Latest News

Latest News

Brookes Bell grows international reach with the addition of 3D Marine

Brookes Bell – the global technical and scientific consultancy – has today (18 January 2021) announced the addition of US based marine consultancy firm 3D Marine USA Inc.

3D Marine is a full-service consulting group, specialising in all aspects of marine transportation, offering vessel and cargo surveys, casualty and marine engineering consultancy.

The addition of 3D Marine is part of Brookes Bells’ long-term strategy to service clients across the globe, giving the company an additional presence in Houston and Miami alongside its current offices in Liverpool, London, Glasgow, Shanghai, Hong Kong and Singapore.

Brookes Bell is widely regarded as the ‘go to’ firm for casualty investigation, forensic analysis, technical dispute resolution and expert witness work for a broad range of marine and energy matters.

3D Marine was established in 1988. In common with Brookes Bell, the 13-stong workforce comprises experienced master mariners and senior officers, marine engineers and naval architects, with well-established expert witness services.

Ray Luukas, CTO, Brookes Bell says: “Brookes Bell is a leading multi-disciplinary technical and scientific consultancy serving the marine and energy sectors, so this is a natural fit for us, complementing the services we offer and significantly increasing our geographical reach. Our business growth is steady and consistent despite the challenges of the last year and the global pandemic, this is an exciting development for all of us going into 2021”.

“Our teams around the world already work together on different multi-discipline projects, pulling in specialist expertise as and when needed. Our new laboratory in the UK provides metallurgy, comprehensive fuel testing, advanced NDT and paint testing services that will be made easily accessible to our new US colleagues, offering customers a more rapid and bespoke service.”

David Scruton, CEO, 3D Marine added: “We have grown steadily over the last twenty years and this partnership now takes us to the next level. By joining with Brookes Bell, we can offer our clients an enhanced range of services and a truly international response, while our team can benefit from new and exciting synergies as a result of being part of a larger organisation. I moved from Liverpool to Houston in 1992, and in many ways this merger with Brookes Bell actually feels like going home.”

December Newsletter


Welcome to the December newsletter, the last newsletter of what will certainly be a memorable year, and one that many of us are glad to see the back of. Having said that, I am immensely proud of the way our team around the world has adapted and maintained business as usual, providing the services our clients need regardless of the challenges and restrictions.

In this newsletter we celebrate the opening of a new office - regardless of the global pandemic – our business operations continue to grow. We hear from Nick Haslam about the challenges of salvage operations with larger vessels, we learn more about the varied and busy workload of the Nautical Services team, and we get to know a bit more about Daniel Millet, one of our senior master mariners based in Liverpool.

Thank you all for your support this year, wishing you all a very peaceful Happy Christmas, with all best wishes for a safe and healthy New Year,

Anthony York, Chief Operating Officer

Brookes Bell Shanghai relocates to new office

Brookes Bell Shanghai has recently completed its move to a new office in a further commitment to the rapidly growing China market. The 236-metre square office space is still located within Shanghai, but it is more central and conveniently located than the previous office.

The new office is located in Tongsheng Tower in Shanghai

Martin Twomey, Director of Marine Engineering Asia said Brookes Bell is committed to Shanghai as it is highly accessible and well-connected to various parts of China, making it convenient for the team to travel to job locations within the country.

“Being based in Shanghai, we are close to other key shipbuilding markets such as Japan and South Korea, which makes travelling to overseas jobs very convenient, particularly as Shanghai is well connected to the rest of Asia” he explained. “Of course, international travel has been more difficult as a result of various Covid-19 travel restrictions, but we look forward to a return to normal travel arrangements once the restrictions are eased.”

Although overseas travel has been challenging this year, Martin says that 2020 has been an extremely busy year for them with work spread out across China.

The team at Brookes Bell Shanghai has been busy with jobs throughout the country in 2020

As the number of jobs has continued to increase steadily, Martin adds that it was a good opportunity to move office and adapt the layout to accommodate the needs of an expanding team in China.

With the Covid-19 pandemic, video meetings with clients have also become more common, and they expect this to be a new norm in the future.

“In our new office space, we have installed a new video conferencing system throughout the entire office so that everyone is well supported for their video meetings,” he added.

The new space is styled with a modern look and comes with video conferencing system throughout the office

In June, the Shanghai team returned to their normal working arrangements as workplace restrictions eased. While they are mostly busy attending surveys across the country, the new office will be a “home” that the team can look forward to when they are back in Shanghai.

Looking ahead to 2021, Martin is optimistic. He expects that the new year will be busy with a steady stream of survey work, expert opinion and expert witness work already booked in.

“We look forward to growing the team in China and Asia throughout 2021 to providing a wider range of skillsets to address our clients’ needs in this exciting market. The new office space brings us one step closer to fulfilling our ambitions in the region,” Martin concluded.

The new office is in Suite 1909, Tongsheng Tower, 458 Fushan Road, Pudong, Shanghai, 200122.

Are larger ships too big for salvage?

Brookes Bell is regularly instructed by P&I Clubs, shipowners, charterers, underwriters, government departments and lawyers to advise on a range of incidents from collisions and groundings to salvage and wreck removals.

Nick Haslam, principal master mariner talks here about one of the biggest challenges facing the industry - the increasing size of vessels in a salvage situation. Nick spent 21 years at sea including as Master on a variety of ship types, he is a Special Casualty Representative (SCR) on the Lloyd's Salvage Arbitration Branch SCR Panel and a member of the Lloyd’s SCOPIC Committee. With 22 years of marine consultancy experience he’s attended and advised on some of the industry’s most high-profile salvage operations.

In recent years, ships of almost all types have got bigger as ship owners and operators try to reduce running costs, secure economies of scale and introduce new operational efficiencies.

There are now 24,000TEU container ships, bulk carriers carrying 440,000 tonnes of iron ore and cruise ships capable of carrying 6,000 passengers. This is fine when everything is going well, but not so easy when there’s a problem.

Take a bulk carrier for example, accessing the cargo in port can be a challenge but taking the cargo off in a salvage scenario – when it’s in a remote and environmentally sensitive area - can be a whole different matter. Quite often there’s only a handful of vessels in the world that may be suitable for this kind of job and often they are positioned thousands of miles away.

Around the world, some regions are better resourced for the kinds of vessels you might need to call on in these kinds of situations, for example in Asia there are some large construction vessels that could be chartered, but unsurprisingly they are likely to be being used, after all who would build assets to handle mega-ship accidents and then have them sitting idle, costing money to maintain, waiting for an incident to happen.

In most salvage situations the priority is to get the bunkers off the vessel, but if the damaged vessel is large then the sheer enormities of scale can make the whole project much more complicated. Valuable response time can be lost securing and then mobilising key assets to the accident location, and once removed, then the salvor faces the challenge of where to take the bunkers. Much rests on the regulatory authorities in the region, how they respond to the incident and how accommodating they are willing to be as the salvor manages the situation.

Nick worked on the Stellar Banner grounding which was in a remote location and a significant sized vessel, fortunately the Brazilian authorities were very cooperative and agreed that the ore cargo onboard could be dumped at sea in designated areas, but even so it took ten weeks to discharge. The alternative would have been to take the ore off the vessel, transport to a port, offload and then somehow store 140,000 tonnes of wet iron ore.

Some incidents lead to oil spills, in which case ocean booms, a towed or rigid boom might be deployed, but again, these are not sufficient in the case of a large spill and are really only effective in calm weather, in rough weather they have a very limited impact.

Increasingly Nick suggests that policy on these matters will come down to what the public is prepared to pay. The general public has become used to cheap consumer goods and cost-effective transport plays a big part in that pricing. But if there’s an incident, the public also wants to see a quick response, appropriate action and no environmental damage. That’s not always going to be possible with bigger ships, however hard we try and mitigate the risks. It may take a few high-profile incidents for this to become apparent to the general public, but slowly, it will.

Spotlight on nautical services and the navigational analysis suite

Adrian Scales, Director of Nautical UK is a Chartered Master Mariner, with more than 18 years seagoing experience on various ship types including reefer/container, general cargo, freight ferries, Ro-Pax ferries and high-speed passenger craft. Leading Brookes Bells’ nautical services team in the UK, he specialises in salvage and wreck removal; ship handling; ro-ro vessels and cargoes; high-speed craft; refrigerated vessels and cargoes; stowage and securing, here he explains the teams’ current activities and an update on their navigation analysis suite for investigations.

The work carried out by the Nautical team can be very diverse. We’re currently a team of seven, which includes three SCR’s (Special Casualty Representatives on the Lloyd's Salvage Arbitration Branch SCR Panel) and all are experienced master mariners with time in command at sea.

Right at this moment, a large proportion of the nautical work stream is focused on navigation and ECDIS related incident assessments. But this is just one area the team are investigating; we are also dealing with various hold cleanliness matters, fuel contamination claims, hatch cover integrity assessments, general stowage and securing of cargoes (including containers), scrap steel loading, speed and consumption disputes, two groundings and a salvage incident. Various members of the team have been providing expert testimony, remotely, for hearings at arbitration.

Cargo losses seem to be particularly prevalent at present. These losses can be attributed to a variety of root causes, but all of which need careful investigation and assessment before an expert opinion can be formed. Whatever the cause, our investigation team will look at all aspects of the incident. This assessment will generally include an assessment into the vessel’s movements prior to and during any incident period. This aspect is a vital part in gaining an understanding what happened, and this is where our navigation analysis suite comes in to its own.

Most of the world’s shipping fleet are now equipped with Electronic Chart Display Information System (ECDIS) and Voyage Data Recorders (VDR). Both of these items of equipment can provide vital evidence during any investigation. As part of any navigation assessment, our team will utilise the Marine Accident Data Analysis Software (MADAS) to overlay all the electronic data from the VDR, ECDIS, AIS and video footage (CCTV and/or Mobile Phone) onto a single screen playback video, to enable an analysis of the incident from the consolidated data available on the same screen(s).

Where a ‘what-if’ scenario is required, the Nautical team can also utilise our internally developed BBSim software which allows the user to ‘drive’ the subject vessel(s) and assess what might have happened if a different approach to a manoeuvre had been performed.

We can use these software systems for both routine as well as the more challenging incident assessments. Using MADAS we are able to listen to the bridge communications as an event is progressing. We can thereafter reference this information stream against the vessels position, vessel speed, engine orders, helm orders, rudder angles – everything that is needed to enable an opinion to be formed on the situation under review.

Most importantly, given the challenges of COVID, we have been, and are able, to undertake this type of work and assessment from anywhere in the world (subject always to a stable internet connection). This work stream is unaffected by current travel restrictions.

Put simply, an owner and/or operator can send us a copy of the VDR bridge recordings, along with any supporting data, and we can process these from our local workstations. The finished output can, and has, been used during arbitration hearings in recent matters.

Once any playback is completed, our master mariners – using their many years of navigational experience – are then able to form their expert opinions against the relevant ship specific requirements for bridge resource management, ISM and the company SMS.

But as stated, MADAS is not just for incident investigations - we can also use the navigational analysis suite in a proactive way to support any of our client’s requirements. Most of our team have now also undertaking training for navigation assessments through the Nautical Institute. Where required, following a remote desk top review, we can also carry out onboard assessments of a bridge team’s performance, and provide recommendations and risk mitigation suggestions based on our specialist experience and knowledge in navigational situations.

