Thermal imaging surveys | Superyachts


Thermal imaging surveyor Tony Dale from Geo Therm looks at the importance of these inspections and how they can prevent future incidents on board

As an everyday maintenance tool, handheld thermographic cameras are overwhelmingly used for scanning overheating electrical equipment, safely in a non-invasive manner.

With appropriate training the condition of vital yacht equipment can be assessed in the infrared wavelength range with relative ease and rapidity. Capturing one or more electrical connection hot spots early amongst hundreds of connections in a single switchboard, can prevent operational outages and vessel panel fires.

Heat is not detectable to the human eye, unless a component is glowing cherry red. However, this early identification provides an opportunity for targeted maintenance, which in turn reduces the risk of unplanned downtime and increases the time available for operations.

Benefits from using heat seeking thermal cameras are clear and have become widely known commercially. Although their utilisation in the yachting industry is still in its infancy. Yacht Engineers are all too aware of budget constraints and simply shelved specialist equipment rarely used, notwithstanding the initial equipment start-up costs, specialist PPE, annualised calibration OPEX, including ongoing competency training and validation. This all adds up to a prohibited cost burden for the owner when a cost-effective solution can be sort.

The services of a professional thermographic marine surveying company, with Class supplier status who can carry out a survey of an entire vessel’s electrical system with minimum outlay suddenly becomes an attractive proposition. Acknowledging no one wants a vessel outage especially the chief engineer, lest when guests or the owner is on board.

The reason why it’s essential to raise these issues early to assist captains, chief engineers and the yacht management companies is to support proactive maintenance needs via the use of thermal imaging. The list below reflects some of the reasons why thermal imaging should be implemented onboard:

  • Quickly identify electrical high- resistance hot-spots to prevent outages and fires, as recommended by Classification Societies, Maritime Guidance Notifications, (MGNs)
  • Locate hot exhaust engine surfaces and degraded insulation that may be impinged from a fuel leak – a SOLAS requirement
  • Effectively identify and rescue guests and crew in smoke filled rooms, man-overboard situations before hypothermia sets in, oil-spills floating on water
  • Identify boats or other hazards when sailing, or at anchor at night
  • Support the yacht safety management system, warranty and insurance prerequisites and the ISM Code with improved safety measures, emergency protocols and environmental protection

Periodic third-party thermographic surveys are recommended by all Class societies, while insurance companies are realising the benefits to endorsing thermal imaging use since fires can total a yacht within hours and consequential losses exacerbating the final outlay.

Invariably yacht thermographic surveys are requested by the yacht management company or pro-active chief engineer, evaluated on operating history, condition, and criticality. With surveys carried out during a voyage or at port under maximum possible load, with temperature criteria for evaluating electrical corrective actions are based on the table below.

A thermographic surveyor’s exception based report, will also satisfy insurance and technical notifications. Primarily, switchgear, distribution boards, transformers, pump motors, drive shaft bearings, engine exhaust lagging, shore power connections and machinery starter panels are surveyed, with extreme temperatures being immediately relayed to the chief engineer, to implement a maintenance plan to mitigate catastrophic failure when underway.

Other benefits include the captain, chief and yacht management company knowing the exact cost per visit to forecast future maintenance financial budgets.

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