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Latest News

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.

Ongoing Case Work

Our renowned work on maritime casualties has led to appointments as Special Casualty Representatives (SCRs) on two high-profile cases this year to date.



STELLAR BANNER – a 2016 built VLOC of 300,000 DWT – was grounded around 60nm off coast of Brazil during February and all crew were safely evacuated. The vessel took on a significant starboard list and salvors were appointed to lighter the fuel and sufficient cargo to enable a re-float to be progressed. The vessel was successfully re-floated during May and towed to deep water for inspection. Unfortunately, it was declared a total loss following that inspection and scuttled by Salvors in deep water (following approvals) thereafter.

ZELEK STAR – a 2005 built general cargo vessel - dragged her anchor while in ballast on Christmas Day 2019 and grounded on Ashdod beach, Israel. Salvors were appointed and the vessel was successfully re-floated (after dredging a channel back into deep water) during March 2020.

In addition, we were also appointed by the UK SOSREP as technical advisors for KAAMI – a 1994 built general cargo vessel - that ran aground off Skye, Scotland, during March 2020. All crew were winched to safety by helicopter. The vessel was successfully lightened of cargo by salvors and thereafter re-floated in May. She was subsequently towed to dry dock in Kishorn for dismantling.

Safe Return to Port – principles and impact on design

The SOLAS Safe Return to Port regulations have a significant impact on new passenger ship design. Last month we held a webinar to introduce the regulations and to demonstrate how our Systema™ software can assist in ensuring compliance. A full recording of the webinar can be viewed here.

Metallurgy and Fuel Testing Laboratory



We are currently finalising plans to create a high-end laboratory to deliver comprehensive metallurgy, fuel testing, paint analysis and non-destructive testing facilities which will come on- line later this year.

Our Chief Technical Officer, Ray Luukas, explains the rationale:

“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. Increasingly the market is wanting more technical and complex metallurgy 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, we see scope for using the new testing facility to help develop business in a number of market segments including traditional maritime, superyachts, and the energy sector more generally.

The laboratory will also house a new fuel-testing facility reflecting the increase we are seeing in fuel-related investigations and claims. Poor quality fuel often leads to extensive and expensive machinery damage. The new facility will test fuel to ISO 8217 standards to highlight substandard samples and to help identify the causes and origins of fuel-related problems.

Welcome to two new SCRs



We are delighted to welcome William Leschaeve and Michael Riddell who have recently joined our team as Special Casualty Representatives (SCRs). SCRs are highly specialist salvage and wreck removal consultants and, as such, number only around 50 globally. They are appointed by the Lloyd’s of London’s SCOPIC Committee for their exceptional level of expertise in the field of salvage and wreck removal.

Michael Riddell is a senior master mariner, based in our Singapore office. Following an initial career at sea with Safmarine, he later served on ocean-going salvage tugs responsible for ocean towage and emergency response. Ashore, Michael has extensive experience in emergency response, wreck removal, ship stability, condition surveys and other related work.

William Leschaeve operates from our London office and is a senior naval architect. He has significant experience working for a classification society as well as a number of notable marine consultancies. William specialises in marine casualty investigations including groundings, collisions, capsizes, cargo and total losses.

Spotlight on Marine Engineering

Marine Engineering

Marine engineering is a longstanding and fundamental Brookes Bell expertise; it was one of our founding disciplines and remains a core skillset. Our marine engineers are all qualified chief engineers with many years’ seagoing experience under their belts. All are professionally registered (or working towards registration) and prior to joining us, many had augmented their sea time with experience as technical superintendents, in shipyards or in other marine industries. We utilise this experience to efficiently meet the needs of our various clients.

The synergy of our team and the quality of our expertise – which is never compromised by out-sourcing - enables us to effectively support our valued clients across a wide range of issues, disputes and incidents. Our instructions include matters related to machinery failures, fire, bunker disputes, crane damages, condition surveys, vessel technical management, construction and redelivery disputes and many other marine related matters, where our clients require robust, balanced and sound technical opinion. Our forensic approach to investigation is recognised globally and we routinely apply this to our work.

As well as the more litigious opinion and investigative instructions, other consultancy and general engineering survey work fall within our expertise. As an example, Covid-19 has prevented many companies from sending their own supervisors to shipyards in China and so, today, we are increasingly being called to investigate problems arising from poorly supervised newbuilds, scrubber installations and repair work.

A multi-discipline approach is often vital if the true cause, effect and long-term implications of any marine casualty, dispute or investigation are to be fully understood. To ensure we present a holistic and comprehensive solution to our clients, our marine engineers are supported by in-house complementary expertise, including tribologists, naval architects, metallurgists and fuel chemists. This offers our clients a direct transfer of case knowledge between the experts required to fully investigate a matter, whilst simplifying and expediting the logistics of doing so.

Prevention is always better than cure and, given our extensive and broad incident investigation experience, we can bring our first-hand knowledge of lessons learnt to prevent recurrence and reduce the risk and consequences of loss to various stakeholders. Supporting these activities, we often contribute to P&I Clubs’ loss prevention activities and guidance.

With marine engineering teams in the UK, China, Hong Kong and Singapore, we are on hand to offer first-class advice and support. We look forward to supporting you and please do get in touch if you think we can provide assistance.

Meet the team – Alasdair Douglas, Senior Software Engineer

Alasdair Douglas life

Having trained and initially practiced as a naval architect, my role at Brookes Bell is now focused on software development where as part of a software development team I am responsible for developing and maintaining our core software products. My somewhat unconventional background allows me to talk on a professional level with vessel stakeholders and software developers equally – and this gives me a useful edge when it comes to producing maritime software.

Our main software solutions relate to passenger vessel safety for use in the design cycle and during operations. EVI™ is our advanced pedestrian dynamics tool that helps vessel designers comply with the regulations surrounding the evacuation of passengers and can also provide operators with useful insights in to managing passenger movements. Systema™ also supports passenger vessel designers, as well as shipyards, to analyse the redundancy of their vessel designs against the IMO’s Safe Return to Port (SRtP) regulation, and help operators to develop crew operational procedures required to respond to an SRTP casualty. SRtP Onboard™ is an operator’s decision support system designed to ensure they can train and effectively respond to an SRtP casualty, by restoring system functionality which allows them to return to port, or safely evacuate. Our team also offers support to owners, designers and yards and we can work alongside a design team analysing their systems using Systema™ ensuring compliance, identifying issues early in the design cycle, and proposing solutions to problems.

I’ve been with Brookes Bell for nearly 12 years and involved with these software solutions for nine of those. On graduating from the University of Strathclyde I joined Safety at Sea in Glasgow – originally a university spin-off and then later becoming a formal subsidiary of Brookes Bell. In Glasgow we have a history of developing novel software solutions, and I quickly moved towards working on these, combining my engineering background with my keen interest in software development to enhance and develop our core software products for our global clients over a number of years. Regulations continue to evolve and strengthen and it’s my job to ensure our software tools maintain pace with all requirements and retain their relevance in a changing world. Ultimately, I see my role as creating software solutions to complex engineering problems both from a design and an operational perspective.

It's not easy to get away from the computer screen, especially when I enjoy playing computer games and coding in my spare time. But when I do, I like to spend time with my fiancée Jo and our Pug - Captain Pugwash (even the dog has a nautical connection). I like to run, and ski and until recently I was lucky enough to live part of the year near Morzine in France, where the skiing was great, and the running tough! We’re now back in Scotland full time and looking forward to getting back to sailing and exploring the West Coast once lockdown eases.

Scientific Information Sheets

Our information sheet series continues with marine coating services.

Marine Coating Services Sheet

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