12 Mar 2019
Stricter environmental legislation and the role of a clean hull in saving bunker fuel costs look set to combine with HullWiper Ltd’s expansion plans to propel its services further within the container ship sector.
HullWiper is primed to play an ever-greater role due to sharpening focus on the issues of biofouling and invasive species, thanks to its ability to get to the root of these problems and contribute to the reduction of CO2 emissions.
These are hot topics for the marine industry, evidenced by the launch of the GloFouling Partnership in November 2018. A collaboration between the Global Environment Facility, United Nations Development Programme and IMO, the five-year project focuses on implementing IMO Guidelines for the control and management of ships’ biofouling, which are currently voluntary. So far, 12 member-states have volunteered to become drivers of the initiative.
“What has been learned during the long implementation of the ballast water treatment directive is that biofouling on the hull and in the hard to reach niche areas such as the sea chests is where the biggest risk of invasive species come from,” says HullWiper General Manager Laurance Langdon. “Once an invasive species enters a new location, it can do billions of dollars-worth of damage to a country’s waters and industry.”
There are three main issues at stake: invasive species, biofouling and the associated CO2 carbon emissions – the latter of particular significance as the maritime industry faces a 2050 deadline to halve its carbon emissions.
If a ship is traveling with a dirty hull, this creates resistance. 1% resistance on a ship hull can lead to 3-5% extra fuel burning just to maintain the same speed, which contributes to the contribution of CO2 output.
Mr Langdon emphasises the importance of getting to the root cause of invasive species and associated rise in CO2 emissions: “That root cause is biofouling that has been allowed to grow on vessels’ hulls.” That is where HullWiper steps in.
If ship owners clean their vessels regularly, using a ROV technology like HullWiper, which causes no damage to hull-coating paint, the vessel’s performance is going to be similar as its first day on the water. Unlike traditional hull cleaning methods using divers with brushes, HullWiper’s Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) removes fouling with adjustable pressure sea water jets and collects it using special filters onboard the ROV, for safe disposal onshore, rather than release it into the water. In that way, the risk of cross-species contamination and heavy metals from the coating entering the water is eliminated.
“It is an inexpensive solution that can be picked up right away,” says Mr Langdon. “In some ways we are already aligned with the new regulations that are coming in to play.”
HullWiper offers other cost saving benefits in addition to reducing CO2 emissions: it has almost no impact on the coating, minimises hull resistance for improved fuel efficiency, reduces expensive coating repairs and extends the time between cleans and between dry dockings.
Extending its presence
In November 2018, HullWiper launched services for vessels transiting the Strait of Gibraltar, in partnership with underwater services company SCAMP. The Port of Gibraltar’s strategic location serves as one of the Mediterranean’s largest bunker bases and is an important supply point for ships travelling eastwards through the Suez Canal.
The company is expanding its geographical presence with the addition in April this year of two new locations: Port Louis in Mauritius; and the Panama Canal. St Louis port offers benefits for ship operators. Mauritius sees a lot of vessels passing from South America or West Africa around the Cape of Good Hope, before heading to Asia. Cleaning can be done at anchorage, as the channels are deep enough. By eliminating the need to go into port to carry out cleaning and with 24/7 operations because no divers, there are significant cost savings to be made.
HullWiper is also slated to start on the Atlantic side of the Panama Canal, in Balboa, with the Pacific side of the canal lined up for the future. It’s a key location offering strong advantages for container ships. As the key transit point for vessels sailing between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, the Panama Canal is a main gateway to trade.
“There is a prime bottleneck in the Panama as there are a lot of ships waiting to transit the Canal,” says Mr Langdon. “We can clean them while they wait, day or night.” The addition of Mauritius and Panama bring HullWiper’s network of hub locations to 10. It all started in 2013, in Jebel Ali, Dubai, and then expanded to Sweden, Singapore, Spain, Denmark, Norway, Egypt, Australia and Gibraltar. The system is also available on an ad hoc basis at other key locations across the Middle East.
There are more plans to expand further and the company hopes to add another two locations over the next year. It operates a global lease network to provide its services. Mr Langdon says “We look for the right kind of lease partner who will have the local knowledge and focus both on shore and subsea. For example, both the companies that have joined the network in Panama (subsea services provider Talleres Industriales) and Mauritius (leading diving company Immersub) have been well established for many years. They are well-respected and all the ship owners know them and use them for other services.”
Flexibility is another of HullWiper’s benefits. As it does not use divers, cleaning can be performed 24/7, while the ships are carrying out cargo operations in port, allowing container vessels to stick to the strict timetables of their routes. As Mr Langdon explains, it is all part of HullWiper’s operandi-modus centred on saving ship operators money.
Serving container shipping
HullWiper has an important role within the container ship sector. Since it first launched in Dubai, HullWiper has had a fleet contract with Maersk Line. The company also has fleet agreements with CMA CGM and Hapag-Lloyd, as well as other major container shipping lines.
Its growth is set to expand as it increases its presence and as environmental legislation becomes stricter.
Mr Landon sums up “Our growth will be organic through different locations and changing regulations. The message we want to get across is that we are available now and are a significant cost saving in the world of ship operations and contribute to the safety of divers, and the environment.”
Source: Container Shipping & Trade