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Coltraco Ultrasonics Limited – a Safesite™ company

Designing & Manufacturing in the UK portable & fixed monitoring systems for Fire Engineering Companies operating in the Offshore Oil & Gas, Power Generating, Electricity & Gas Transmission, Hotel, High Rise Building, Telecommunications, Mobile Phone Operator, Data Centres & Server rooms, Rail & Mass Transit Rail, University & Laboratory, Refineries & oil and gas Pipeline companies , Airports, Steel and Aluminium production companies, Banking & Finance, Defence & Government containing :

  • 3M™ NOVEC™ 1230,
  • Dupont™ FM-200,
  • FE-13™, FE-25™, FE-36™,
  • CO2 and
  • HFC-225 & 227

25 Years

Coltraco Ultrasonics Limited is a leading OEM in the design and manufacture of ultrasonic equipment principally engaged in the fields of monitoring :

  • Portable Portalevel™ ultrasonic liquid level indicators  for CO2, FM-200™ & NOVEC™ 1230 and FE-13™, FE-25™, FE-36™,  and HFC-225 & 227fire suppression system contents and in
  • Permalevel™ Single Point & Permalevel™ Multiplex fixed 24/7 monitoring system

Coltraco Ultrasonics is a British company operating under the Safesite Concept. Mr E C Hunter was at sea for 27 years with the Royal Navy and for 5 years with the UK’s Admiralty Research Laboratories specialising in SONAR. In 1987 Mr Hunter began developing the world’s first portable ultrasonic liquid level indicator, aiming to replace the often dangerous and highly time-consuming physical weighing of CO2 and Halon cylinders or the testing them with radioactive-sourced liquid level indicators made then by Ginge Kerr and Kidde Graviner in Europe and Nihon Kenki K. K. and Hidehira Inc in Japan with clean, environmentally safe ultrasonic technology.  In those days radioactive-sourced units began to have restrictions imposed on them in their IATA transportation, storage and licensing, effectively making them expensive and difficult to move.

Support Received from Kidde, Wormald, Chubb, Commercial Shipping, Royal Navy & US Navy

During this developmental phase in the 1990’s the company received valuable support from Unitor Ships Service (now Wilhelmsens Ships Services), Kidde, Wormald, Chubb, the Royal Navy and the US Navy and we began to appreciate the scale of the challenge in that larger commercial ships and steel production plants held over 600 x CO2 cylinders installed in 2-3-4 banked rows of cylinders. The issues of corroded, rusted or re-painted cylinders also began to be made clear to us. All of these develop small pockets of air trapped within the oxidised cylinder surfaces, making it difficult to pass successfully conventional ultrasonic signals required to monitor their contents of CO2 or Halon.  Indeed, Halon itself was soon to be prohibited from new installations due to its high ozone-depleting factor and was eventually banned under the Montreal Protocol. Government users however were granted exemption and permitted to maintain these Halon cylinders in use for some years.

The company therefore began developing a specialised ultrasonic technique to account for poor surface condition cylinders and manufactured the world’s first portable Portalevel™ ultrasonic liquid level indicator for ships in 1991 together with the world’s first Marine Extension Rod which enabled the sensor to be passed between the 2-3-4 banked cylinder rows. These spaces were typically 25mm between each cylinder. Today they can be as little as 14 to 16mm and we have designed the 12mm diameter Mini Marine Extension Rod to account for these smaller-spaced installations in Asian-built vessels. Equipped with the Marine Extension Rod the unit was configured in its early days as Portalevel™ Marine. Later in the 1990’s we received UK MOD and  NATO Stock Numbers for the products and equipped 110 ships with the US Navy for testing on their High Pressure Halon systems. In fire servicing companies we were encouraged to develop a mix of sensors for different cylinder types and diameters. By the late 1990’s we developed instead our Universal Portalevel™ “wet” and “dry” sensors able to cope with all cylinder sizes and surface conditions. 

