to a challenging environment of fluctuating loads, corrosion and wear and they require careful maintenance and inspection throughout their lifetime. There are standards which govern the inspection of wire ropes and these standards, in addition to the metallurgical aspects, need to be understood if one is to investigate a wire rope failure. There may be more than 150 individual wires in a crane wire rope, and it is sometimes necessary to inspect every single wire to determine how a failure occurred.

Our investigations are usually multi-discipline, working with Brookes Bell’s engineers and master mariners, to apply their experience and knowledge to the situation. As investigations become more and more complicated, more advanced skills are needed to investigate failures. Brookes Bell offers the right services with the right people. We are all highly skilled specialists and in a forensic investigation you don’t need a generalist, you need the very best in each field and that’s what we can pull in.

Looking ahead, the new Metallurgy and Fuel Testing laboratory will give us state of the art facilities and allow us to offer an even wider range of unrivalled services and specialist expertise – it’s going to be very exciting!

Meet the team - Judith Fergus, Managing Coating Consultant

My specialism is marine and protective coatings, I look at anything to do with paint coatings, it could be on ships, on yachts, oil rigs or even petrochemical sites, there are many, many different kinds of paints for all these different settings, but at the end of the day it’s all paint.

I’ve been doing this for over 30 years now and my experience covers research and development, business development and sales with global companies. I live in Newcastle and have been commuting up and down to Liverpool on a weekly basis for the last nine months, having ‘enjoyed’ five months of coronavirus lockdown, commuting anywhere now feels quite exciting!

I started out with a degree in Applied Chemistry at the University of Northumbria and got a job with a large paint manufacturer where I worked as a polymer chemist. In time I got bored and moved to the paint labs as a technologist, making and developing new paints. I ended up as a technical manager talking and presenting to clients – dealing with their problems and handling any issues relating to the paint, its application and performance.

From there I worked for a company developing fire protection products, travelling to and from Japan frequently. I admit I miss travelling to Japan, I loved the people, the culture and made good friends with some great nights out on my visits over!

Now I work in a mixture of marketing and technical and am qualified in both. I can’t believe I embarked on a marketing degree with two small children (now grown up) revising at all hours, but I did! It was a perfect combination – I am a chemist and chemists investigate, always seeking answers, I love forensic investigations and I really enjoy talking to people about the process and what I’ve found, so it seemed like the natural link.

I joined Brookes Bell in October last year, and work with Dr Luigi Petrone who’s based in Singapore. We investigate and report on a wide range of problems relating to paint failure and loss of performance, particularly cargo tank failures, coatings issues and hull fouling disputes. Obviously, anything to do with the hull affects the vessel’s speed and performance and costs money, similarly a problem with a cargo tank means the vessel might be taken off hire with dramatic economic implications. We are handling more and more business in this area, the right tank coating with correct maintenance and small repairs should last up to ten years, so a situation where there’s a problem is very serious and costly quite quickly.

I deliver training on marine coatings for clients too. I have recently done a webinar on biofouling and am now writing a white paper on the same subject. That’s one thing I have really missed with lockdown, the client contact, so much of our jobs are about meeting people and talking to them – you do your best over Zoom and Linkedin, but it’s not the same, we build relationships face to face, but I suppose it’s a challenge we’re all tackling now.

When I’m not working, I’m a keen traveller (having visited 62 countries) and love walking. The Northumberland coast is very beautiful and there are some fabulous National Trust properties, plus I’m being kept busy with a small dachshund puppy. He’s a typical dachshund and insists on trying to walk in front when we’re out despite being so small, my other dog a spaniel, is regularly putting him in his place though when he gets too much.

Scientific Information Sheets

Shipments involving carriage of agricultural materials by sea are at risk of becoming infested by storage pests. This information sheet focuses on infestation and fumigation.

Infestation and Fumigation sheet.

Ongoing Case Work

Our renowned work on maritime casualties has led to appointments as Special Casualty Representatives (SCRs) on two high-profile cases this year to date.

STELLAR BANNER – a 2016 built VLOC of 300,000 DWT – was grounded around 60nm off coast of Brazil during February and all crew were safely evacuated. The vessel took on a significant starboard list and salvors were appointed to lighter the fuel and sufficient cargo to enable a re-float to be progressed. The vessel was successfully re-floated during May and towed to deep water for inspection. Unfortunately, it was declared a total loss following that inspection and scuttled by Salvors in deep water (following approvals) thereafter.

ZELEK STAR – a 2005 built general cargo vessel - dragged her anchor while in ballast on Christmas Day 2019 and grounded on Ashdod beach, Israel. Salvors were appointed and the vessel was successfully re-floated (after dredging a channel back into deep water) during March 2020.

