Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Ship Anti-Fouling Robot Trialled

Promises significant savings for vessel-owners
Shipping News Feature

USA – The US Navy’s Office of Naval Research has begun initial trials with a new anti fouling robot. If the experiments prove successful then the new machine could prove a boon to ship owners around the world in cost savings from lower fuel use and reduced maintenance requirements. And these costs are substantial, with the US Navy estimating its own due to this problem at around $500 million a year.

"One of the avoidable costs in fuel for the Navy is related to marine fouling such as barnacles that accumulate on ships," says ONR Program Officer Steve McElvany. "They create increased drag as these ships move from port to port across the world´s oceans."

The Robotic Hull Bio-inspired Underwater Grooming tool, or Hull BUG, is similar in concept to an autonomous vacuum cleaner. Used to groom ships in port, the Hull BUG removes the marine biofilm and other marine organisms before they get solidly attached. In combination with new non-toxic hull coatings developed by the Naval Surface Warfare Center, the Hull BUG is expected to make vessels substantially ‘greener’.

And the benefits of this technology are expected to be made available to the commercial sector as well. Ken Holappa, an engineer with SeaRobotics, one of the companies working alongside the Navy to develop Hull BUG, says: “The savings to the commercial shipping industry stand to be significant in terms of fuel efficiency and in reducing emissions associated with ship operations in our world´s oceans."

President of SeaRobotics, Don Darling says that: "Basically any boat over 45 feet, which is in the water all the time, can benefit from this kind of technology."

 (pic: Courtesy of the United States Navy)