UL-approved Portalevel™ MAX portable liquid level indicator for Fire Engineers

Today we have 8 individual model types of Portalevel™ and in land-based, marine and offshore oil and gas use there exist 4 primary model types :

  • Portamarine™ – the most widely used unit in shipping CO2 applications and equipped with D rings to enable the crew user to operate the Marine Extension Rod “hands-free”
  • Portalevel™ MAX – our UL-approved flagship model for marine and offshore use with cO2, NOVEC™ 1230, FM-200™, FE-13™, FE-25™, FE-36™, HFC-225 & HFC-227
  • Portalevel™ MAX Marine – as above but fitted with the Mini Marine Extension Rod
  • Portalevel™ Datalogger – able to record and download 1,000 cylinder readings for evidential record-keeping and analysis


Portalevel™ Range of portable liquid level indicators – Fire Safety

  • We design liquid level indicators to identify the liquid level, not as some do and manufacture units that need to have their readings confirmed by other means such as weighing or calculations.
  • We support our units with 24/7 technical support, still repairing 20 year old units, still offering credits on old model types applied against upgrades, and all underpinned with optional through-life “total care” maintenance programmes
  • All our units are supplied in waterproof carrying cases with sensor, cable, gel and operating instructions included as “ready-to-use” and “ready-to-go” packages

Permalevel™ Multiplex – Monitoring Fire suppression System Contents 24/7

The Permalevel® Multiplex is the world’s first fixed fire suppressant liquid level monitoring system. Capable of monitoring up to 16 cylinders simultaneously, 24 hours a day every single day of the year. Permalevel® Multiplex ensures fire suppression systems are always fully operational, protecting lives and high value assets alike. Permalevel Multiplex is capable of monitoring all common fire suppression liquids including Dupont™ FM-200, 3M™ Novec™ 230, FE-13™, FE-25™, FE-36™, C02 and of course water. The Permalevel® Multiplex integrates with all existing alarm systems using the standard 4-20mA connection and also is capable of transmitting alarms and the system status digitally for remote monitoring. Using a totally non-invasive externally applied ultrasonic sensor, Permalevel® Multiplex is non-destructive and does not weaken the structural integrity of the cylinders nor does the fire suppression system need be taken offline for installation, which is key for business continuity of critical infrastructure.


24/7 Monitoring

Modern fire suppression systems and clean agent extinguishants have transformed industry safety across all sectors, offering early detection systems which are incredibly fast, reliable and safe for use in areas occupied by personnel and high value sensitive equipment. However, the development of servicing and monitoring equipment for fire suppression systems has remained stagnant, with many very advanced systems relying on the inefficient and dangerous method of weighing cylinders or on unreliable mechanical pressure gauges. Even if these antiquated methods were adequate, they still only provide information periodically when cylinders are manually serviced, leaving the status of the fire suppression system unknown, and the assets vulnerable, at all other times. A fire suppression system must be fully operational at all times, for a system failure would be catastrophic in the few minutes it takes for a fire to cause irreparable damage.

Remote Monitoring & Remote Diagnostics

The Permalevel® Multiplex is capable of detecting the slowest of leaks or even instantaneously warning of a catastrophic discharge. Other liquid level systems require physical insertion into the cylinder which cannot be done retrospectively on already installed cylinders and also weakens the structural integrity of the cylinder. With more fire suppressant suppliers pressurising their cylinders to ever higher pressures, maintaining cylinder strength is critical and invasive liquid level monitors often cannot be installed for this reason.

Permalevel® Multiplex is the first fixed fire extinguishant liquid level monitoring system of its kind, offering a new level of safety and asset protection to those companies who regard fire readiness as the critical priority that it is. The Permalevel® Multiplex not only removes the need to frequently weight and re-weigh cylinders, but offers truly continuous monitoring for safety critical infrastructure.

