Applications of infrared Thermal Imaging in the Marine Industry

 (Article contributed by Consulenze Tecnologies, Italy

The use of Infrared The Thermography CND may contribute, together with other diagnostic techniques, to identify the onset of possible wears destined in time to become fault, analyzing and interpreting "weak signals", in order to intervene with the necessary corrective, both during ordinary maintenance, in that phase of expert technical pre-purchase or following failure.The electrical system as a whole, from the accumulators to the alternators, electrical panels, up to the conductors, can reveal, through surveys thermographic anomalies otherwise undetectable, in the form of localized overheating, even if masked by paneling. Abnormalities that if neglected can lead to annoying disruptions or damage which may endanger the safety of the crew.

The thrusters may indicate, with their operating temperatures, possible malfunctions, also charged to the power supply circuit, or any problems at the level of the heat exchangers. In the same way reducers or inverters can highlight abnormal temperatures if their internal mechanisms are not properly lubricated, or if you are on a principle of wear.

The gearboxes / inverters are mechanisms simply consist of gears that rotate at relatively low temperatures immersed in their lubricant, are not subject to special or frequent wear and therefore are ignored, with the risk of having to face serious and unexpected failures.

In the control of the hulls Infrared Thermography NDT technique is valid applications in the identification of areas of moisture, any fracture, delamination, or simply in search of internal structures such as composite chain plates, bulbs etc., In the case of riveted joints of wooden boats , old repairs otherwise invisible.

Among the advantages of Infrared Thermography NDT is absolutely a non-destructive testing and the ability to monitor large areas of the surface, thus achieving complete thermal map of the hull, which can enable more detailed investigations into suspected areas.One of the most frequent causes of the deterioration of laminated fiberglass, is the ingress of moisture by osmosis, which triggering a chemical reaction with the components of the hull produces a self-perpetuating process to determine the decomposition of the material. A thermographic measurement, properly conducted, can show such wetlands, allowing the programming of any interventions ripristino.Una area with temperatures inhomogeneous can highlight a possible delamination or fracture of the composite, as the different element (air, water) in which these cases penetrates in the layers determines a different thermal response. The experience given Thermographic Operator certified by RINA Services S.p.A. LEVEL 2 UNI EN 473, the knowledge of the material examined and the type of construction may allow a reliable diagnosis objective.

Very evident also appear old grout repairs or rushed, which due to non-perfect adherence to the storage appear as warmer areas. Even the wooden hulls, even when constructed with materials suitable and properly secured, "suffer" the entry of moisture, the hull is to be paid at the wheel of the bow, the stern, keel, dell'attestatura of Tables and taken to the sea from the deck surface species at the gunwale.

In the restoration of vintage boats, units that behind decades of navigation, built mainly of wood, thermographic technique may prove invaluable tool to identify those which are most suffer the weight of years.

A monitoring of the hull and deck plan, carried out in appropriate environmental conditions, will surely help you to get an overall picture of their condition.

Main fields of application:

  • Identification of delaminations and fractures to load hulls laminated fiberglass and wood.
  • Identify points of moisture in the laminate of fiberglass and wooden hulls inside.
  • Identification of infiltration of water borne del'opera alive (osmosis).
  • Control of detachments of the deck coating.
  • Control moisture infiltration from the deck.
  • Identification and control of internal reinforcement to the composite and hidden structures (bulbs, heathland).
  • Monitoring and control of electrical systems.
  • Check the hull for any principles of osmosis.
  • Check the water intake or all of those holes made after simple layering and not properly sealed with silicone and then infiltration of moisture. Repairs to the hull or topsides not highlighted previously.
  • Check the operating temperature of the cylinders, cylinder heads, turbines, collettoridi exhaust and heat exchangers.
  • Control systems for heating and cooling of the edge in work
Infrared Thermography NDT applications in the marine industry.