A proportion of the matters the Nautical Team are called to deal with are likely to be multi-disciplinary. We work in close collaboration with our colleagues where alternate specialisms and expertise might be required to assist clients in their understanding of the situation being faced. In this respect, Naval architects may be called into assist on structural and lashing strength analysis; cargo scientists to assist with guidance and warnings for hazardous cargoes; engineers to look at machinery and equipment failures; metallurgists for steel fractures; the NDT team (non-destructive testing) to look at structural strength; paint specialists to provide input on hull, tank and hold coatings; and our fire investigation experts to investigate cause while we consider the crew response aspects of an incident.

Overall, and our key strength, is that the Nautical Team consists of experienced master mariners (two of which are Chartered) who have each been in command at sea and are therefore used to taking decisions and knowing how the different nuances of ship operations engage. This experience, alongside the software we have available to assess key events, allows us to carry out a forensic type assessment of any incident or event.

Meet the team – Daniel Millett, Senior Master Mariner

Danny Millett is a senior master mariner based in Liverpool. He joined Brookes Bell six years ago following a 14- year career at sea, sailing in all ranks up to Master on deep-sea vessels and a spell in the offshore sector. Here he tells us more about his background and his role with Brookes Bell.

I have lived by the sea all my life, coming from a fishing town and my grandfather was a chief engineer on deep sea fishing trawlers, it was a life that always fascinated me. After my cadetship, I joined Foreland Shipping and spent 11 years with the company progressing up through the ranks to Master.

I joined the industry in 1999 with the introduction of the tonnage tax, which encouraged companies to take on UK cadets for tax incentives. In the 1980s, the UK Government had stopped funding cadet training and as a result, for many years young people in Britain stopped choosing seafaring as a career. This has led to a gap in the industry between people similar to me in their early 40s to people now retiring in their 60s, which has allowed for good career progression for myself both at sea and now ashore.

While at sea I learnt a huge amount from the more senior seafarers onboard, they had all been from a generation before satellite navigation systems, using sextants for real and not just for college exams! However, when I went to sea, the industry was transitioning from an ‘analogue’ world such as paper charts to digital and so, I think I got the best of both worlds. The vessels I sailed on had integrated bridge systems fitted with electronic charts and digitalisation was already transforming the industry. Most of the worlds fleet now have to be fitted with ECDIS (Electronic Chart Display Information System).

Being at sea was both interesting and exciting, I sailed mainly on British ships, earning a tax-free salary and loved the routine, camaraderie and banter, especially with the engineers. There were good standards on board and I enjoyed the three months at sea followed by the three months off, which I usually spent travelling the world.

With Foreland Shipping I sailed on deep-sea RoRo vessels that carried RoRo, container and breakbulk cargoes worldwide. There have been some challenging times, at 33 years old I was Master of a vessel carrying various armoured equipment and helicopters for the Ministry Of Defence, taking them to the Middle East during conflicts and this was a huge responsibility but something I got a huge buzz from. I remember one time berthing the ship in Pakistan, with the pilot talking to me about cricket and an armed guard looking over me on the bridge wing, looking out for terrorist threats.

I was also at sea when piracy in the Gulf of Aden was at its peak, which has been useful because I can take part in arbitration cases, speaking from my first-hand experience of what it’s like to be a Master in those situations. For example, with armed guards onboard and having to sleep fully dressed with your trainers by the bunk, then you get the call that suspicious pirate skiffs are approaching and having to rush to the bridge with warning flares being fired - it was not pleasant!

I decided to move from Foreland just because I wanted a new challenge and I took a role in the offshore industry. After a while I decided it wasn’t really for me and came across the Brookes Bell role, which sounded like just what I was looking for; using my time at sea, my experience and knowledge as a Master but a varied role and with a significant amount of travelling. I do sometimes miss going to sea but generally my role at Brookes Bell gives me the opportunity to keep connected with the industry whilst going home to the family and my own bed.

I really do love to travel; I’ve sailed all around the world, from the Middle East to Africa, down to South America and the Falkland Islands. In my time off, I regularly went backpacking around California, South America, South Asia and Australia. I attempted to learn Spanish while I was onboard then went travelling to use it, I just love experiencing new cultures, seeing new places and trying new food.

I now work as a Master Mariner consultant/surveyor, covering various types of jobs from navigation and unsafe port disputes, cargo damage, cargo stowage and securing, to cases involving bulk carriers and hold cleaning matters. In every situation I’m using the skills and experience I gathered at sea. I’ve led the introduction of MADAS software which analyses the VDR data and gives the vessel’s position, vessel’s speed, engine orders, helm orders, rudder angles with the Radar and ECDIS data and collates in an easy to view format. All this enables us to provide analysis and opinion on what has happened in an investigation and it’s now an integral part of our consultancy services.

I love the variety; I can be heading into work in the office and then a call comes through and I’ll find myself onboard a vessel instead. It’s a very reactive business, last month I was in Southampton dealing with hatch covers, the following week in Liverpool dealing with a scrap metal fire onboard a vessel and in September I was on a job in Sweden.

When I’m not at work, I still love travelling, although now it’s just 3-4 weeks of holiday, luckily the job helps satisfy my longings to see other places. And when I’m not doing that, I have a confession – I’m an AvGeek, I love aeroplanes! Luckily so does my wife and by default so does my 15-month-old daughter. We regularly go to the airport and there’s a spot near the end of the runway where we watch the comings and goings.

I’m also a runner and a big fan of the gym, although with a 15-month-old daughter fitting it all in is a challenge. I’ve just bought a new backpack to carry my daughter though, so I’m looking forward to getting out onto the hills soon. I enjoy food, both cooking and eating and aside from that I’ll be watching all kinds of sport, I have been to the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix and regularly attend boxing events – I’m also Manchester United fan, married to an Evertonian, and we live in Liverpool, it can get heated!

November Newsletter


Welcome to the November newsletter.

Despite the continued coronavirus disruption, here at Brookes Bell, it is very much business as usual; our teams are busy attending surveys and advising clients all around the world on a variety of issues.

In this month's newsletter we look at some of the work of our marine consulting services team including the restoration of the Clyde's largest passenger steam turbine ship and the installation of cofferdams in Canada. Kim Chua discusses examining frayed wire ends for clues when crane wire ropes have failed, and excitement is building as equipment arrives for our new state-of-the-art laboratory. This equipment will allow us to provide comprehensive metallurgy, fuel testing, paint analysis and non-destructive testing widen the specialist services we can offer clients.

We also get to know a bit more about Karwei So, one of our scientists based in Hong Kong.

Anthony York, Chief Operating Office

Metallurgy developments in the new laboratory

Matthew Calveley, Senior Metallurgist at Brookes Bell talks about the new metallurgy resources which will widen the team’s capabilities and the progress of the new laboratory as its opening date gets closer.

Work on our new laboratory continues apace with the opening scheduled for the new year. As the date gets closer, we’ve been taking delivery of some of the impressive equipment which will take our metallurgical investigations to another level.

In the course of our work, we provide technical consultancy service to shipyards, manufacturers and vessel owners. Our investigations might cover anything from a metal failure, to an enquiry about construction quality or an investigation into manufacturing processes. Our work might involve very large components right down to very small delicate samples such as paint flakes, but the first step is a thorough visual examination of the sample.

Metallurgy is a branch of science and engineering, describing the study of metals and materials. By understanding the fundamental behaviour of metals, our metallurgists can determine how a component or structure should react in a specific environment or under certain mechanical loads.

In order to assist with our investigations, we prepare samples to examine the materials in more detail. Some of these samples are soft, others can be very hard. To help with preparation of a range of materials, we have invested in a new metallographic precision cut off saw which has three automatic axes and automatic feed control which can adjust to the thickness and hardness of the material, producing very, very thin cuts. We then use our new grinding and polishing stations to prepare the sample with a final mirror polish before examining it using microscopy. Although these items may not be as immediately intriguing as some of our other new analytical equipment, our saw and grinding/polishing equipment enable the team to significantly streamline and automate the existing preparation process for samples.

Using our high definition digital microscopes, we can assess a sample as part of our inspections including fractographic analysis, weld analysis, microstructural inspection, high precision measurements and joint witnessed analysis.

Our new DSX1000 High-Resolution microscope and Omni full HD digital microscope offer flexibility over a wide range of inspection types, moving swiftly between different observation modes including darkfield, brightfield and polarised viewing options and providing a magnification range from low magnification right up to x2800. Our optical microscopes include long working distance lenses for uneven samples and material lenses for close up microstructural work. This equipment can generate 3D images of specific points of interest and can stack multiple images taken at different focal lengths to create fully in focus images.

If the team needs to examine something at high magnification while retaining a high amount of resolution, they can use scanning electron microscopy (SEM). This is a much higher level of magnification using a focused beam of electrons generating high resolution and high magnification while retaining depth of field.

SEM has a wide range of uses, including for forensic engineering, contamination and corrosion analysis, coating inspection, fuel investigations, research applications and for product development. It is particularly useful at identifying mechanisms of failure and generating elemental energy-dispersive x-rays (EDX) which can be used as a quick sample analysis tool. Brookes Bell’s microscope also contains an advanced live EDX function which generates elemental data in real time while imaging the areas of interest. Our new JSM-IT200 InTouchScope Scanning Electron Microscope will allow for inspection at magnifications in the magnitude of x10,000 all the way up to x100,000.

To confirm whether a particular metal component meets a specific standard or specification, the base properties of the metal need to be examined. This could involve chemical analysis or mechanical testing, where a sample is tested in the laboratory using destructive methods. However, this destructive analysis is not always feasible, and so Brookes Bell can now offer a range of portable chemical analysis equipment including LIBS (laser induced breakdown spectrometry) and PMI-OES (positive material identification - optical emission spectroscopy) using new equipment – the Hitachi handheld LIBS analyser or Hitachi PMI-MASTER Smart OES analyser.

LIBS is a portable method for chemical analysis of metal alloys, particularly magnesium and aluminium alloys and its used for hard to access areas on large scale engineering structures. The PMI unit is a portable version of OES and can provide a full chemistry of alloy materials down to low detection limits. It includes UVTOUCH technology and gives a reliable analysis of ferrous materials such as steels and stainless steel, as well as aluminium, nickel and copper. Both sets of equipment offers all the benefits of laboratory quality chemical analysis, but on site and in situ - benefiting any investigations enormously.

Brookes Bell has invested significantly in its new laboratory, when it opens in the New Year it will be fully equipped with the latest technology, dramatically boosting the teams flexibility and the range of specialist service on offer.

Marine Consulting Services helps restore the Clyde’s largest passenger steam turbine ship

Brookes Bell offers a range of marine consultancy services, delivered by a multi-disciplinary team tailored to suit the requirements of the job in hand. Led by Dr Luis Guarin, the division arose from the corporate acquisition of Safety at Sea Ltd, in 2011.

Safety at Sea was established in 1997 by the University of Strathclyde with a team of specialists focused on improving ship stability following the tragic losses of the RORO ferry MV Herald of Free Enterprise (1987) and the ropax ferry MS Estonia (1994).

