Portable tank gauge cuts bunker problems

20 Jan 2012
MOL’s portable liquid level gauge, designed to reduce bunkering problems

MOL’s portable liquid level gauge, designed to reduce bunkering problems

Mitsui OSK Lines, working in conjunction with Musashino, has developed a portable liquid-level gauge for vessel fuel tanks, claimed to be the first such instrument on the market.

MOL says that use of the gauge reduces the workload needed to measure a ship’s fuel level during bunkering and enables more accurate measurement. This will simplify bunkering and help prevent incidents such as fuel spills from overfilling.

The instrument comprises a compact main unit (24cm wide x 37cm high x 31cm deep), weighing about 4.5kg, and powered by 9V dry cells. It has a digital readout, and wireless connectability enables simultaneous monitoring of liquid levels in several tanks. It has been designed to cope with bubbles that can sometimes occur on the surface of fuel oil during bunkering (the so-called ‘cappuccino phenomenon’. This may cause misleading readouts with conventional equipment. The level gauge can be used simultaneously with sounding tapes.

According to MOL, even on vessels equipped with fixed liquid-level gauges, crews measure the liquid level manually by hanging sounding tapes into sounding pipes located on the deck, to help prevent overflow and to check bunkering volume during refueling. This operation must be done by a skilled crew, which creates additional burden on the crew as they must measure several tanks simultaneously. With the company’s liquid-level gauge, the pressure sensor, which is suspended into the fuel tank, senses changes in liquid-level pressure and is claimed to detect the fuel level in the tank quickly and accurately. In addition, because of the wireless function, several tanks can be monitored on the ship’s computer at the same time. This improves the efficiency of fuel level measuring operations, reduces workload, and helps prevent overflows, thus reducing the risk of fuel spills and environmental damage from fuel tank overfill.

In December 2011, MOL invited several shipowners and ship management companies to a demonstration of the system on a vessel under construction. MOL says that overflow problems during bunkering and the cappuccino phenomena are common issues in the ocean shipping industry; and observers expressed strong interest in the system’s potential in reducing overflow problems.

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