We offer our experience at your service for a fast and effective control of your vessel with Infrared Thermography NDT:

  • Electrical equipment
  • Mechanical, hydraulic and hydraulic
  • Fire Prevention in the apparatus engine and machine works
  • Research moisture penetration for fiberglass boats (osmosis) and wood both for regular checkups and for a sale
  • Check the extent of possible damage to the hull
  • Analysis of the hull to search for any distratificazione in fiberglass
  • Assistance during commissioning and during the warranty period (for new boats) for an analysis of the state of the systems;
  • Assistance to shipping companies in the creation of a database of the systems on board ships - half-yearly or yearly (PREDICTIVE MAINTENANCE) to reduce maintenance costs, save time, and resources to increase uptime and availability of the boats .
Stop Appliances and Electrical Systems board

Before or after they develop defects in the electrical system. On board vessels, these defects can be attributed to vibration, poor or lack of maintenance, repairs to the shipyards, but it can also be attributed to incorrect installation. Using Infrared Thermography CND, these potential areas of failure can be detected before they become a risk. The Infrared Thermography CND can be used in all types of electrical installations, such as fuses, contacts, terminals, terminal blocks, cables and other electric components etc.. The areas to be monitored are: distribution boards, mcc, distribution boards and control panels in the main control room of the engine, emergency generators, galleys, laundries, fans / air conditioners, elevators, consoles of the bridge, engines, lighting systems, etc.. Thermographic Surveys in electrical installations are possible while the systems are active, without causing expensive downtime. In almost all cases, this form of analysis is extremely convenient, and in some critical situations, is the only method available. With the Infrared Thermographic analysis CND will avoid additional costs associated with any electrical system crashes or loss of availability of the ship. 

Mechanical Systems and Hydraulic board

In 2004, Lloyd's Register, the most important company in the world in ship classification and certification body, has made the following prediction: "In the near future, the different equipment on board ships will benefit from the thermographic, particularly as a strategy first of all, before entering the basin, to identify equipment and systems that need attention and so eliminate the need to work. "

Some directors of machine use pyrometers but these capture the temperature at a single point instead the camera captures the image complete, ie, both of the component suspected that the entire unit allowing easy identification of any abnormality. Thermal images can be saved in a database to keep track of all the systems on board.

What are the typical investigation of machinery on board ships? You can check the bearings, the alignment of axes or shafts, steam lines, steam traps, hydraulic systems and hydraulic systems, propulsion systems, etc..

Fire Prevention Inspections in the Apparatus Engine and Engine Room

The thermographic investigations on ships can be designed to prevent fires. According to the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) Ch II-2, 15.2.10 register and rules of IACS for the classification of ships' The maximum surface temperature of machinery, parts and components in a ship in the engine room should not exceed 220 ° C. To prevent ignition and development of fires all surfaces above 220 ° C must be insulated or protected. "Statistics show that in most cases in the engine room fires are caused by broken pipes or fuel oil that eventually sprayed on adjacent hot surfaces.

Fortunately, events like these are rare, but can have serious and costly consequences for the ship, its cargo, the crew and the shipping company. The Infrared Thermography NDT (Non Destructive Testing) has the advantage of being an inspection without direct contact with the surfaces and to be able to display and store the exact values of the temperature of the machinery. It also allows a complete safety inspection in line with the tight schedule of the shipping service.

By using the thermographic scanning process, potential areas of failure can be detected before they become a danger.

Typical areas for scanning are:

Exhaust pipes from each cylinder exhaust manifolds superimposed insulation in the exhaust pipes of the turbochargers flanges or tubes of exhaust Splice 'T' for pressure sensors and temperature valves indication,Damaged insulation or steel lids,insulation missing.

Besides the Infrared Thermography NDT offers the advantage of not interfering with the ship in operation. The engines have to work at operating temperatures for the success of the inspection. A few hours travel at full speed and full load condition is ideal to get a complete picture of the ship and propulsion systems.


Fiberglass is composed of fine filaments of glass strands or woven into fabric or mats assembled randomly and bound together with a resin. The glass fibers are very strong but flexible instead the resin and weak but very stiff. When they are joined and fused together chemically, the result is that the fiberglass is very strong, rigid and durable. Ideally, the final molding should have many filaments of glass and resin sufficient only to hold it together and seal the strands of glass, but most of the conventional resin moldings has much more than necessary. The fiberglass has many advantages but it is not completely sealed and water molecules can penetrate. To waterproof the hull from the outside you apply a thin coating of a special resin called gelcoat'''', which is very hard and shiny. However, even though this resin can absorb a minimal amount of water.

The problems start when the water molecules that have penetrated into the fiberglass meet other chemicals, which may be of substances used to hold together the glass cloth etc.. Subsequently the water molecules are combined with chemicals and create new molecules larger dimensions that remain trapped in the fiberglass. At this time begins the effect osmosis.

The process of osmosis and diffusion process of a fluid from a solution with a low concentration to a solution with high concentration until it creates the same concentration of the fluid by the two sides of the membrane. Absorbing more and more water pressure in the laminate is growing and if nearby are air bubbles trapped or delaminating these are filled with a liquid very quickly. This process is very slow and normally the hull does not absorb water more than 2-3% of its total weight.