Following these two passenger vessel disasters, Northern European countries undertook a retrospective upgrade of all ferries to improve ship stability and prevent accidents like this from happening in the future. The Safety at Sea team were instrumental in helping ship operators to navigate the new ship safety requirements.

Today, the Brookes Bell marine consultancy services team has seven members and pulls in other experts from across the company as needed. They provide specialist safety advice to designers and owners, and a wide range of clients, including suppliers of equipment for both newbuilds and conversions. They also provide safety engineering services, quantitative risk assessment and formal safety risk assessment for the offshore industry.

Because the team has such unrivalled expertise in this area, it has contributed to the industry’s development of ship safety standards. Note-worthy is the team’s involvement in a recent appraisal of damaged ship stability standards on behalf of EMSA (European Maritime Safety Agency) and its significant contribution to the IMO (International Maritime Organization) work on the safety of bulk carriers in the early 2000s.

The division has built a strong reputation for advising on passenger ship new builds, alternative designs and cruise ship safety assessments, using detailed performance analysis and computational fluid dynamics to enhance the safety, performance and functionality of each vessel. Such is the quality of the software developed, that the Company has now a separate team charged with the commercialisation of these tools.

While much of their work has been focused on the cruise industry, the team is currently working on the restoration of a Clyde steamer, the TS Queen Mary. Originally launched in 1933 the TS Queen Mary measured 871 gross registered tons, was powered by three direct-drive steam turbines, carried 2,086 passengers and was the largest steamship on the River Clyde.

The vessel was taken out of service in 1976 and was taken to the river Thames in London where she operated as a static restaurant, before being scheduled for the scrapyard in 2015. The charity, Friends of TS Queen Mary, was set to rescue the vessel and she returned to the Clyde in 2016. Since returning home, the charity has been busy fundraising to preserve and restore the vessel as a static attraction at its new home berth at the Glasgow Science Centre. (Click here to find out more about the project).

Brookes Bell’s marine consultancy team is acting as technical lead on the project, providing naval architecture and design services including structural design and stability verification work as well as reverse-engineering the whole vessel (using 3D laser scans) in AVEVA Marine software, to provide the charity with a 3D structural model for the vessel to aid preservation and facilitate steel renewals.

The marine consultancy team and Simon Mackay, senior naval architect have also been working on the installation of cofferdams for our client SeaTec Subsea – scroll down the Brookes Bell newsletter to read more

Spotlight on Asia - Crane wire rope failures

Brookes Bell’s multi-disciplined team of forensic investigators and engineers assist in a wide range of incidents ranging from hull and machinery failures to specialist crane investigations, forensic engineering investigations and technical management and they routinely provide expert witness evidence in court and arbitration proceedings.

Our experts provide prompt and accurate preliminary advice, which is followed up with detailed forensic analytical analysis, combining skills such as engineering, metallurgy and high-end computational analysis as required by each individual case. Here, in a great example of how our departments work together, Kim Chua, a metallurgist with Brookes Bell in Singapore, talks about investigating crane wire rope failures.

When one thinks of crane wire rope failures, you would commonly imagine dangling wires with frayed ends, but wires don’t always fail in a single, straight piece.

At Brookes Bell, we have seen a variety of crane wire failure cases. These failures have resulted in damage to equipment, ship structures and loss of cargoes. Most importantly, wire rope failures can potentially endanger those nearby and may even lead to the tragic loss of life.

Whenever an incident occurs, we always ask our clients to document the casualty and take plenty of photos. If they were present during the incident, it’s best to capture what has happened as soon as possible – from a safe distance, of course! These photos and videos will serve as important evidence and provide valuable details, helping us to determine the root cause of the incident.

Just like forensic investigators, we start by looking for clues when we arrive at the scene. In the example of a crane wire failure, this can be either on board the vessel, in a warehouse if the parted ends have been brought to land, or at a testing facility.

We are most interested in the condition of the parted ends, because this usually tells us what may have happened during the incident. We will also undertake a close-up examination of the broken tips because there will be tell-tale signs of what the rope had experienced just before it failed.

Examples of crane wire rope failures

The overall condition of the wire gives us a good idea of the rope condition: what is the affected length and area of the wire that is broken, are there any deformities, are there signs of a change in diameter or any indications of corrosion? Besides collecting evidence onsite and recording our observations for information, we also carry out further laboratory tests to “diagnose” the root cause. These usually involve a close-up visual examination of the wire, and high magnification microscopic examination using optical microscopy and scanning electron microscopy, as well as mechanical testing to test the physical properties.

For example, when we perform a cross-sectional examination and unravel the wires to check the wire’s internal condition and construction, this provides us with further information about the level of degradation to the wire rope and how well the rope was maintained, since any loss of metal or internal corrosion could reduce the wire rope’s loading capability. It is also important to check the wire’s construction as wires with the same diameter may have different load-bearing capacities as a result of different wire rope construction configuration.

We will then follow up with the examination of the broken tips along the parted ends using stereoscopy, which gives us up to 80- or 100-times magnification, depending on the equipment. This allows us to have a much closer examination of the failed ends so that we can check for wear, corrosion or any visible cracks.

A magnification of up to 80x or 100x can be obtained depending on the stereoscope used

Next, we examine the selected individual wire cross-sections even closer using an optical microscope. Under a magnification of up to 500-times, we can determine whether the material had experienced any fatigue or any tensile overload.

We can also chemically etch the polished cross-sectional surface to reveal its microstructure or the microscopic grain textures, which can reveal any latent defects in the material. It will show any deformation to the grains, particularly if the wire had undergone plastic deformation or a permanent stretch before it failed.

Aside from optical microscopy, we carry out fractography where we examine the fracture surface. Using the scanning electron microscope, we examine the fracture surface at even higher magnifications of over 1,000 times. This allows us to see clearly any features or evidence of mechanisms such as fatigue striations, or shear, where the materials have been overloaded at crossover points between wire to wire contact.

Last but not least, we can carry out hardness and chemical composition tests to confirm the steel material and give additional information about the steel grade to help us determine whether these are factors which contributed to the failure.

From these tests, we can then determine the mechanism of failure. Having determined the mode of failure, using the input of Marine Engineers and/or Master Mariners, we combine the results of our test and examinations with a review of the documents and photographs provided, and from this combined exercise, we can then arrive at a firm conclusion on the likely cause of failure.

Typical failures include fatigue (left) and overload (right)

Installing cofferdams in Canada

Simon Mackay, senior naval architect has recently returned from British Columbia, Canada, where he worked with our client SeaTec Subsea on a project to design and install a cofferdam.

SeaTec Subsea is the marine and offshore industry’s leading IRM (inspections, repairs and maintenance) subsea services provider for all vessels, floaters, rigs and platforms. Brookes Bell has worked with the company on a number of projects – providing design work and onsite assistance - over the last few years.

Simon explains; “Working in cooperation with SeaTec Subsea, the project was to design and oversee the installation of a cofferdam at various locations along a newly constructed quay wall. The client needed a dry environment throughout the large tidal cycle so that support brackets could be welded to the newly installed piles, with fenders subsequently attached to these brackets.”

1A cofferdam is an enclosure built within or across a body of water, allowing the enclosed area to be pumped out, creating a dry environment for work to be carried out safely.

There were 35 fenders to be installed in total so two cofferdam systems were fabricated, with each used at multiple locations. Brookes Bell’s naval architects Andy McGibbon, David Brown and Simon Mackay had designed the cofferdam system at the beginning of 2020, and the structures were fabricated in China in accordance with the team’s drawings, before being transported to the site. Due to the restrictions on how the cofferdam could be secured in position, a novel ballasting system was devised so that no divers were required during the installation procedure.

As the designer, Simon attended on site with SeaTec Subsea, to prepare the installation procedure, assemble the various components and oversee the successful trial installation. During the preparation phase he also verified a design change to the cofferdam, as a result of a last-minute change in the operational parameters from the client.

He commented: “The Covid-19 restrictions meant that the trip was a bit longer than normal as I had to quarantine for two weeks on arrival into Canada, then I was on site for two weeks, followed by another two week quarantine on my return to the UK. Onsite we were all careful to observe the social distancing measures. The novel design of cofferdam worked very successfully, even with the client’s last minute change to the design. The trip demonstrated that despite the strange times we all find ourselves in as a result of the global pandemic, we have a strong and productive working relationship with SeaTec Subsea.“

The cofferdams are likely to be in use until early spring, and Brookes Bell will continue to be on call to offer remote assistance with any technical queries as the project concludes.

Brookes Bell webinar series: The Bank Effect, 3 December 0900hrs

The next webinar in our monthly series features Nick Doherty, mechanical engineer and expert on computational fluid dynamics (CFD) discussing The Bank Effect - - the tendency of the stern of a ship to swing toward the near bank when operating in a river or constricted waterway.

Nick’s presentation will cover; the concept of the bank effect, CFD as a means of quantifying the forces involved, the accuracy of CFD for bank effect by validation with model test results, reasons for bank effect extracted from the CFD results, real world situations where bank effect can occur and the applicability of CFD for bank effects cases. The presentation will be followed with a Q&A session.

The webinar is taking place on Thursday 3 December at 0900hrs (GMT), to sign up just email:

Meet the Team – Karwei So, Scientist

Based in Hong Kong, Karwei has been a scientist with Brookes Bell for almost two years. Having grown up in the UK with parents from Hong Kong, Karwei is not a stranger to the region, having spent many family holidays there.

I graduated with a master’s degree in Chemistry from the University of Durham and completed a DPhil in Materials Science at the University of Oxford, but never considered working in the maritime industry. I was keen to remain in science but did not want to pursue a career in academia.

When I was offered the opportunity to work at Brookes Bell Hong Kong, I welcomed the chance to learn about a new industry. Nearly two years on, it’s broadened my perspectives dramatically. Like so many other people, I never understood how vitally important the maritime industry is!

It’s been a steep learning curve as there were so many new shipping concepts that I have had to pick up. Thankfully, everyone has been more than willing to show me the ropes and that gave me confidence to learn quickly.

My first overseas assignment was with my mentor Tim Moss, Director of Science Asia, it was a visit to Taiwan for a vessel that had developed a dangerous list on route to China and had to divert as an emergency. The cargo was one that was liable to liquify and had a dangerously high moisture content. While I was on site and helping take samples, I could actually see the motion from the excavator causing the cargo to liquify underneath.

Since then, I have attended many surveys and investigated claims independently, my scientific knowledge and background in chemistry and materials science gives me a much deeper understanding of the cases I’m working on.

Due to the nature of the job, I have come to understand that not all cases are as straightforward as they seem, and one often has to think on the spot. For example, when coal undergoes oxidation, it consumes oxygen, leading to carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide being released. In such cases, it is important to seal the hatches to prevent oxygen from entering, to prevent further oxidation and/or combustion. However, when methane is emitted, ventilation must be prioritized instead, to remove the potentially explosive gas.

Further complications arise when both methane and carbon monoxide are emitted, as they require apparently contradictory actions. It can be hard for the Master to make a judgement and ensure the safety of the crew and vessel.

This is when Brookes Bell comes in, we can advise on the best course of action depending on the relative levels of the different gases and the nature of the coal, to make an informed decision.

