HullWiper | Marine Biofouling in Today's World of Shipping

Marine Biofouling in Today's World of Shipping

07 Oct 2020

The good, the bad and the crusty

Biofouling has created major changes in the shipping industry over the last decade. With the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) enforcing a comprehensive framework of global maritime safety regulations, the importance of hull cleaning has never been more important.

In 2011, the Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) 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 basics

Biofouling refers to the growth and collection of living organisms on the surfaces of artificial structures submerged in water instead of natural oceanic surfaces. As displayed in the image, areas with the best aeration - such as a ship's waterline, propeller and rudder blade - often encounter the highest amount of fouling.

The transfer of invasive aquatic species (IAS) by ships poses a triad of harmful effects on ecology, economics, and the health of mankind.


Invasive Aquatic Species (IAS): These non-indigenous organisms collect under vessels and can be transported from one region to another through foulers on ship hulls and ballast water of large transport ships, becoming intrusive and competing with the local flora and fauna. This change in biodiversity can lead to severe impacts that may include:

  • Battling native species for food and space
  • Reducing local biodiversity, displacing and potentially causing extinctions of local organisms
  • Preying on native species
  • Changing the food web
  • Altering environmental conditions and species habitat

While the impact may seem minor and almost invisible, the increase in population over time will have negative and irreversible changes on marine ecosystems around the world.


What lies beneath: Biological corrosion on the vessel hull can occur through acid-producing bacteria transferred from these exotic microorganisms

Biofouling can be a drag: Fuel makes up about 50% of the operational costs of a ship. The extra drag of biofouling reduces ship speed increasing engine stress and fuel consumption of a commercial shipping fleet by up to 40%.

Higher safety risk: Algae as a result of biofouling can create a slippery coating on vessel structures and walkways, leading to increased safety risks.


Professional human divers: Traditional cleaning methods include hiring skilled hull divers to clean biofouling and maintain boat bottoms. Hazards include getting lost due to murky water conditions caused by weather conditions, entanglement or hooking of the diver under the vessel as well as when cleaning around propellers and shafts which can be fatal.

Kills marine life affecting humankind: Not only can biofouling affect the marine life that is available to humans recreationally, but it also affects the livelihoods of those who depend on indigenous marine species as their source of income.

IAS: Exotic species can bring unknown parasites into areas or produce harmful toxins released into the water. These alien breeds can reproduce and spread autonomously, threatening indigenous biodiversity and possibly causing their extinction.


Right now, the commercial shipping industry transports around 90% of the world’s exports and imports, with over 55,000 merchant ships trading around the world at any given time. With port rules and regulations governing hull cleaning getting tighter, what are the compliant solutions for owners and operators?

Traditional hull cleaning brush systems and diver methods can damage expensive anti-fouling vessel hull coatings and harm the marine ecosystem by not collecting the fouling they have removed. Port regulations grow more and more strict every day, expecting shipowners and operators to collect 100% of biofouling removed during cleaning for safe disposal onshore and to maintain proper cleaning records.

What if we told you we could offer shipowners and operators an eco-friendly, affordable, brush and diver-free hull cleaning solution? An innovative method that also protects the ocean and expensive anti-fouling vessel hull coatings.


HullWiper is an eco-friendly Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) that offers a flexible and economical green cleaning solution to clean vessel hulls. Take a look at the facts:

Gone with the HullWiper

Make biofouling worries a thing of the past! HullWiper shoots powerful, adjustable high-pressure seawater jets directly onto a ship's hull at a rapid speed to dislodge waste materials. Unlike traditional methods that use brushes or abrasives, this hull cleaning medium minimises the risk of damage to costly anti-fouling coatings.

The eco-protective objective

Simon Doran, Managing Director at HullWiper says: “The need for owners and operators to proactively manage marine fouling on their vessels, and prove that they have a cleaning management plan in place, can be the difference between being allowed into a port or being turned away.”

When it comes to green solutions, HullWiper goes the extra nautical mile. Unlike traditional hull cleaning methods that release removed residues and harmful materials into the sea, HullWiper’s eco-friendly solution captures them with a unique onboard filter that cuts the risk of IAS water contamination. All fouling is captured for safe disposal onshore with an approved environmental waste company.

A cleaner hull also lightens the load to reduce the amount of CO2 emissions released by the vessel.

Diver-free is where you want to be

HullWiper’s ROV solution removes hull cleaning divers from the equation completely meaning the risk of underwater fatalities is reduced to zero.

Non-stop hull cleaning

Long-term leasing: HullWiper is available for lease in locations where we do not have an operational base. The device can be leased to complement a company’s existing shipping service offerings or taken on by an independent contractor. As there are no divers required, hull cleaning can be undertaken day or night, in most weather conditions, during bunker fuel and cargo operations.

Onboard solution: Shipowners and operators can lease the ROV to keep onboard their vessel for on-demand, rotational cleaning to maintain a cleaning log that is fast becoming the norm for ports to allow vessels to enter their waters. Newbuilds can incorporate the ROV into the design of the vessel to avoid interruption or to perform partial or full hull cleans on-demand or on planned rotation.

Effective ROV technology

HullWiper is fitted with a camera and light, allowing the operator to control, monitor, and record the hull cleaning process from start to finish. Video footage of the operation is presented with the cleaning report documentation and can also double up as great footage for insurance and hull cleaning maintenance records.


Research has shown that even a slight build-up of slime on a ship’s hull can trigger a speed loss of 0.5 knots, potentially increasing fuel consumption and water resistance by as much as 20%! Maintaining a clean hull helps to reduce frictional resistance to lead to better fuel performance and improving the cost-efficiency of the vessel.

HullWiper’s ROV technology does not harm expensive antifouling coatings which significantly reduces the damage cost typically incurred when using traditional hull cleaning methods.

Use our online Fuel Savings Calculator to compare the savings between traditional hull cleaning methods and our innovative hull cleaning technology.

Starting to ‘sea’ the light? The future of hull cleaning is green.

Visit to find out more what we can do for your fleet, or book an eco-friendly, affordable hull clean here. Not only will you be saving a pretty penny but you’ll also be contributing towards protecting our ecosystems and the planet.