However, the continuous process of osmosis, the bubble grows more and the liquid in the bubble increases in pressure. When you look at these bubbles in technical terms it is said that the boat 'osmosis'. The process of breaking of the bubble that is finally exit the acid is called 'hydrolysis'.

And that is why it is very important to check the fiberglass boats periodically. The Infrared Thermography CND allows to analyze the different laminate structures, according to the technique used, going to a depth up to 5 cm.Damage to the hull is below the water topsides.The damage to the hull captain unfortunately quite frequently and can occur during a contact with objects or other boats in the sea, in the case of stranding, or because of the mold.

Certainly one of the most modern and fast to find out the extent of damage to a boat is the Infrared Thermography NDT. Sometimes the damage can seem very limited and worrying for nothing but a control with infrared thermography can highlight well the extent of the damage. You can determine how far it extends the level of infiltration of moisture or the level of damage. 

Detachment and Defects Fiberglass

This service is aimed at the recreational sector where the hulls are made of fiberglass. This technology allows to identify with precision the exact position of a possible detachment in the layers of fiberglass but is not able to locate the depth at which the defect is located. The thermographic inspection allow timely control of large surfaces in the case is asked to check, for example, the hull of a yacht in production.

The method consists in heating the surface of the hull and detect any abnormalities with the thermal imager. This technique is called active and allows you to heat a part of the hull or topside via an infrared lamp to highlight thermal inhomogeneities.

Current Status Checks boat

We offer an independent shipowners, shipyards and shipping companies are in the process of buying or selling new or second-hand boats.

When a boat comes out of the yard almost certainly may have deviations from normal operation of their systems. A good practice is to check the on-board systems with thermal imaging to identify any problems during sea trials but also in the warranty period (semi-annually or annually) so these abnormalities can be detected and highlighted in time. This would solve the problems on time without costly.

How is this possible? When a particular plant has an irregular operation, for example, losses in a hydraulic circuit that can be detected by the different radiation IR transposed from the camera. In the location of the leak will have a higher temperature, any water infiltration will become colder, an electric cable overloaded be much hotter etc.. Also any structural problems, moisture penetration can be detected with the Infrared Thermography NDT.

Our naval experience allows us to interpret the results of the inspection in a proper way, it goes without saying that the reasons for which a cable is hot may be different (in the harmonic heating circuits, easing connecting clamps, ferrules stapled evil, unbalanced load or simply an excessive overload).

Predictive Maintenance

Routine maintenance has a fixed cost and is performed regularly. Each machine or system is subjected to regular monitoring and replacement of parts based on the knowledge of the maintenance staff and the instructions in the manuals of any system or facility. However, this strategy does not decrease the incidence of accidental failures (very high costs for shipping companies) and even change the fact that many of the replaced parts might work for a long time.

How can I fix this situation and reduce the cost of maintenance? You no longer need to wait until the defect is clearly showing (rupture of the part / machine stopped), with the risk of expensive damage!

The Predictive Maintenance shows its advantage by transforming the ordinary maintenance 'emergency' maintenance in a modern, new type which identifies the systems and facilities that really showed signs of problems and / or wear. The knowledge and the identification of systems and problematic installations allow us to focus our efforts on these and not only, as before, on everything. Predictive maintenance and very particularly suited to installations where it is important naval service availability.

Very important is, however, create a schedule for regular inspection of base, for example, half yearly or yearly depending on the size and complexity of the type of plant. The inspections take less time to tinker with and you just have a regular analysis to identify anomalies, inconsistencies and any thermal imprint inconsistent with the nature of the machine in question. The advantages are: savings in maintenance costs, longer equipment life, better performance of the same.

By exploiting the modern technology of Infrared Thermography CND any problems can be detected, monitored and, if necessary, repaired promptly before the failure accadda.

We can offer shipping companies assistance in the creation of a database of the systems on board ships - half-yearly or yearly (according to IEC Guide 0-10) - to reduce maintenance costs, save time and resources, increase service times and availability of boats.

According to some research of independent sources with the benefits of a predictive maintenance program are as follows:


  • Return on investment (ROI): 10 times (money spent on inspections etc..) Reduction of maintenance costs: 25% to 30%
  • Elimination of accidental failures: from 70% to 75% (source: ENEL 80%) Reduction of idle time: from 35% to 45%
  • Increased production: 20% to 25% 





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