Monday, October 4, 2021

Major Anti-Fouling Paint Maker Travels the Robot Hull Scrubber Route

Company Switches Emphasis as the Environment Gains Importance
Shipping News Feature

NORWAY – WORLDWIDE – The subject of anti-fouling paints has always been a divisive one. Now the drive to clean up what we put into the ecosystem has had a tangible effect on one of the major producers of chemical coatings to deter the growth of life forms on the hulls of vessels of all types.

The merchant maritime community consider such flora and fauna as parasitic, acting as they do to slow the passage of a ship through the water and necessitating regular bouts of hull cleaning. Jotun, based in Sandefjord, Norway can trace its roots back over a century and manufactures a range of coating related products, including those used on the Eiffel Tower and the tallest building in the world, Dubai’s Burj Khalifa.

Hull coatings have long been central to the Jotun business and the manufacturer has doubtless always strived to make its product as safe and environmentally acceptable as possible. However these paints have to be poisonous to do their job. They have traditionally contained materials such as cupreous oxide, which is claimed as a neurotoxin.

One only has to look at the safety sheets attached to any such anti-fouling chemical product to note that the 18 or so pages of warnings and instructions contain phrases such as ‘Water polluting material. May be harmful to the environment if released in large quantities.’ ‘This material is very toxic to aquatic life with long lasting effects’ and ‘Do not allow to enter drains or watercourses. If the product contaminates lakes, rivers, or sewers, inform the appropriate authorities in accordance with local regulations’.

Now it seems the likelihood of yet more restrictive regulations, particularly in the European and US markets, has caused Jotun to look elsewhere for its future hull protection business, hence the announcement of the company’s own robot hull cleaner, an idea Morten Fon, CEO at Jotun, claims as original, which for them it probably is, but in fact one in a lengthening line of semi-autonomous devices designed to scrub the hulls of a variety of vessels which were first reported here over seven years ago.

Launched last year, as part of Jotun’s Hull Skating Solutions (HSS), HullSkater utilises a unit comparable to an autonomous lawnmower. Remotely operated by certified Jotun Skate Operators, it clings onto a hull with powerful magnets as it seeks out and destroys biofouling, ensuring optimal efficiency and performance, with minimal environmental impact.

The results, Fon notes, speak for themselves, with users enjoying a minimum fuel cost saving of 14% per vessel (over a five-year dry-docking, compared to a typical average performance). He explains that optimal inspection and cleaning schedules are calculated for vessels through a proprietary algorithm, big data and condition-based monitoring, saying:

”The HullSkater stays with a ship at all times, proactively cleaning a specially developed anti-fouling [coating]. It means hulls are ‘always clean’ with biofouling removed before it can take hold. That’s something no antifouling, no matter how advanced, can achieve on its own. And the emissions cuts are just as impressive, if the vessel group targeted by Jotun adopt HSS, some 40 million tonnes of CO2 emissions could be saved per annum.

“And that’s how I see us making a difference for society. Not so much in ‘greening’ our own operations, although of course we will always endeavour to do that, but by helping our industry, our customers, drive down their emissions. I see that as a crucial role, that’s our piece of the decarbonisation puzzle.”