Norwegian companies developing new technology to fight biofouling on ship hulls

Friday, April 23, 2021 / The Blueye Office

Marine fouling on ship hulls has been a struggle for ages. Today's shipping industry is constantly figuring out new solutions to prevent biofouling from emerging on ship hulls. The environmental impact of biofouling can have devastating outcomes such as transferring invasive aquatic species but also higher C02 emissions due to increased fuel consumption. With initiatives such as the International Maritime Organization's (IMO) strategy to reduce GHG emissions and the new Global Industry Alliance (GIA) for Marine Biosafety to pull for reform processes improving biofouling management, the industry is indeed shifting towards a more sustainable future and pushing new ideas forward.

Hull cleaning and fouling prevention without dry-docking

Today, there is no one-solution-fits-all preventing biofouling, but several companies are developing new technology to help prevent fouling on marine vessels. Let's briefly touch on a couple of them.

The Norwegian start-up Shipshave is developing new and exciting technology with the big goal of leading in making shipping more sustainable. Their newly launched semi-autonomous hull cleaning solution enables in-transit cleaning of hulls (ITCH). The solution is especially beneficial to reduce the amount of transferred invasive species as the removed growth immediately falls onto the ocean floor. Their semi-autonomous ITCH robot is unique in the way it's designed. Shipshave claims the robot is a plug-and-play system installed by the crew itself on the foredeck using the front winch. It's then tossed out on one of the sides of the ship to utilize the ship's power to move the robot up and down, using soft brushes to remove growth, causing minimal wear on antifouling paint.

The Shipshave ITCH robot
The Shipshave ITCH robot. Photo: Shipshave

Another Norwegian company, well known to the industry, has recently launched both software and hardware to increase fouling control for vessel owners. The leading marine coating provider, Jotun, has together with Kongsberg Maritime developed several new solutions for the shipping industry. Their collaboration has led to easier monitoring and increased fouling control, proactively limiting marine growth.

The Jotun Hull Skater was launched to market in 2020, being innovative by introducing the possibility to prevent marine growth from emerging on the ship hull instead of removing fouling when it's already emerged. The robot, which can also be described as a kind of a ship hull “toothbrush”, is a more advanced technology, compared to Shipshave’s ITCH. The robot itself is operated remotely by Jotun's team while the ship is anchored or in harbor, and the software system gives the ship crew insights regarding the state of the antifouling paint to optimize the next paint service.

The Jotun Hull skater on a vessel
The Jotun Hull Skater on a vessel. Photo: Semcon

Using ROVs for monitoring and immediately responding to fouling

A year after the introduction of the Hull Skater, Jotun followed up with the Hull Keeper, a proactive hull optimization program. The software promises to give ship operators a customized monitoring of hull performance and fouling pressure by combining trade auditing periods and oceanographic parameters in their algorithm. When the Hull Keeper signals the fouling to be at risk level, Jotun will perform a visual inspection of the hull with ROVs.

Blueye ROV in use with the Jotun Hull Keeper
Blueye ROV in use with the Jotun Hull Keeper solution. Photo: Jotun, Screengrab from Hull Keeper video

However, Jotun is not the only coating provider utilizing ROVs for hull inspections. Both Hempel and AkzoNobel have recently shared their plans for rolling out underwater ROV inspections.

Hull fouling is a significant contributor to speed loss, and at its worst has the potential to increase engine power requirements by close to 20% over five years. Being able to routinely and consistently monitor hull condition between routine dry-dockings with ROVs enables shipowners and operators to implement an appropriate maintenance schedule, which optimises vessel performance. - Christian Ottosen, Head of Marine Business, Hempel (quoted at rivieramm.com)

The development of new and more user-friendly ROVs has driven the possibility to perform more frequent ship hull inspections. And with COVID-19 isolating employers in their homes, software developments such as live-streaming inspections via Teams have enabled remote monitoring and quick decision making.

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On the right path to reducing CO2 emissions and increasing biofouling management

IMO's strategy to reduce GHG emissions by 50% by 2050 compared to 2008 and phasing them out entirely this century is an ambitious goal. Together with GIA's facilitation to develop and disseminate technological solutions to improve biofouling management, it's safe to say that the shipping industry is moving forward in a positive direction. Though there is still a lot of change needed, we do see examples of innovative technology and new ways to manage biofouling, giving the industry more knowledge and tools to both reducing CO2 emissions and minimizing transferring invasive species across global regions.



Sources:
IMO: GHG Emissions
IMO: GHG initial strategy
IMO: Global Industry Alliance (GIA) launch
tu.no: Shipshave - ny norsk oppfinnelse
rivieramm.com: ROVs as a safer alternative
rivieramm.com: Hempel and ROVs
Shipshave: in-transit hull cleaning
Jotun: Hull Keeper
Jotun: Hull Skater

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