A fire in the engine room in a ship may quickly develop into a catastrophe, but as a matter of fact a system tracking oil leaks can prevent that a fire starts.

According to DNV, 60% of all fires in a ship start in the engine room, most of them because of oil leaks, and as ship fires always are dangerous there is cause for taking it seriously.

"One problem is that you have no place to escape to when a ship is on fire. The ship lies idle, maybe out of control. So human lives are in danger. The second problem is that it is very costly to have a ship out of work after a fire", explains Lars Gerner Lund, Chief Operating Oflcer in the Danish firm DASPOS A / S.

Four years ago, he established DASPOS together with Torben Jørgensen, and the idea behind DASPOS is precisely to help the shipping companies to secure human lives and values. This is done by introducing a leak tracking system that is able to discover the oil leaks in the engine room, before a fire starts.

"We have developed a leak tracking system, which can detect if there is something in the air in the engine room, which means a risk of fire. The system raises the alarm before the fire starts, whereas a traditional device only gives the alarm when the fire has already started", Lars Gerner Lund says.

Measures the gasses from the oil

The system named LAS-10 (Leakage Alarm System) measures the oil drops in the air as well as the gasses from the oil that may develop into fire.

About ten thousand liters of air are led by a strong blower through a detector and a specially designed filter. The detector analyses the contents of oil drops and gasses of the air.

"If there is an oil leak hydrocarbon sprays and – gasses, which will be present in the open engine room, will be caught by the detector. If it is a small leak under high pressure from for instance the fuel feed, which typically develops spray or oil vapour, we measure the diVerential pressure above the filter. If this suddenly has increased, the filter blockage has increased, and then there is a risk of fire. If we have a larger leak which does not generate small drops or sprays, the hydrocarbons will be caught by the built-in gas sensor", Lars Gerner Lund explains.

Until now, systems have typically used a beam of light to registrate what is in the room. This does not give any warning about hydrocarbons in the air.

"This means that these systems discover the risk only when there is smoke, and then the fire is already there. We do not use air beams for detection in our system", Lars Gerner Lund states.

Cruise liners and supply vessels

This system has been developed in cooperation with A.P. Møller-Maersk and it was installed on board Emma Maersk as one of the first vessels. But it is suited for all types of vessels from the pilot boat with just one engine and just one detector installed, to large cruise liners with up to quite a lot of detectors. The system can be installed with up to 48 detectors. However, the biggest number of detectors that DANPOS has installed, on a cruise liner in fact, is 24. Typically, 3-6 detectors are installed, and for the purpose of comparison: On board Emma Maersk, eight detectors were installed.

For a start, we have introduced the system for the shipping companies where much people are on board, i.e. ferries and cruise liners, or where optimal safety is an important part of the policy towards staV members and passengers. companies as Esvagt and Scandlines have taken action according to their written safety policies by installing LAS-10 systems on all their ships, Lars Gerner tells, and he continues: "In addition to that we focus on ships where a fire involves big costs. Anchor handling vessels, supply vessels, and tug boats for example. If for example a supply vessel lies idle one single day, so that it cannot sail personnel or supply to the platform much money will be lost".

Lars Gerner adds with a twinkle in his eye:
"A fire costs between one and 1.5 million DKK a minute, so the cost of our system amounts to the cost of 15 seconds of fire. That is money well spent, we think".

DASPOS has chosen to outsource the whole production. All component parts are produced in Denmark so that the firm can quickly adjust to the market’s needs of high product safety and quality.

"Even if that type of production can be outsourced to for example the Far East we have deliberately chosen to place it in Denmark in order to be able to react and deliver on short notice within the established general agreements. Many of the companies’ ships, such as supply vessels, most of the time find themselves at work at sea of course. When they at last are in port for a few days, they need quick supply. Often their going to port is not the result of long-term planning, which does not leave us much time to react", Lars Gerner Lund says explaining why he has chosen to place the whole production in Denmark

Connection to water mist – system

When DASPOS installs detector-systems on a ship, cables are drawn from the detector to a control unit that transmits signals to a monitor that shows the risk level in the engine room.

This signal can be passed on to a water mist-system or to another automatic fire extinguishing plant if there is one installed on board. Many ships have them by now, explains Lars Gerner Lund.

With that, the eVorts can be eflciently concentrated when there is risk of fire. Or as one of DASPO’s clients puts it: "We know everything about how to put out a fire on board – We just don’t want it to occur!"