Heavy capital outlay on premium hull coatings may well prove worthwhile over a five-year docking cycle but many operators miss a trick by failing to keep existing coatings clean. Well maintained hulls and propellers go hand-in-hand with good fuel performance over a longer period, and possibly also lower maintenance costs at the next docking.
In the run-up to January 2020, fuel performance is once again right at the top of many ship operators’ agendas, just as it was a few years ago when bunker prices rocketed and many realised the benefits of premium hull coatings and smooth ship bottoms. Coatings companies are likely to see a spike of new interest in their premium products as operators seek to ensure minimum resistance through the water.
Six-year-old, Dubai-based HullWiper is ready for a likely surge in demand for its services. It operates a robotic underwater cleaning system which uses high-pressure water jets without divers or brushes. Any waste material is collected in underwater containers and landed ashore for safe disposal.
Major oil companies, container lines including Maersk and CMA CGM and LNG carrier operators already use the service. Earlier this year, the company signed a frame agreement with Equinor for its fleet of oil and gas carriers operating in Scandinavia, Far East, Middle East and Europe.
Managing director Simon Doran says the system is rapidly becoming more popular. The ex-diver believes that no risk to human life, robotic operation, the gathering and disposal of waste material and the digital collection of data are all key selling points.
Since it was set up, the company has expanded its range of operations from its first Dubai base to include key locations across the Middle East, as well as ports in Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Spain, Egypt, Singapore, Australia and – most recently – Panama and Mauritius. Plans are in the pipeline for new locations including the Bahamas, Chile, South Korea and South Africa. From Dubai, the company can also service UAE ports including the major offshore anchorage at Fujairah, just outside the Strait of Hormuz.
HullWiper has recently revealed the next phase of its corporate development strategy. The timing could prove to be spot-on. A new version of its remotely operated vehicle (ROV) can now be
stored on board ship, providing an opportunity for vessels on tight schedules to have their hulls cleaned, either completely or in part, when time allows and in an organised system.
The shipboard ROV, unveiled at last year’s Navalia International Shipbuilding Exhibition in Spain and available for lease, can be included as part of a new ship’s design with space on deck, a door in the side of the vessel, or stored in a moon pool. It can also be retrofitted to existing vessels. The company provides onsite training at its Dubai base and this can be followed by shipboard training if required.
This latest development follows on from an earlier system, specifically designed for ports and terminals. With no danger to divers or risk of hull coating damage from hard brushes, the robotic system can be used day or night. There is no pollution to surrounding waters and the system can be used for a few hours or days as required.
Source: SMM Green Smart Shipping Guide, 2019, Poseidon Principles: Shipping goes greener