Hull cleaning legislation in today’s shipping world

18 Nov 2020
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Biofouling: The Problem

Biological fouling, more commonly known as biofouling, refers to the buildup of organisms on vessel propellers, the side of vessel hulls, pier piling and other infrastructure in marine and aquatic environments. Areas with the best aerations such as a ship’s propeller, rudder blade and waterline come into contact with the highest amount of fouling.

These marine foulers create major issues in the shipping industry largely by reducing vessel speed, increasing fuel costs, corrosion and safety hazards, as well as alarming environmental concerns that threaten the world’s oceans and the conservation of biodiversity.

Anti-Fouling: The Prevention

Near the end of the 20th century, hull coating using Tributyltin (TBT) was considered the ideal solution for preventing the development of detrimental marine growths on vessel hulls as it halted the accumulation of biofouling effectively and cost-efficiently.

Unfortunately, studies on TBT products that followed soon revealed that these coating cause damage to the bone structure, reproductive and central nervous systems and digestive systems of marine life. As a consequence, the Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) prohibited the coating in 1998, followed later by a complete ban by the IMO in 2003.

This ban led to an entire industry searching to find both effective and environmentally friendly biofouling solutions. As a result, manual hull cleaning divers and hull cleaning Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROV’s) were born. 

Hull Cleaning Legislation: The Evolution

Expanded trade and traffic volume over the last few decades has intensified the issue of invasive species transported by vessels. With trade continuing to increase globally, the problem of IAS is expected to continue rising. Studies have shown the rate of bio-invasions increasing at an alarming rate with new areas being invaded constantly that are causing devastating effects on native aquatic species.

IMO has been taking leading efforts in addressing this issue in an effort to prevent, reduce and control man-made pollution of the marine environment, which includes both the accidental and intentional introduction of harmful or alien species to a particular part of the marine environment.

In 2011, the Marine Environment Protection Committee and IMO Member States introduced the first biofouling guidelines for the control and management of ships' biofouling: a bold step towards minimising the transfer of invasive aquatic species by ships. The BioFouling Guidelines include: 

In 2017, IMO initiated an additional project named the GloFouling Partnerships. This plan seeks to build capacity in developing countries to implement the Biofouling Guidelines and protect marine ecosystems.

Some of the first countries such as Australia and New Zealand have already started implementing biofouling regulations on ships arriving in their waters.

With international shipping association BIMCO as well as a number of international institutions including NACE, ACT/MERC and IMarEST moving closer towards a common global standard for cleaning ships’ hulls, hull cleaning has never been more paramount. The time for ship owners and operators to act is now. 

HullWiper: The Solution

Although traditional hull cleaning methods may seem to get the job done, there is a price to pay. Hull cleaning divers using brushes or karts can remove up to 30% of costly antifouling coatings and create grooves in the surface that boost the regrowth of slime, algae, and barnacles. This method also releases removed fouling into the ocean without safe disposal and faces challenges in different weather conditions. Traditional hull cleaning is no longer a sustainable option for ship operators and owners.

HullWiper is a new generation underwater hull cleaning system. Using high-pressure adjustable seawater jets instead of conventional brushes or abrasives to remove fouling, the Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) cleans vessel hulls quickly and efficiently without causing damage associated with traditional cleaning methods. Approved by industry giants such as Chukogu, PPG, International Paint and  Jotun, the ROV is safe to use on hulls coated with silicon, self-polishing anti-fouling as well as low energy release coatings.

HullWiper also provides a safe and green hull cleaning solution for vessels of all shapes and sizes. With each clean, the removed fouling is captured on-board the ROV through its filter unit and only clean water is released back into the sea. Captured residues and harmful marine organisms are then disposed of ashore in an environmentally approved manner, with all details recorded in a waste material log.

Another big advantage of HullWiper’s ROV technology is its ability to operate at night and in most weather conditions, servicing up to 2,000 m2 per hour!

With operations bases in Dubai including key locations across the Middle East, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Singapore, Spain, Egypt, Australia, Panama, and Mauritius, ship owners, and operators can proactively manage the effects of hull fouling on vessel hulls and reduce costs. Plans are in the pipeline for new locations including Sri Lanka, Korea, South Africa, Chile, and the Bahamas.

Contact the HullWiper team today at enquiries@hullwiper.co to find out what we can do for you and your fleet.