Business Continuity

Heysham nuclear power plants in the UK have a combined 4 AGR reactors which produce a net output of up to 2400 MWe and employs 750 full time staff. This satisfies around 5% of the UK’s electrical demand, 30% of which is domestic. As such, a failure or unplanned shutdown of Heysham nuclear reactors could be catastrophic and would remove the equivalent of 4.5 million households worth of energy from the national grid, a shortfall which would have to be made up with other fuel-expensive power generation methods or by importing expensive electricity from Europe. Business continuity is probably more critical in power generation than in any other industry, with millions of people and vast networks of industry relying on a constant and reliable supply. The demand for a reliable supply of electricity is indeed so critical that irrevocable damage and loss of life can occur during serious outages, and is only seconded by data an internet services in the demand for continuity, and despite advances in fire protection technology, incidents still occur yearly across the world. High value asset facilities, safety critical facilities and facilities which provide critical utilities and infrastructure are those to which preparedness is of the upmost importance and can most benefit from 24 hour continuous fire suppression system monitoring.

Modular Design

The Permalevel® Multiplex has a modular design allowing simple expansion to monitor up to 16 cylinders per control unit. Designed to fit into a 3U rack mount enclosure, the single or multiple Permalevel® Multiplex control units install easily. Navigational buttons and an LCD screen allow easy viewing or changing of current readings and settings. Four LEDs show the status of each monitored channel making it easy to manually inspect the condition of each cylinder and the system overall, with further indicators showing if the system is running on mains power or the optional UPS backup power supply. Standard 4-20mA relay connectors allow the Permalevel® Multiplex to integrate with most existing alarm systems, sounding external alarms as well as an optional in-built klaxon inside the Permalevel® Multiplex should the Permalevel® Multiplex detect a change in a cylinders liquid level. The Permalevel® Multiplex can also connect digitally to a computer running bespoke software via a standard RS232 or RS485 connection allowing remote alarms to be triggered, system status to be viewed remotely or for the monitoring settings to be changed via the connected computer. Each monitored cylinder has attached to its outer wall its own ultrasonic sensor which is used to monitor the internal liquid level. We have been using our trusted sensor technology for more than 20 years and these new low profile sensors fit easily between cylinders. Our sensors have a strong magnet to hold the sensor in place with additional space for adhesive or a strap to ensure sensors are not accidentally removed.

Evidential Software

The Coltraco Permalevel® Multiplex remote monitoring software is the first of its kind offering truly remote monitoring of a fire suppression systems state of readiness. Our software keeps logs of the system status, individual cylinder status, alarm triggers and information about the use of the program automatically for one full month. The logs are stored as simple text files and can be easily viewed from inside or outside our software. The software can also be used to remotely view or change the settings of the control unit and can be integrated into other Hyper-terminal or MODBUS program. Furthermore, integration into Telit or other remote relay systems is also supported so monitoring date can be transmitted wirelessly. The real time monitoring screen shows all the information about the current status of the cylinders, and when last contact was made. Various tools are provided within the program to customise the software or to provide basic report viewing. Alarms triggered through the system are highlighted on the real-time display and are easy to see.

Coltraco Today

Today we area  family company with 3 generations and manufacture 14 products and systems but our 3 core products for the marine & offshore markets are :

  • Portalevel™ MAX Marine SOLAS-compliant & UL approved shipboard portable liquid level indicator for marine CO2, FM-200™ & NOVEC™ 1230 fire suppression systems – to replace weighing and use of radioactive level meters for contents monitoring
  • Portascanner™ portable watertight integrity test indicators for hatch-cover, watertight compartment door & cable transit area – to replace chalk & high pressure hose testing
  • Portagauge™ 3 – the “low cost marine superintendents ultrasonic thickness gauge”

These are all ultrasonic technology and are on-board nearly 17% of the world’s fleet of vessels, and on-board 90% of the platforms in the UK North Sea but also in service with ship-building & ship-repair yards, marine servicing companies, marine surveyors and  P&I Clubs, though by far the largest user group are shipping & ship-management companies, Offshore oil & gas installations and Navies. Coltraco Limited has been manufacturing ultrasonic equipment for over 20 years and we are one of the world’s leading designer and manufacturer for this specialist equipment. We produced the first Portalevel™ unit in 1987 and are now manufacturing our 8th Generation design. We now have equipment operating in 105 countries worldwide across multiple market sectors. Shipping, Shipbuilding, Ship-repair & Offshore oil and gas are core markets for us.