More recently, I have been busy with cargo claims involving soybeans, rice, maize and containerized goods as many vessels have been delayed due to port congestion as a result of Covid-19.

Before the pandemic I was able to travel around the region, visiting countries such as China, Japan, and South Korea to investigate different cases – an aspect I particularly enjoy as I can get to see the world at the same time as doing my job.

I also really value the close-knit team at Brookes Bell, which has guided me a lot since I started my work here. In fact, the staff at Brookes Bell Hong Kong regularly hang out together outside work hours. We have enjoyed occasional BBQ sessions and regularly go on cycling and hiking trips in our free time.

This team spirit is also evident when I go out for surveys; I can always seek advice from the cargo scientists or other disciplines across Brookes Bell if needed, pulling in a whole range of different expertise to suit the requirements of the job.

Peter Cordwell

We were very saddened to hear the news of the passing of Pete Cordwell (PGC Demolition) last Wednesday, 28 October.

We first met “Big Pete” on the ‘RIVERDANCE’ wreck removal project from Blackpool beach in 2008. A particular highlight was Pete’s presentation to the UK SOSREP and DEFRA in Whitehall, London, delivering his method statement for the cutting-up and disposal of the wreck.

He impressed the UK Government officials with his practical approach and local resources. Pete won the contract fair and square and he achieved exactly what he promised; the wreck was removed on time, within price and without any damage to the environment (including metal detection surveys of the beach over a period of 3 months after removal of the wreck for the safety of walkers and children – that was Pete’s own idea). This was no mean feat given stiff competition from the major salvors, weather and tidal conditions; and it was Pete’s first marine case.

In December 2010, Pete came to the fore again when over 300 tonnes of heavy fuel oil spilt into the Liverpool Dock System.

His solution was simple – as the oil was almost as solid as tar on the surface of the very cold-water, Pete suggested using one of his JCB’s to dig it out. It could then be heated and taken by road tankers to a power station to be recycled as fuel. We shook hands on a preliminary verbal quote, and Pete’s machines were on site within 24 hours of the incident.

Pete was no ordinary demolition contractor; he was an innovative ‘Mr. Fix-It’ and a very successful entrepreneur.

Together with his son, Peter George Jnr, and the rest of his team, he was a very welcome contributor to the Liverpool Marine Engineers & Naval Architects Guild Annual Dinner (better known as the Plumbers’ Ball) and a generous donator to that important charity. We hope to raise a glass to Pete at the next Plumbers Ball when the world returns to normal from COVID.

In the meantime, our thoughts and best wishes go out to Pete’s family and friends at this difficult time.

He will be missed by those of us who knew him at Brookes Bell.

October Newsletter


Welcome to the October newsletter, it’s been a strange year for so many of us and I do hope that you and your families remain safe and well.

During these challenging times I have been very impressed with our team’s resilience and determination to continue to deliver the best service for our clients. Despite changing Covid restrictions around the world our teams have continued to travel and visit clients on site, to support and advise wherever needed. Whether in the office or working remotely we continue to be available and ready to assist you, our clients, regardless of the global situation.

In this month’s newsletter Dr Kieran Dodworth talks about the advanced software modelling used in ship handling, Patrick Yeoward discusses how we’re using PEC technology on superyachts, we congratulate Judith Fergus on being elected Fellow of the Institute of Materials Finishing and we learn a bit more about Lea McDonald’s fire investigation work.

Wishing you a safe and healthy month ahead,
Anthony York, Chief Operating Office

Introducing NDT corrosion mapping for superyachts

Brookes Bell has been working in the superyacht sector for over 30 years, our extensive maritime experience and expertise enables us to pull in different experts to identify and maximise opportunities for owners and managers whether that’s for a new build, rebuild or refit.

Our latest development for the sector is the adaptation of Advanced Non-Destructive Testing (NDT) technology for superyachts.

One of the biggest challenges facing superyacht yards and management companies is the difficulty of producing an all-encompassing and accurate quote for works during a refit or rebuild. A superyacht deck - regardless of whether it has a painted finish, is plastic or teak – can hide corrosion and damage as a result of water ingress. The inside of a vessel is very busy, packed with cables and important equipment, similarly the fit out is high quality and expensive. Too often it’s impossible to assess the damage without ripping up and destroying the extremely expensive structure.

But not now, using Brookes Bell’s Advanced NDT techniques it is possible to accurately inspect, assess and accurately estimate the work required. The inspection method is driven by pulsed eddy current (PEC) technology inside a probe which scans a non-ferrous coating to accurately assess the state of the steel plate underneath. It can ‘see through’ a teak deck, through paint, antifouling and cladding to identify any problems underneath.

The technology has been used for some time in the oil and gas industry and by the military. PEC scans have been used to inspect rig legs seeing through the weather jacket, to examine submarines looking through the rubber tiles and to assess the condition of the steel under the insulation on oil and gas pipelines.

On a superyacht, while the technology is complex, conducting a scan is straightforward and the resulting data is easy to understand, clearly displaying any diminution of the steel plate and therefore any areas of concern.

PEC Deck Scans can be done at up to 150mm per second with a scan width up to 450mm, meaning vast areas can be covered in a relatively short time frame. Different sensors are used to detect steel wall thinning and corrosion attack. Depending upon the area to be scanned, a large probe may be used which is the size of a wide headed vacuum cleaner or a smaller ‘mouse like’ probe which allows access to small areas such as tight corners and around fittings.

The data provides a residual thickness reading and calculates wastage due to corrosion. The results are then plotted on to a coloured ‘map’ of the deck, highlighting areas of concern. A simple colour spectrum gives a comprehensive, understandable ‘at a glance’ view as well as the detail needed to assess the size of the issue: with blue (good and sound) through to green, yellow and orange (an area of concern) to red (bad, damaged and needing attention).

The plotted map also shows the structure underneath a superyacht’s deck plate, highlighting the stiffeners, frames etc in the image as heavy dark blue lines and the data can be applied to a 3D model, allowing it to be twisted and turned for inspection by the customer. This really is corrosion mapping at its best.

Launched in November last year, Brookes Bell’s PEC scans have already been used for investigations on numerous small yachts, while the biggest yacht to be examined to date has been 90 metres long. Brookes Bell is also planning to use the technology to help a charitable trust which has been set up to restore the hull structure of an old Clyde steamer from the 1930s, the TS Queen Mary. The scans will offer valuable insight into the condition of the vessel and the work needed to turn it into a museum ship in Glasgow.

Patrick Yeoward, a member of the superyacht team, has worked in the superyacht sector for many years, including as a manager of vessels and so he understands the concerns of the owners, shipyards and management companies.

He explains: “This really is exciting, for the first time, the owner and captain can clearly see the extent of any underlying problem and can accurately plan for the upcoming works – this is good news for both budgets and the environment. The scan produces clear colour coded diagrams showing the areas of concern, so any repairs can be specific, localised and wastage minimised.

“The management company can – with the accurate information – plan the timeframe, budgets and contractors, while the yard knows the scope of the works, the budgets, the manpower needed and any contractor requirements. Everyone involved, really does benefit from the accurate information and insight this technology provides.”

Patrick says that the next step is to develop the technology for use on aluminium, tests are ongoing and the technology should be ready towards the end of this year. It would allow Brookes Bell to offer the service to the larger yachts which have a steel hull with aluminium superstructure, giving a comprehensive overview of the condition of the vessel.

Spotlight on Naval Architecture – Ship Handling

Brookes Bell provides a wide range of naval architecture services for its marine and offshore clients, supported by a varied and highly experienced team with backgrounds in ship design, class and regulatory compliance, ship building and in-service support. Here, Dr Kieran Dodworth talks about the division’s expertise in ship modelling for forensic investigations.

The team is often instructed by lawyers or insurance claims handlers to investigate a ship collision, allision or grounding, to establish what happened, what caused the incident and assess the resulting damage.

To do this, we must first establish the actual route of the ship. This is done using AVENCA’s MADAS software which can accurately plot the ship’s course (from AIS or VDR data) on charts and bathymetric surveys. This is normally done by one of our master mariners who will be instructed to address the actions of the crew, pilots or other operational issues.

Once our investigation has established the ship’s route, we are often asked to examine whether the accident could actually have been avoided; or what the influence of environmental factors were.

And this is where Brookes Bell’s mathematical ship modelling simulator BBSIM (Brookes Bell Simulator) comes in. It has been designed specifically for forensic investigations and to evaluate ship handling related hazards, it’s also a valuable tool in port development and infrastructure projects, where manoeuvres of target vessels can be tested.

Using BBSIM, we can simulate the vessel’s movements over a chart or using a MADAS background, to model how the ship might have behaved in different weather conditions and what might have happened if different actions had been taken. Alternative actions will normally be engine telegraph settings and rudder angles but in practice any series of alternative actions from anchor deployment to the action of tugs can be addressed.

HOEGH OSAKA on Bramble Bank, Solent. Brooke's Bell assisted the MAIB with manoeuvring and stability studies, the details of which can be found in the MAIB report.

Brookes Bell’s ship handling services stands out from its competitors for three reasons – its scientific rigor; the specialist input of our hugely experienced master mariner colleagues; and the incorporation of advanced computational modelling.

In starting our BBSIM development over 10 years ago, we looked at the alternatives offered by our competitors. They often offered simulators in which the scientific background was confidential IP and not drawn from peer-reviewed research. We didn’t think this was the way to go considering our focus on litigious claims where transparency and scientific rigour are demanded. So the background to BBSIM is based almost entirely on publicly available research.

As naval architects we can provide the mathematical modelling and the implications of any action, but a master mariner’s experience tells us the realities of different situations and potential scenarios for the ship’s operations, it’s vital insight and a perspective we wouldn’t be without. Brookes Bell’s master mariners were among some of the first in the industry to use ship handling simulations in litigious claims and our highly experienced nautical team work closely with our hydrodynamics team to offer an unrivalled service.

Our investigations are significantly different in another way too – we incorporate computational fluid dynamics (CFD) into our modelling which has been a development of the last five years. This mathematical solution can solve any manoeuvring problem, breaking it down into a fundamental prediction of fluid flow. It uses powerful computers where hundreds or thousands of processors are bundled, to create the computer equivalent of taking the ship to sea and testing experimenting with it. The advantage here, over our competitor firms is that actual hull form, seabed / channel; ship trajectory can be modelled rather than relying entirely on experimental data for situations which may differ in subtle but important ways. Taking the example of ship-ship interaction, experimental data is available for two bulk carriers passing each other on parallel courses in a limited range of water depths and that can be applied in BBSIM or our competitor’s models. But what happens when one of the ships is a containership, had significant drift due to it making a turn in shallow water varying in depth? These factors can utterly change the nature of the ship interaction but are not quantified in the experimental data – but tackling this in CFD is simple.

We were one of the first commercial firms to offer hull design using CFD, and by incorporating it into our diagnostic technology, we continue to lead our competitors in this area. With these tools and the expertise of our experienced and specialist experts we can offer our insurance and legal clients a level of certainty as a result of our precision modelling rarely offered elsewhere.

It’s business as usual and we’re still travelling…

Around the world, travel restrictions eased somewhat over the summer and our teams have been able to resume site visits and meetings with clients.