In addition, we were also appointed by the UK SOSREP as technical advisors for KAAMI – a 1994 built general cargo vessel - that ran aground off Skye, Scotland, during March 2020. All crew were winched to safety by helicopter. The vessel was successfully lightened of cargo by salvors and thereafter re-floated in May. She was subsequently towed to dry dock in Kishorn for dismantling.

Safe Return to Port – principles and impact on design

The SOLAS Safe Return to Port regulations have a significant impact on new passenger ship design. Last month we held a webinar to introduce the regulations and to demonstrate how our Systema™ software can assist in ensuring compliance. A full recording of the webinar can be viewed here.

Metallurgy and Fuel Testing Laboratory

We are currently finalising plans to create a high-end laboratory to deliver comprehensive metallurgy, fuel testing, paint analysis and non-destructive testing facilities which will come on- line later this year.

Our Chief Technical Officer, Ray Luukas, explains the rationale:

“For many years we have enjoyed a widespread reputation for delivering high quality maritime consultancy delivered by our team of master mariners, naval architects and marine engineers. More recently, we expanded our offer to include a range of associated scientific and technical services including metallurgy consultancy. Today, our in-house metallurgists work alongside other team members to provide our clients with more comprehensive advice on issues such as wire rope failure, container collapses, welding defects or failure of engine components. Increasingly the market is wanting more technical and complex metallurgy services and the creation of our new laboratory will allow us to deliver that”

Metallurgy testing plays an important role in understanding how materials behave in certain environments and, as such, is not specific to the maritime industry. With increasing demand coming from within and outside maritime, we see scope for using the new testing facility to help develop business in a number of market segments including traditional maritime, superyachts, and the energy sector more generally.

The laboratory will also house a new fuel-testing facility reflecting the increase we are seeing in fuel-related investigations and claims. Poor quality fuel often leads to extensive and expensive machinery damage. The new facility will test fuel to ISO 8217 standards to highlight substandard samples and to help identify the causes and origins of fuel-related problems.

Welcome to two new SCRs

We are delighted to welcome William Leschaeve and Michael Riddell who have recently joined our team as Special Casualty Representatives (SCRs). SCRs are highly specialist salvage and wreck removal consultants and, as such, number only around 50 globally. They are appointed by the Lloyd’s of London’s SCOPIC Committee for their exceptional level of expertise in the field of salvage and wreck removal.

Michael Riddell is a senior master mariner, based in our Singapore office. Following an initial career at sea with Safmarine, he later served on ocean-going salvage tugs responsible for ocean towage and emergency response. Ashore, Michael has extensive experience in emergency response, wreck removal, ship stability, condition surveys and other related work.

William Leschaeve operates from our London office and is a senior naval architect. He has significant experience working for a classification society as well as a number of notable marine consultancies. William specialises in marine casualty investigations including groundings, collisions, capsizes, cargo and total losses.

Spotlight on Marine Engineering

Marine Engineering

Marine engineering is a longstanding and fundamental Brookes Bell expertise; it was one of our founding disciplines and remains a core skillset. Our marine engineers are all qualified chief engineers with many years’ seagoing experience under their belts. All are professionally registered (or working towards registration) and prior to joining us, many had augmented their sea time with experience as technical superintendents, in shipyards or in other marine industries. We utilise this experience to efficiently meet the needs of our various clients.

The synergy of our team and the quality of our expertise – which is never compromised by out-sourcing - enables us to effectively support our valued clients across a wide range of issues, disputes and incidents. Our instructions include matters related to machinery failures, fire, bunker disputes, crane damages, condition surveys, vessel technical management, construction and redelivery disputes and many other marine related matters, where our clients require robust, balanced and sound technical opinion. Our forensic approach to investigation is recognised globally and we routinely apply this to our work.

As well as the more litigious opinion and investigative instructions, other consultancy and general engineering survey work fall within our expertise. As an example, Covid-19 has prevented many companies from sending their own supervisors to shipyards in China and so, today, we are increasingly being called to investigate problems arising from poorly supervised newbuilds, scrubber installations and repair work.

A multi-discipline approach is often vital if the true cause, effect and long-term implications of any marine casualty, dispute or investigation are to be fully understood. To ensure we present a holistic and comprehensive solution to our clients, our marine engineers are supported by in-house complementary expertise, including tribologists, naval architects, metallurgists and fuel chemists. This offers our clients a direct transfer of case knowledge between the experts required to fully investigate a matter, whilst simplifying and expediting the logistics of doing so.

Prevention is always better than cure and, given our extensive and broad incident investigation experience, we can bring our first-hand knowledge of lessons learnt to prevent recurrence and reduce the risk and consequences of loss to various stakeholders. Supporting these activities, we often contribute to P&I Clubs’ loss prevention activities and guidance.

With marine engineering teams in the UK, China, Hong Kong and Singapore, we are on hand to offer first-class advice and support. We look forward to supporting you and please do get in touch if you think we can provide assistance.