Our core system in fire engineering applications is :

  • Permalevel™ Multiplex 

Compliant with IMO SOLAS Regulations
The 3rd most important reason why ships are lost is through fire. Fire Safety though is the No 1 reason in Port State Control findings and accounts for every 5thships detention (Source: GL best Ship Management Practise Study 2013). In the UAE it is estimated by marine servicing companies that typical findings are that 10-30% of the ships CO2 cylinders have accidentally discharged or leaked. At those ratios the fires that they were designed to suppress will not be able to be suppressed. The question then  is when will the majority of the world’s shipping and ship management companies install these 2 equipment types ?  SOLAS demands in its Fire Safety Systems Chapter 5 that  Means shall be provided for the crew to safely check the quantity of the fire extinguishing medium in the containers. 

Extract from IMO & FSS Codes:
International Maritime Organisation (IMO) Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) International Fire Safety Systems (FSS) Code Chapter 5 – Fixed gas fire extinguishing systems 1. Application This chapter details the specifications for fixed gas fire-extinguishing systems as required by chapter II-2 of the Convention. 2. Engineering Specifications 2.1 General 2.1.1 Fire-Extinguishing Medium 2. 1. 1. 3 Means shall be provided for the crew to safely check the quantity of the fire extinguishing medium in the containers. 

Safesite™ Concept

For us at Coltraco Ultrasonics the issue is not however really whether we are SOLAS-compliant or Classification Society-approved. It is about the Safe Ship offshore and the Safe Site ashore.

These are important issues which we fully recognise (and I should stress that Senior Surveyors at Classification Societies have always kindly supported us) , but the key reason why ships should have our equipment on-board is that Safety should be paramount and drive their installation,  regardless of whether the regulations state they have to be installed.  Safety for Safety’s sake. Safety at Sea for the Officers & Crew, their Ship and its Cargo should be the responsible driver to their acquisition. Safety ashore, Safety of buildings and installations to ensure lower risk, higher protection & business continuity.

Coltraco Service Commitments

Coltraco Ultrasonics offer customers :

  • Trade-In credits of your old model type to apply against the purchase of latest model types;
  • Through-life maintenance support;
  • Free training by phone or training video;
  • Portacare™ TMSS annual contract maintenance options,
  • Certified OEM calibration & ODA Service Stations in the USA, UK, India & France.

Above all ethical business practises, scientific & mathematical application and genuine family values. Building on our ISO 9001 we have also completed our ISO 14001 certification.

These equipment types are supported by Coltraco Ultrasonics on-line videos – which are free-of-charge – and which are designed for foreign Crew whose first language is nor English. Available through our website www.coltraco.co.uk or on our YouTube channel  www.youtube.com/user/ColtracoVideos

We are developing a global network of Coltraco ODA (Organisations with Delegated Authority) Service Stations so that owners can direct re-calibration to these centres rather than returning them to us in the UK. So far we have stations in the USA, UK, France, India and are developing new stations in the UAE(with TYCO Fire & Security UAE)  and Singapore/Hong Kong.

Market Sectors

  • Shipping,
  • Offshore Oil and Gas,
  • Defence & Naval
  • Power Generating companies
  • Rail,
  • Mass Transit Rail companies
  • Pharmaceutical,
  • Electricity & Gas transmission sub-station  companies,
  • Telecommunications & Mobile Phone operating companies,
  • Hotels,
  • High-rise Tower Buildings
  • Data Centres & Server rooms
  • Universities & Laboratories,
  • Refineries & oil and gas Pipeline companies
  • Airports,
  • Steel and Aluminium production companies,
  • Banking & Finance 

Tomorrow – Our Vision & Our Commitment to Science

  • We are committed to resourcing research & development and to science.
  • We are proud of our British Scientists who have kindly lent their services to Coltraco Ultrasonics Limited.
  • We have a vison to extend our technology base from ultrasonics and on into technologies based on light, magnetism and radar.
  • One of our aspirations is to build upon the 24/7 monitoring of fire suppression systems and to manage the data from monitored fire systems worldwide.
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