Ray Luukas, chief technical officer says;

“This has undoubtedly been a very strange year for all of us. The safety of our staff and clients remains our top priority, but we have been attending client sites throughout the year, whenever a country’s travel restrictions have permitted access.

“This will continue to be our business strategy. Even with the changing situation, it’s very much business as usual for all our people. Brookes Bell will continue to be the ‘go to’ firm for casualty investigation, forensic analysis, technical dispute resolution and expert witness work, wherever our clients are located.”

Over the last few months, our teams have travelled internationally to several locations

The Nautical team have attended in Africa, Brazil and Sweden. Fuel Services have been on site in France and Belgium, while the Naval Architects have been in Brazil and Canada.

Our Scientific team has assisted in Denmark and the middle east, while the Advanced Non-Destructive Testing and the Metallurgy team has been on site in the Netherlands and in Sweden.

But, Marine Engineering has travelled the most, attending on site in Gibraltar, Italy, France, Ireland, Turkey, Reunion Island, Netherlands and Greece.

In everything we do, the safety of our staff and our clients is always our top priority. However, we will continue to liaise closely with our clients supporting them with attendances on site across the globe.

All our offices continue to adapt to the changing conditions arising from the global pandemic, but we are available and ready to assist our clients whenever you need us.

Brookes Bell webinar on ship powering

Brookes Bell is holding a webinar on Ship powering: Understanding performance clauses in ship building contracts and specifications, on Wednesday 11 November 2020.

The webinar will include a presentation given by Dr Kieran Dodworth and Dr Bogdan Ganea, followed by an opportunity for questions and answers.

Dr Dodworth is director of naval architecture at Brookes Bell, an expert in marine structure aero and hydro dynamics, he leads the company’s naval architecture activities in relation to claims and accident investigations.

Dr Bogdan Ganea is a naval architect with a career spanning over 30 years in the field of ship experimental and numerical hydrodynamics.

The event takes place at 12.00 – 13.00hrs GMT on Wednesday 11 November, and will be of interest to P&I Club executives, shipping lawyers (private practice and inhouse) and barristers.

To register for the webinar, please email

The Institute of Materials Finishing welcomes Judith Fergus as Fellow

Judith Fergus, Brookes Bell’s managing coating consultant has been elected as a Fellow of the Institute of Materials Finishing (FIMF). The fellowship accreditation recognises her career and achievements spanning more than 30 years in marine, protective coatings and fire proofing for shipping, oil and gas and infrastructure.

The Institute of Materials Finishing was established in 1925 and is internationally recognised as the premiere source of expert knowledge on all aspects of metal finishing, coating and surface engineering technologies. To be recognised as a Fellow, an individual must have acquired a high level of competence in the science and technology of surface finishing and be able to satisfy the IMF’s Examination and Qualifications Board that they have an established and mature reputation in the field of surface finishing.

Judith’s fellowship was ratified at the beginning of October, shortly after she delivered a presentation to IMF members on the subject of marine coatings.

She says: ‘I am delighted to join the IMF as a fellow, it’s a hugely prestigious professional achievement and recognises my expertise and experience over many years. I think the presentation on marine coatings must have helped too, I spoke alongside Heather Hughes from Lloyds Register. It was all about wet paint and it took place online – because of the pandemic restrictions – 7-9pm.

“Normally at that hour of night you expect people to get tired and log off as it goes on, our presentation only took an hour, but there were so many questions we kept talking for another hour answering everything and everyone stayed right until the end! It is a topic that’s not often discussed and it’s a fairly male dominated industry so to have two women delivering the presentation was quite refreshing”.

Professional fellowships are often welcomed by our clients as they demonstrate exceptional credibility, a high level of expertise and industry leadership.

Meet the team - Lea McDonald, Fire Investigator

Lea McDonald leads Brookes Bell’s fire investigation services. He joined Brookes Bell just over 18 months ago, after a 32-year long career in the UK’s West Midlands fire service, here he tells us a bit more about his expertise and cases he’s worked on.

I have spent 17 years as a fully operational firefighter, including as a watch commander running a watch on a fire station, but for the last eight years -prior to joining Brookes Bell - I worked as a specialist fire investigator with a team of six others. We’ve examined everything from large-scale industrial incidents to small scale domestic fires, and on the larger cases that meant coordinating a multi-agency approach as part of the investigation.

During my time as a dedicated fire investigator I completed a masters’ degree in fire investigation which was quite rare at the time and really made me stand out career-wise. It led to a role where I regularly provided advice, training and support for other fire services and police forces across the UK, specifically tailored for criminal investigation departments and forensic investigations, as well as regularly providing expert witness testimony and evidence in Coroners and Crown Courts.

My work for Brookes Bell’s clients uses this experience and expertise, conducting investigations to identify the origin and cause of any fire, land-based, in warehouses, in machinery or on a vessel. I’m certainly enjoying getting to grips with the maritime industry but essentially a fire is a fire regardless of whether it’s a floating fire or compartment fire, the principles and the scientific approach process is the same.

As soon as I receive the client’s instruction, the priority is to get to the scene as quickly as possible, as there’s more chance that vital evidence will still be visible. Too often people are keen to clean up and potential evidence can be lost and I have to really impress on them the importance of leaving it untouched, until I’ve had a chance to inspect the scene thoroughly.

On arrival I will thoroughly document the scene with digital photos and taking notes, recording everything I can while onsite. I record what I find, how I found it, and I’ll complete any necessary diagnostic tests and check any electrical installations. From this I can quickly establish the ‘area of interest’. I’ll then interview any witnesses, watch any CCTV, I’ll investigate the burn pan and spread patterns, and based on my experience, generally I can quickly narrow down the potential causes and pin point an exact pattern of events.

This has been a bit more challenging during the pandemic, it has affected some of my work in countries where there are travel restrictions, but so far I’ve effectively managed the situation using a local representative to record what I need using facetime, videos and a lot of close coordination and back and forth discussions - thank goodness for today’s technology! In other cases, I’ve been able to operate as normal just socially distanced etc.

My role is endlessly interesting and I enjoy the challenge of an investigation. Quite often though I don’t know the final conclusion, if it all goes to court, it can take several years to be resolved and for a judgement to be reached – that’s a bit strange when you’ve been so heavily involved, you give evidence, or submit your findings and you don’t hear what the final court case outcome was!

There’s one key difference between my work for Brookes Bell’s clients and my former role so far, in almost every case investigated over the last 18 months, a fire has started through accidental ignition – people make mistakes – which was sadly not always the case when I worked for the West Midlands fire service, where sometimes fires were started deliberately.

I’m based in Brookes Bell’s Liverpool office and when I’m not working, I’m a very keen walker. There’s fantastic countryside around here, and during the pandemic and lockdown, I’ve really valued the chance to get out and breathe fresh air. My other passion is travelling… which sadly is somewhat curtailed by the global pandemic at the moment, one day though!

September Newsletter


Welcome to the September newsletter. As I write, globally COVID deaths are now estimated to have exceeded 1 million, and more than 300,000 seafarers have been at sea for more than 17 months. While the world grapples with the challenges of a global pandemic, seafarers have continued to work tirelessly to support the global supply chain that so many of us take for granted, however, physical and mental exhaustion leads to errors and poses a huge risk to safety. I sincerely hope that international cooperation can resolve this crisis as soon as possible.

At Brookes Bell, around the world our offices are juggling changing COVID requirements, but we continue to adapt, we are available and ready to assist our customers whenever you need us. This month, John Gibson our Director of Asia has been looking at layups, we're making good progress with our new laboratory, our cargo scientist Wen Li talks about some of the challenges of her role and we shine a light on our software department.

Wishing you a safe and healthy month ahead,

Anthony York, Chief Operating Officer

Norwegian Cruise Line chooses Brookes Bell’s Safe Return to Port Solution

Norwegian Cruise Line has chosen Brookes Bell’s Safe Return to Port solution for its Breakaway class of vessels. The SRtP Onboard™ software helps with the management of the response to casualties by providing crew with relevant guidance to support each situation and restore system functionality.

Brookes Bell, the leading international multi-disciplinary marine, scientific and technical consultancy, has been contracted by Norwegian Cruise Line to deliver its innovative software solution SRtP Onboard™ across its Breakaway Plus class of vessels. Brookes Bell was engaged directly by the Meyer Werft shipyard for these tasks whose close collaboration greatly enhanced the final output to Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd.

The software was installed on the newly launched Norwegian Cruise Line ship, Norwegian Encore in December 2019 including the delivery of training to all crew involved. The software will be rolled out across other vessels including Norwegian Escape, Norwegian Bliss and Norwegian Joy by 2020.

The SRtP Onboard™ software assists with the management of the response to casualties by providing crew with relevant guidance to support each situation and restore system functionality. The software monitors the response in real time and simplifies a complex logistics process by assigning tasks to groups, either through Wi-Fi connected devices or in paper format, with the required details needed to complete the actions.

Following the introduction of the Safe Return to Port regulations in July 2010, the responsibility to show continuous compliance across a vessel’s lifetime, post build, lies with the operator. SRtP Onboard™ supports demonstration of compliance to Flag by recording all SRtP drills and also complies with the specific requirements of the Bahamas Authority Marine Notice 03.

The system is designed to provide an onboard knowledge base which can be improved after every drill, continuously increasing the efficiency of the SRtP casualty response process.

Vittorio Vagliani, Head of Software at Brookes Bell said: “SRtP Onboard™ is a tried and tested solution to assist vessel operators manage the regulatory requirements and prove compliance. Our solution also goes beyond compliance, providing the crew with a wealth of useful information on the systems onboard”

Giovanni Canu, Vice President Special Projects and Operational Support at Norwegian Cruise Line, said: “In order to ensure our fleet is ready for the operational requirements of Safe Return to Port regulations, we selected Brookes Bell’s SRtP Onboard™ software. This offers an efficient and informative solution that has already successfully been installed on Norwegian Encore and will be installed on the rest of our Breakaway Plus class vessels. We also expect to extend this solution to Norwegian Breakaway and Norwegian Getaway.”

Practical Considerations When Laying Up High-Value Vessels

Laying up a vessel is a complex decision, incurring significant costs, and as a result proper planning is vital, says John Gibson, our Head of Asia.

Even in these COVID times, obviously the need to layup a vessel has to be weighed, and with a significant downturn in cargos, it is may be better, operationally, to merely slow steam rather than to commit to the significant costs of layup – or indeed to either sell or scrap the vessel.

However, if the decision to layup has been made, proper planning is a must. All plans should be fully detailed and approved by class, flag state, local authorities, and the vessel’s P&I and H&M machinery insurers.

First and foremost is the need to find a sheltered cosy bed where the vessel can be laid up. Typically, there are a number of traditional areas where layups take place, including Loch Striven up in Scotland, Labuan over in Malaysia.

It is important that the seas and the seabed conditions allow the vessels to be safely anchored and moored together with little fear of the vessels shifting. In this respect, the annual wind and weather conditions for those locations should also ensure that that the anchorage is not susceptible to hurricanes or typhoons.

Moreover, especially with high value vessels such as LNG tankers, the temperature and humidity at the location should not be too extreme or at least should not vary too much. The marine growth on the underwater hull will be a factor when choosing the right location.

