Like much else in modern life, today’s seafaring vessels have become highly dependent on electrical and electronic systems. So it follows that the availability of electrical power at sea is absolutely critical. Today, the shipping industry is tasked to increase both security and safety on board, power availability is therefore essential and the equipment backing up main power generation must meet exacting code requirements.
Global standards from UR-E10 to IEC 60945 are enforced by the major Classification Societies. They fulfill a major role in ensuring safe vessels and clean seas. Their remit extends from design through to end-of-life services, for compliance with prevailing rules and regulations from bodies such as SOLAS (Safety of Life at Sea) and IMO (International Maritime Organization).
In addition to providing an independent assessment of a vessel’s fitness to operate, Classification Societies set technical rules as well as confirming designs and calculations to meet them. They certify electrical distribution and automation components to serve essential functions such as propulsion and maneuverability. They also survey manufacturers’ plants to makes sure they meet the rules.
As we approach the third anniversary of the Costa Concordia disaster, we are reminded of the important function that power and Standards play in ensuring safety at sea. When the ill-fated cruise ship deviated from its charted course and ran aground, it took on water causing the engine rooms to flood and a loss of electrical power. 32 people on the ship lost their lives that night. Complicating the night-time evacuation of the cruise liner was the fact that the emergency generator failed.
However, the uninterruptible power supply (UPS) on the ship did kick-in to ensure much needed emergency lighting, and it is worth remembering that there were 4,197 passengers and crew were successfully evacuated. The Costa Concordia stands as a cautionary tale of the importance of well-defined emergency procedures as well as the need for emergency electrical back-up systems.
In any unpredicted or unplanned event, power availability becomes even more acute because it invariably puts life, resources and the environment at risk. In these situations, systems must work flawlessly because there is too much on the line. From communications equipment and emergency lighting, to propulsion, navigation and transmission, UPS plays a vital role in ensuring the operation of critical systems should the worst happen and power generating capability be lost.
For a company like Schneider Electric which provides standard, ruggedized and fully customized UPS for applications in a wide range of global industries, not least Marine, being able to meet the requirements of Classifications Society inspection is mandatory. Which is one vital reason we maintain a constant dialogue with important bodies like DNV, BV, ABS, LRS, GL, KRS and CCS, among others. By maintaining these relationships, we ensure that each UPS solution is 100 percent compliant with marine rules.
The need for safety provisions is best summed up by Clark Dodge, a passenger vessel safety consultant based in Hawaii. Speaking about the Costa Concordia incident he said; “All those millions of dollars spent making the cabin and amenities gorgeous — I have no problem with that. But make sure the support goes along with it, in terms of safety and equipment.”
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