The secret to managing biofouling on ships

Subsea Global Solutions’ environmentally friendly hull cleaning solutions help vessel operators to reduce fuel consumption, costs and emissions, while complying with new port regulations

The secret to managing biofouling on ships
Subsea Global Solutions uses a multi-stage polishing system to clean a vessel's propellers

This article was first published in the Spring/Summer 2019 issue of Spring/Summer 2019 issue of International Cruise & Ferry Review. All information was correct at the time of printing, but may since have changed.

Ships account for approximately 5% of the world’s total oil consumption, a figure that carries both significant financial and environmental impact. As fuel costs consistently fluctuate, it is increasingly important for ship operators to have a regular maintenance plan in place to actively manage the biofouling accumulation on their vessels’ hulls and propellers. The benefit of doing so is that operators are able to predict fuel use, which minimises consumption and cost.

When microorganisms, plants, algae and animals (known collectively as biofouling) adhere to a vessel’s hull paint coating, it creates more drag as the ship moves through the water, thereby increasing fuel consumption. The same applies to the propeller as it spins to generate the force necessary to move the vessel forward. To minimise this, the hull and propeller must be regularly cleaned to keep the vessel free of drag-creating marine growth.

Partnering with an experienced commercial dive company such as Subsea Global Solutions (SGS) is critical for shipowners who want to establish a proper maintenance routine and keep their vessels operating at their best. SGS prides itself in ‘managing your coating’, that is, taking an active role in scheduling and performing inspections, hull cleanings, and propeller polishing at routine intervals. SGS uses specialised hydraulic multi-brush systems designed to clean the most sensitive hull coatings, with minimal to no degradation of the underlying hull coating itself. For propellers, SGS uses a proprietary multi-stage polishing system to consistently deliver a polished surface of an ‘A’ rating or better on the Rubert Comparator Scale.

SGS personnel are trained and highly knowledgeable in environmental regulatory compliance, coating identification and equipment optimisation. The overall cost benefit of performing routine hull and propeller maintenance is significant, far outweighing the costs associated with the maintenance itself.

Keeping vessels clean also has a positive environmental impact. A vessel with optimised fuel consumption contributes less greenhouse gas emissions to the atmosphere. Applying this process to entire fleets of ships has a substantial impact on both the environmental and economic sides of the issue.

Invasive biofouling species can also disrupt the marine environment. In 2018, New Zealand implemented strict biofouling standards requiring vessels to be clean prior to entering its territorial waters. SGS was at the forefront of working with its clients and the New Zealand Ministry of Primary Industries to ensure compliance with the new standards before they became mandatory.

More countries are increasingly adopting stricter environmental regulations regarding the implementation of hull cleaning procedures and to prevent the spread of invasive species. SGS will continue to focus on the research and development of technologies that will enable environmentally friendly hull cleaning operations to meet the strictest port regulations.

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Elly Yates-Roberts
By Elly Yates-Roberts
15 May 2019

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