However, it is not just the environmental and seabed conditions that are important when it comes to choosing a location – the location should be close enough to major trading areas and other vessels to facilitate both the layup and reactivation process. As such, it should also be close enough to shipyards and third-party assistance, such as harbour and salvage tugs, and to allow for ease of manning the vessel during the layup and reactivation without being too close to active shipping lanes.

The latter being also a requirement in order to maintain the safety and security of the vessel, particularly from the likes of pirating or theft. The ability to be able to cost effectively maintain a limited, skeleton, crew is one of the reasons why Loch Striven and Labuan are highly featured when laying up vessels for extended periods.

However, manning levels must still be high enough to ensure that security issues such as fires or floods are properly provided for whilst still ensuring that the costs of layup are kept as low as possible. Critical equipment such as bilge and fire pumps along with fixed and portable firefighting systems need to be kept ready for use should something go wrong.

In addition to maintaining critical equipment required for any casualty response, the level of maintenance of the vessel's other equipment, tanks, and hull itself needs to be planned for, and those plans need to be approved again by both class and the vessels insurers.

For tanks and critical equipment, such as the main and auxiliary engines, preservation methods may be carried out. For example on LNG vessels, cargo tanks, cargo equipment, and pipeline and valves are often fully inerted to eliminate as much oxygen as possible and to maintain and a dry, atmosphere of nitrogen so as to minimise the chance of any long term corrosive effects.

It is fair to say that the more maintenance is carried out on the vessel and her equipment during the layup period, the easier and shorter any reactivation time will be.

Furthermore, part of the process of choosing the area where the vessel or vessels are to be laid up depends also on the length of period which the they are to be laid up, which can range between a few days to about over ten years. This will affect the time needed for reactivation as well as the allowable levels of crewing required by local regulations.

Also, when the vessel is to be laid up for a long period with minimum manning, then it is critical that the mooring calculations are properly carried out and approved by the vessels class, local requirements, and insurance.

However, as we are seeing now, it is not always possible to know or to predict how long the vessels may be laid up for. This can make a big difference when it comes to the needs and demands of reactivation. If layup plans are sufficient, then it is likely insurance claims during layup should be minimal, and with good planning and some luck, then the insurance claims during reactivation will be, at the very least, acceptable.

Spotlight on software

Brookes Bell has developed a unique set of software products to support operators, shipyards and ship designers, helping them to meet regulatory requirements during a vessel’s design process and when it’s operational. The specialist team led by Vittorio Vagliani, Director of Software Engineering, is based in Glasgow and offers a number of specialist software tools for the passenger vessel industry.

Based on a strong experience with the SOLAS Safe Return to Port regulations, Brookes Bell offers two unique products in this field: SRtP Onboard™, a software tool that supports the crew in managing the response to an SRTP casualty or drill, and Systema™, a tool created for ship designers and shipyards to evaluate the level of redundancy of a ship’s systems against the SRTP provisions and IMO guidelines. The regulations work on the basis that the ship is its own best lifeboat, and cover systems primarily in four areas; power and propulsion, safety, navigation and communication and safe areas.

Vittorio explains that Brookes Bell’s EVI™ software product is an advanced pedestrian dynamics tool used for evacuation analysis. It allows shipyards and ship designers to assess their vessel designs against the latest IMO regulations. Talking about the Safe Return to Port software, Vittorio says that: “Systema™ has been successfully applied to circa 18 cruise ship designs to date, users can create a digital twin of all the systems onboard the vessel, modelling how each one is interconnected and dependant with the rest.

“For example, it might be used to show how the freshwater systems are connected to specific pumps, which in turn are dependent on power from a switchboard. This modelling allows the evaluation of the implications of any damage and how in the event of such damage, the onboard systems might be restored with manual actions. This is an incredibly complex task and for the average cruise ship means evaluating more than 20 different interconnected systems against hundreds of differing potential casualties.”

Traditionally, safe return to port studies have been desktop-based studies using the Failure Mode and Effect Analysis (FMEA) methodology. The major downside of FMEA is that it cannot model every possible failure mode. By comparison, Systema™ can incorporate all the required systems, in detail, and it provides an accurate and repeatable evaluation of redundancy, highlighting the local and global implications of any casualty and calculating critical failures. Ultimately, Systema™ is created to support certification and automatically develops the documentation necessary to prove that the system design is compliant and to obtain Class approval.

Vittorio adds: “In many ways the industry is still evolving how it deals with the IMO regulations for a ship’s safe return to port and Systema™ provides a step improvement in capability, detail and comprehensiveness of an evaluation when compared to a traditional FMEA.

“Cruise ships in particular are getting bigger than ever before and far more complex, with more and more at stake, designers and operators need to be as confident as they can be that every eventuality has been comprehensively planned for.”

He continues: “Our team is made up of highly qualified experienced specialists capable of developing bespoke software for both in-house and commercial applications. Our projects cover everything from evacuation modelling, Safe Return to Port and sea keeping analysis to decision support systems. We have the tools and the expertise to offer owners, operators and designers unrivalled insights and business intelligence in this challenging regulatory area.”

Brookes Bell's new metallurgy, fuel testing and paint analysis laboratory takes shape...

Work is well underway on our new high-end laboratory which will deliver comprehensive metallurgy, fuel testing, paint analysis and advanced non-destructive testing facilities. The new 8,000 sq. ft facility is being built in the northwest of the UK (near Liverpool) and will be up and running in the next month.

We are at a critical, but exciting stage as the paths of the project, which were once remote from each other, start to converge. We will soon reach the end of the building stage and will straight away begin the fit out of our new equipment.

There will be an opening event, albeit virtual, and we will provide more details soon. Click here to see the latest time lapse video showing our new laboratory taking shape.

Meet a Brookes Bell Expert

After completing her MSc and PhD in Chemistry, Wen Li wanted a job where she could apply her scientific knowledge direct to daily life, and where she could actually see the tangible contributions of her work. She about her role as a cargo scientist with Brookes Bell.

Making the switch to the maritime industry and ditching the usual corporate attire of high heels and makeup did not cross my mind at all when I was considering my career options initially.

Having obtained my MSc and PhD in Chemistry at The University of Manchester in the UK, I wanted a job in which I could apply my scientific knowledge directly to daily life, where I can actually see the tangible contributions of my work.

I took the plunge and joined a London-based bioengineering start-up for wastewater treatment, where I was responsible for developing and scaling up a novel bio-based material for the capturing of micropollutant in wastewater using my knowledge of chemistry.

However, when I was approached by Brookes Bell to join as a consulting cargo scientist, I had no hesitation to make the switch. As an avid traveller, I must admit I was particularly drawn to the travel prospects of the job. This was something new for me – definitely a break from my usual desk-bound job – and I could still apply my scientific knowledge at a practical level.

Having joined Brookes Bell in December 2018, the journey so far has not disappointed me. Just last year, I easily travelled for more than a quarter of the year to various ports in China, from the North to the South, and I was truly fascinated by developments at the port area which I never knew before.

The practical learning experience on the job has been extremely rewarding for me as I get to learn more about the maritime industry every day. I have dealt with and been involved in claims for various types of cargo damage, such as grains and especially soybeans, chemical contamination, fruit deterioration, contamination to frozen seafood, liquefaction of Ball clay cargo, fire investigation of self-heating cargo in containers, to name a few.

I also attended laboratories to witness testing and visited local factories for investigations of loss where needed.

China is the world’s largest importer of soybeans. So naturally, a bulk of the claims I see involve this type of cargo.

Just last year, I dealt with many soybean cases which claimed for self-heating damage of the cargo by the receivers. Most of them were caused by delay of voyage and/or original low quality of the cargo. For these disputes, I did inspection onsite during discharge and visited few soybean processing factories.

At this stage, I cannot stress how important it is to gather the right evidence and obtain a representative sample of the alleged damaged cargo – not only for grain cargoes, but for all types of cargoes – as it is essential for our investigation of causations of a case.

If there are no reliable samples to be analysed, there would be nothing much we or other professionals can use for investigation. This is an essential step in evidence gathering, which the outcome of a dispute usually hinges on.

While I can comfortably investigate a claim on my own now, I still remember that it was not always smooth sailing for me when I first joined – I was still very new to the industry and had little understanding of the various types of cargoes.

Thankfully, I was provided training at Brookes Bell who have given me a good understanding of the maritime industry to tackle the daily demands of my job. I was also able to quickly pick up the ropes under the guidance of my very experienced mentors, who are also extremely supportive and nurturing. To me, Brookes Bell is like a supportive family that I can count on 24/7, especially when I am out on a case.

Even today, whenever I try to explain to my family and friends what I do at Brookes Bell, many of them are still pretty much clueless and only have a vague understanding of my job!

However, that is completely understandable as the nature of my work is very dynamic and brings me different sets of challenges each time – all which I thoroughly enjoy and keeps me thinking on my feet.

August Newsletter


Welcome to the August edition of the Brookes Bell monthly news digest. For those in the northern hemisphere, I hope you are managing to grab at least a few days of summer vacation even though coronavirus is hampering international travel.

In an eclectic mix of articles this month, we look at the importance of maintenance and testing; we call for a coherent platform for maritime expert witnesses in Asia; and we put a spotlight on our unique scientific and cargo expertise. In addition, Mike Liu, one of our fuel chemists, explains what keeps him busy each day.

At Brookes Bell we continue to be as busy as ever and I’m proud to say that we’ve not allowed coronavirus to hamper the service we deliver to you, our clients. Our teams remain online and fully accessible and please feel free to contact any one of us if you think we can help.

Anthony York, Chief Operating Officer

The importance of Verifying Cooling Water Treatment Tests

Brendan Cuffe, Director of UK discusses the importance of testing a vessel’s cooling water treatment, based on a case he was called to investigate recently.

He joined the vessel in question, in South Korea, after receiving instruction from the P&I Club to investigate a generator engine failure on a refrigerated cargo ship. The vessel had experienced the loss of generator engines Nos. 2 and 3 while on loaded passage from New Zealand with a cargo of kiwi fruit.

Over ten days, high exhaust temperatures in the different generator engines meant that they were shut down intermittently. The cylinder heads were removed and replaced which seemed to reduce exhaust temperatures temporarily. The generators also suffered extensive water leakage which led to the ‘o’ rings being replaced and when this proved a temporary fix, further repairs to the ‘o’ rings involved adding a steel filled epoxy putty to try and give a smoother surface in the cylinder head valve seat pocket for the exhaust valve seat ‘o’ rings to seal against.

After ten days of running repairs the crew were exhausted and the Chief Engineer concluded that it was beyond their ability, with the tools and spares to hand, to carry out effective repairs and resolve the problem.

Further water leakage, rising cooling water temperatures and fluctuating pressure meant that the generators were stopped causing the vessel to blackout. For the next three days it was not possible to run the refrigeration plant to maintain the cargo temperature between ports, with the exception of the cargo fans on fresh air.

After extensive discussions with the crew and inspection of the vessel, the generators and constituent parts, Brendan concluded that the water leaks had occurred as a result of corrosion to the valve seat pockets in the cylinder heads. His further investigations established that this was because of the failure to maintain an adequate reserve or corrosion inhibitor within the freshwater cooling system.

He discovered that no corrosion inhibitor (Dieselguard NB powder) has been supplied to the vessel for almost two years, and while the consumptions were recorded in the Monthly Report of Monthly Chemical and Gas Consumption as adequate, they took no account of the amount of make-up water being added to the system due to losses from leakages and maintenance.

Furthermore, he discovered that while monthly water test reports were submitted by the vessel, indicating that an adequate reserve of chemical was being maintained, in reality the tests had often not taken place and the records submitted were false.

As a surveyor, Brendan provides expert inspection, comprehensive surveying and consultancy services, helping clients by quantifying damage and repairs, helping to settle liability disputes and claims.

In this case he was able to provide the client with a detailed report outlining the timeline and series of errors that had led to the generator engines failure, which then enabled the ship operator to address the serious operational failings.

Cargo ventilation good practice guide – updated and re-published

Our two experts, David Anderson and Daniel Sheard, working in conjunction with North P&I Club have updated and re-published the acclaimed loss prevention guide “Cargo Ventilation – A Guide to Good Practice”.

The guide provides invaluable advice to shipowners and seafarers on ventilating cargoes. It explains the principles of ventilation, both in practical and scientific terms, as well as providing a ship’s master with the knowledge they need to decide when to ventilate and when not to, tackling a few common myths along the way.

The second edition builds on that solid foundation, with added sections that stress the importance of maintaining accurate ventilation records.

Please contact North P&I for more details.

Highest Honours for Luigi Petrone

This month we congratulate Luigi Petrone Ph.D, our senior scientist and coatings consultant on successfully passing the ICorr Level 3 Coatings Inspector examination. This accolade is the highest award for coatings inspectors aiming for recognition as leaders in their field. ICorr Level 3 inspectors are both highly skilled and experienced in coating failure analysis, surface preparation and cleanliness, test instruments, coating specifications, interpretation of normative documents, and safety. In addition, they will have proven their technical knowledge and problem solving ability across a range of issues that may arise on site. Congratulations, Luigi!

Spotlight on Scientific and Cargo Expertise

At Brookes Bell, scientists provide unrivalled technical knowledge relating to the transportation of all types of commodities. Martin Jonas, Director of Science UK, and Tim Moss, Director of Science Asia, share how their team tackles loss prevention, especially for dangerous cargo, and utilise their specialist expertise for cargo claims.

Many things can go wrong with commodities when transported by sea. Perishable commodities such as soya beans are commonly damaged by self-heating during the voyage arising from high moisture at loading or delays en route; transportation of bulk commodities such as fertilisers can turn dangerous when they start to undergo self-sustaining decomposition, releasing large amounts of toxic gases and thermal energy in the process; minerals such as iron or nickel ores may abruptly liquify during shipping and pose dangers for the vessel.

One unique aspect of our team at Brookes Bell is that we have a broad team of high-calibre scientists with decades of specialised experience in various commodities, as well as specialist knowledge in coating, fire and marine biology. With our industry reputation, we are also usually called in during maritime litigations to provide expert witness opinions and evidence.

When it comes to loss prevention, particularly for dangerous cargo, many shippers are unfortunately unaware of the regulations involved. Moreover, poor handling and storage of spoilable cargo will frequently result in large losses and huge claims.

With our strong in-depth knowledge and scientific cargo expertise, we assist our clients with interpreting and meeting the regulatory requirements for the transportation of bulk cargo under the International Maritime Solid Bulk Cargoes (IMSBC) Code, as well as shipment of dangerous chemicals under the International Maritime Dangerous Goods Code (IMDG) Code, as laid out by the International maritime Organization (IMO).

In addition, we regularly advise shipowners and insurers on the appropriate storage and transport conditions for bulk foodstuffs including grains, soybeans, sugar and how to mitigate losses from damages such as deterioration, spoilage, heating and contamination, and provide expert advice to commodity traders in contractual quality disputes between cargo buyers and sellers and expert evidence in GAFTA or FOSFA arbitrations.

Similarly, we also have the expertise for the categorisation and declaration of dangerous goods, and we can also assist with the UN Standard Tests which define the hazard classes.

Our team also work closely with our other divisions at Brookes Bell to provide clients with a truly multidisciplinary and integrated approach to cargo transportation or dispute resolution. This allows us to apply the highest standards of scientific and technical knowledge to even the most difficult situations.

Putting our expertise to the test, our team was recently called in when a bulk carrier carrying soybeans from South America to China experienced engine damage midway during transportation. Working together with the other divisions, we promptly flew our team to the South African port that the vessel had docked at, to assess the engine damage as it underwent repairs. However, it was a race against time as the soybeans that the vessel was carrying were starting to show early signs of spoilage.

With our strong practical experience, we were able to advise the shipowners accordingly and facilitated the successful trans-shipment of the soya beans to another vessel. Due to the timely intervention, the soybeans were still in good condition when discharged, thereby helping our client avoid a potential cargo claim that could go up to tens of millions of dollars.

Besides loss prevention, we also provide expert witness opinions and manage disputes whenever there is a claim.

All spoilable cargo will be naturally damaged over time, even when stored in the most optimal conditions. Our team’s strong technical knowledge allows us to accurately determine the root cause, be it natural or human error and accurately assess the damage. For more complex or unusual cases, we are able to tap into the wide range of in-house disciplines available at Brookes Bell to reconstruct the situation.

Our team is also highly focused and experienced in the art of evidence gathering. This is essential for arbitration in maritime cases as they can usually end up in hefty claims, especially when evidence presented is incomplete or lacks the sufficient analysis and rigour.

Using their trained eyes, our Brookes Bell scientists are able to go into the scene and objectively assess the situation and gather the right type of evidence.

With offices in Asia and the UK, our team of scientists also often provide round the clock real-time support and monitoring – please get in touch with us to find out how we can help.

Creation of Expert Witnesses Forum in Asia to Support Maritime Arbitration in the Region

Our head of Asia, John Gibson, explains why the region needs a platform for maritime expert witnesses to underpin the growth and development of shipping services in Singapore and beyond.

Historically, London has been the go-to place for international maritime arbitration. This comes as no surprise with its long history as one of the leading shipping centres in the world and its excellent geographical location. Even today, London continues to attract more than 80% of maritime disputes worldwide.

In 2019, the London Maritime Arbitrators Association (LMAA) received a total of 2,952 arbitration appointments, up from 2,599 in 2018. Even against the coronavirus backdrop, arbitration appointments are ongoing, with LMAA using web conferencing and remote hearings to get things done.

Similarly, this has continued the rise in demand for expert witnesses in London as the need for maritime arbitration grows.

Just last month, the Baltic Expert Witness Association (BEWA) was launched in London, as users of its previous Baltic Exchange Expert Witness Panel, including lawyers and P&I clubs, identified the need for a centralised and defined avenue where expert witnesses could be found.

However, while there are Expert Witness Institutes and the BEWA in London, there has been a lack of an equivalent institute in Asia Pacific to promote the professional standards of experts witness in the region to support the growth of maritime arbitrations in Asia.

While London still leads as the venue of choice for international maritime arbitrations, there are moves towards Asia.

In particular, Hong Kong, Shanghai and Singapore are in the spotlight, having been named among the top five port cities in the world for three consecutive years according to the 2019 Xinhua-Baltic International Shipping Centre Development Index.

The growth of these Asian port cities, as major maritime centres, has allowed maritime arbitrations to grow in tandem in the region. Despite London’s strong status as an international maritime arbitration center, these cities are gearing up with strong competitive advantages for maritime litigation.

According to the London Arbitrators Association, Singapore Arbitrators Association and New York Arbitrators Association, Hong Kong, Shanghai and Singapore have attracted the highest number of maritime arbitrators behind London. These cities are also home to some of the largest concentrations of maritime law firms in the world, based on data from Legal 500 and Chambers.

Maritime arbitration is developing rapidly in Asia as the nature of many cases requires a deep understanding of the geographical nuances and Asian context to navigate them successfully.

Handling a casualty, and the aftermath, can be very complex as it is likely to involve a range of expertise such as marine engineering, naval architecture, fire response and investigation and metallurgy amongst many other skills.

A regionally based institute will be able to provide support for experts from all professional disciplines and other occupations requiring skills and judgements to appear in courts and tribunals in Asia Pacific. The presence of an institute will also encourage lawyers to engage these expert witnesses with confidence wherever their specialised knowledge is required. We believe the time has come for such an institute.

Membership should be extended to qualified professionals from any discipline, practicing experts with relevant qualifications and references from lawyers and courts, actual experts who have gained experience, as well as lawyers or professionals who deal with and engage experts.

Meet the Team – Mike Liu, Fuel Chemist

Having joined Brookes Bell in late 2018, it has been a wonderful journey for me in my role as a fuel chemist so far. Personally, it has been a fulfilling experience as my role now brings me on board vessels – something that I could never experience in my previous jobs. In many ways, it was also big step up from my previous role as a Technical Services Manager handling fuel and lubricant solutions.

In particular, 2020 has been an exciting year for me, especially with the implementation of the International Maritime Organization (IMO)’s low sulphur requirement which took effect on 1 January. With the implementation of IMO 2020, the shipping industry has seen an unprecedented increase in bunker disputes. As many start to use the new Very Low Sulphur Fuel Oil (VLSFO) to meet the new requirement, it has resulted in widespread impact for all players, ranging from suppliers to shipowners.

As a fuel chemist, it has been a very busy period with a spike in the number of claims and arbitration for engine breakdowns. Just in the first half of this year, about 70-80% of the bunker fuel disputes I attended came from purification issues or engine breakdowns from using the new low-sulphur fuels. Many of these claims are newly observed issues associated with the implementation of the VLSFO, and the full extent of the issues is still not clear.

In order to tackle the root cause of these issues, fuel chemists need to have a keen scientific understanding of different fuels and their chemical components. Luckily, my experience in previous roles has given me an in-depth technical understanding of bunker fuels to investigate and test the samples accurately, allowing me to successfully defend against many claims on behalf of my clients.

Furthermore, a unique aspect of Brookes Bell is that we work in a multi-disciplinary team which allows us to adopt a multi-faceted approach to resolving a dispute. This allows me to work closely with my colleagues from the other divisions such as marine engineers to advise our clients holistically. This has also benefited me greatly since we can share our thoughts and knowledge across the teams to address new challenges arising from the new fuel, which allows us to service our clients better.

Despite the ongoing challenges that VLSFO bring to the maritime industry, I see a lot of potential for it to be a viable fuel as scientists are still exploring ways to improve the existing formulation. Undoubtedly, IMO 2020 is a step in the right direction towards greater environmental sustainability.

Looking ahead into the future, we need to prepare ourselves for challenges that future fuels such as Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) and ammonia may bring. Though they may be cheaper and greener than current fuels, future fuels currently carry a certain safety risk for shipping during storage and combustion. However, I am excited for what the future may bring for the maritime industry as we prepare for IMO 2030.

Brookes Bell gives go ahead for dedicated metallurgy, fuel testing and paint analysis laboratory

Today, Brookes Bell – the global technical and scientific consultancy - announced plans to develop a high-end laboratory to deliver comprehensive metallurgy, fuel testing, paint analysis and advanced non-destructive testing facilities.

Aimed at delivering a more comprehensive service to its maritime clients - and to support entry into new markets - the new 8,000 sq. ft facility will be commissioned in the northwest of the UK (near Liverpool) and will come on-line in October 2020. It will house an inspection and testing facility, a light industrial/engineering space and offices.

Ray Luukas, Chief Technical Officer at Brookes Bell, explains the rationale behind today’s announcement:

“For many years we have enjoyed a widespread reputation for delivering high quality maritime consultancy delivered by our team of master mariners, naval architects and marine engineers. More recently, we expanded our offer to include a range of associated scientific and technical services including metallurgy consultancy. Today, our in-house metallurgists work alongside other team members to provide our clients with more comprehensive advice on issues such as wire rope failure, container collapses, welding defects or failure of engine components. We are seeing an ever-growing demand across a wide range of industries – both on and off shore – for more technical and complex metallurgy and related services and the creation of our new laboratory will allow us to deliver that”.

Metallurgy testing plays an important role in understanding how materials behave in certain environments and, as such, is not specific to the maritime industry. With increasing demand coming from within and outside maritime, Brookes Bell sees scope for using the new testing facility to help develop business in several market segments including traditional maritime, superyachts, and the energy and industrial sectors more generally.

The laboratory will also house a new fuel-testing facility reflecting the increase Brookes Bell is seeing in fuel-related investigations and claims. Poor quality fuel often leads to extensive and expensive machinery damage. The new facility will not only test fuel to ISO 8217 standards to highlight substandard samples and to help identify the causes and origins of fuel-related problems, but will also have facility for more complex investigative analyses, including GCMS, FTIR and ICP.

Paint analysis to investigate causes of tank and hull coating failures will also be conducted using state-of-the-art digital microscopes and software. Coating flakes can be inspected and analysed to determine causes for a range of faults including blistering, detachment, cracking, rust formation and inadequate antifouling protection. Brookes Bell’s in-house experts will provide independent, comprehensive and accurate advice.

Ray Luukas comments further:

“As our new laboratory comes on-line, we will create a high-end metallurgical consultancy and technical unit which will include non-destructive testing as well as paint analysis and fuel testing. This type of facility is rare and we will use it to deliver value-added services to our clients as well as a driver to help us achieve our expansion ambitions”.

Brookes Bell’s new laboratory will be built in Bidston, Wirral, UK and will comprise:

  • enhanced metallurgy inspection and testing facilities;
  • a modern laboratory;
  • offices and training facilities;
  • space for complementary services including fuel testing, advanced non-destructive testing and paint analysis.

July Newsletter

Building starts for Brookes Bell’s new state-of-the art laboratory

The contracts have been signed and construction is about to begin on our new fuel testing, metallurgy and non-destructive testing (NDT) centre.

Chief Technical Officer, Ray Luukas, says:

“This is an exciting next step, the contracts have been signed for the fit out, construction commences on 3 August and the building is scheduled to be completed – coronavirus permitting – on 23 October.

“This will be a significant diversification of our services, but the new laboratory is just one aspect -we’ve also made extensive investments in new equipment and have hired some exciting highly skilled experts to head up these services.”

Our new laboratory, which represents an investment of £1.8million, will boast a variety of new equipment, including the Olympus DSX1000 digital microscope, the first of its kind in the UK. It has been purchased for a wide range of metallurgy and forensic engineering investigations, with many other applications including advanced paint flake analysis. It will allow the user to switch between a range of magnifications and inspection methods with ease while examining the microscopic aspects of broken and fractured components.

Added to which, over the last year we have recruited high-level chemists to lead and deliver the new services while expanding the NDT team with highly skilled specialists. The bigger team is well established and will provide a much more flexible onsite service with ample capacity to expand to meet customers individual requirements in marine engineering, industrial mechanical engineering, manufacturing and energy applications. Ray Luukas adds that:

“At the moment, much of our NDT work is centred around marine and energy services, but NDT opportunities are prevalent across many industries, similarly our metallurgy work is focused on the maritime sector, but metal is used everywhere. The new laboratory will act as a focal point to expand well beyond our traditional markets to offer unique, bespoke services everything from heat exchanger tube analysis to teak underdeck inspection for superyachts and aluminium superstructures.

“One thing that has become very clear in the last few months as a result of the global pandemic is that diversification is key to businesses survival and success. As a company that was established back in 1903, we are well versed in being ahead of the curve and anticipating new business developments.”

Introducing our new Fuel Services Technical Lead

We are delighted to welcome Jenny Davies, who joins Brookes Bell this month as our Fuel Services Technical Lead.

Jenny will be managing the establishment of the new Fuel Testing facilities, which will include advising on new equipment, drafting all the management procedures and securing the new laboratory’s industry accreditations, including the ISO17025 standard.

She has worked for many years in the environmental sector developing methods for persistent organic pollutants. She specialises in analysis environmental forensics by mass spectrometry and is skilled in laboratory management, ISO 17025 Quality Management Systems, test methods and analytical techniques.

Her last role saw her develop a laboratory and its services from just ten chemists to 180 specialist technicians with an accompanying range of services.

Judith Fergus passes professional exams with flying colours

Our Marine Coating Consultant, Judith Fergus has passed her latest professional qualifications with flying colours, despite having to sit the exams remotely and having to talk her examiner through a step by step practical for one of the exams, as a result of coronavirus restrictions.

Judith Fergus has successfully passed the ‘Institute of Corrosion Examination for the Coating Inspector (including Offshore and Marine)’ which involved 60 hours of self-learning modules, five written papers and one practical for ICorr Level 2. She scored high marks in each of the five parts of the examination but achieved 100% pass mark in the General Examination.

Judith has also passed the ‘IMO Performance Standard for Protective Coatings (PSPC)’ exam meaning she is now also a qualified IMO PSPC Paint Inspector for new builds.

Congratulations Judith!

Spotlight on Metallurgy, Inspection & Non-Destructive Testing

Brookes Bell’s metallurgy division is highly skilled in the investigation of quality issues, defects and any failures in any type of metallic component, Ken Kirby, Director of Metallurgy and NDT explains what his team cover in their work.

Our metallurgists examine the properties of metals and materials, exploring way they behave in different environments, such as when exposed to high temperature or when loaded, analysing the behaviour of the metal or material and determining how this interaction might have affected the component during service.

In many ways a forensic investigation is like looking at disassembled jigsaw puzzle; it’s complex but the majority of pieces of the puzzle are there, and we recreate the circumstances and piece together the clues to establish a picture of what really happened.

Our role in an investigation can be quite adversarial, and we often come up against other specialists and experts presenting their findings, so it is very important to determine all the facts. In the field, metallurgists have at their disposal advanced means of analysing material properties, such as Non-Destructive Testing (NDT) methods and can identify important evidence that would not be apparent to an unskilled observer. The metallurgy department at Brookes Bell has several, highly skilled NDT experts who are trained in the use of various advanced techniques, such as Eddy Current array, Phased Array Ultrasonic Testing (PAUT) and Time of Flight Diffraction (TOFD) to name but a few methods at their disposal.

Our work is very varied, we could be investigating a crane failure one day or corrosion to the holds of a vessel the next. In the case of corrosion to a vessel, for example, it is widely known in shipping that sulphur is corrosive to steel if it’s wet, but it’s often loaded wet and so there needs to be a means of providing corrosion protection to the holds before loading. If that corrosion protection fails, then a lengthy investigation and repair often follows. There are so many aspects to deal with in corrosion cases, particularly following carriage of sulphur, and it requires a combination of both experience and knowledge to deal with such issues.

Another example of work commonly undertaken by our metallurgy department is crane wire-rope failures. Wire ropes are subjected to a challenging environment of fluctuating loads, corrosion and wear and they require careful maintenance and inspection throughout their lifetime. There are standards which govern the inspection of wire ropes and these standards, in addition to the metallurgical aspects, need to be understood if one is to investigate a wire rope failure. There may be more than 150 individual wires in a crane wire rope, and it is sometimes necessary to inspect every single wire to determine how a failure occurred.

Our investigations are usually multi-discipline, working with Brookes Bell’s engineers and master mariners, to apply their experience and knowledge to the situation. As investigations become more and more complicated, more advanced skills are needed to investigate failures. Brookes Bell offers the right services with the right people. We are all highly skilled specialists and in a forensic investigation you don’t need a generalist, you need the very best in each field and that’s what we can pull in.

Looking ahead, the new Metallurgy and Fuel Testing laboratory will give us state of the art facilities and allow us to offer an even wider range of unrivalled services and specialist expertise – it’s going to be very exciting!

Meet the team - Judith Fergus, Managing Coating Consultant

My specialism is marine and protective coatings, I look at anything to do with paint coatings, it could be on ships, on yachts, oil rigs or even petrochemical sites, there are many, many different kinds of paints for all these different settings, but at the end of the day it’s all paint.

I’ve been doing this for over 30 years now and my experience covers research and development, business development and sales with global companies. I live in Newcastle and have been commuting up and down to Liverpool on a weekly basis for the last nine months, having ‘enjoyed’ five months of coronavirus lockdown, commuting anywhere now feels quite exciting!

I started out with a degree in Applied Chemistry at the University of Northumbria and got a job with a large paint manufacturer where I worked as a polymer chemist. In time I got bored and moved to the paint labs as a technologist, making and developing new paints. I ended up as a technical manager talking and presenting to clients – dealing with their problems and handling any issues relating to the paint, its application and performance.

From there I worked for a company developing fire protection products, travelling to and from Japan frequently. I admit I miss travelling to Japan, I loved the people, the culture and made good friends with some great nights out on my visits over!

Now I work in a mixture of marketing and technical and am qualified in both. I can’t believe I embarked on a marketing degree with two small children (now grown up) revising at all hours, but I did! It was a perfect combination – I am a chemist and chemists investigate, always seeking answers, I love forensic investigations and I really enjoy talking to people about the process and what I’ve found, so it seemed like the natural link.

I joined Brookes Bell in October last year, and work with Dr Luigi Petrone who’s based in Singapore. We investigate and report on a wide range of problems relating to paint failure and loss of performance, particularly cargo tank failures, coatings issues and hull fouling disputes. Obviously, anything to do with the hull affects the vessel’s speed and performance and costs money, similarly a problem with a cargo tank means the vessel might be taken off hire with dramatic economic implications. We are handling more and more business in this area, the right tank coating with correct maintenance and small repairs should last up to ten years, so a situation where there’s a problem is very serious and costly quite quickly.

I deliver training on marine coatings for clients too. I have recently done a webinar on biofouling and am now writing a white paper on the same subject. That’s one thing I have really missed with lockdown, the client contact, so much of our jobs are about meeting people and talking to them – you do your best over Zoom and Linkedin, but it’s not the same, we build relationships face to face, but I suppose it’s a challenge we’re all tackling now.

When I’m not working, I’m a keen traveller (having visited 62 countries) and love walking. The Northumberland coast is very beautiful and there are some fabulous National Trust properties, plus I’m being kept busy with a small dachshund puppy. He’s a typical dachshund and insists on trying to walk in front when we’re out despite being so small, my other dog a spaniel, is regularly putting him in his place though when he gets too much.

Scientific Information Sheets

Shipments involving carriage of agricultural materials by sea are at risk of becoming infested by storage pests. This information sheet focuses on infestation and fumigation.

Infestation and Fumigation sheet.