HullWiper | Protecting the big blue

Protecting the big blue

16 Jun 2022

14 Jun22 Protecting the big blue photo

Authored by HullWiper.

The ocean holds a lot of power, but as you know it is also fragile. We all have a complex connection to the sea. Amongst a host of benefits, it gives us oxygen, is a vital source of food and helps regulate the climate. Simply put, we cannot live without it.

More than 80% of the sea remains unexplored by humans, and that is perhaps a good thing. As a veteran of the shipping industry, I have seen how our actions are putting the oceans health at significant risk. 90% of goods are transported by sea, and with demand for global freight growing, the negative impact of our trade on the marine ecosystem will increase.

You name it, we have done it - oil spills, chemical spills, harmful Greenhouse Gas (GHG) and Black Carbon output, transfer of invasive marine species into foreign waters and even unexploded ordnance i.e WWII mines, floating or otherwise.

So, what now?

Tides of change

Associations, governments, and ports around the world are increasing the move toward sustainable operations and practices. Major shipping hubs are looking at establishing green corridors on specific trade routes. Zero-emissions solutions, such as the use of alternative low GHG emission fuel and the implementation of environmental policies, technology and infrastructure will be supported.

Ship owners and operators also have a responsibility to jump onboard. Green shipping is a term that refers to vessels who significantly decrease their carbon emissions by adopting processes to use less fuel and operate more efficiently. A proven method to lighten the load is to incorporate a proactive hull cleaning regiment.

Gravy and caviar

Biofouling on vessel hulls is not good for both the environment and business. It forces ship engines to work harder to try and stay on schedule. The drag of a fouled hull increases fuel consumption and CO2 emissions. It also transports invasive aquatic species (IAS) to foreign waters which has a devastating effect on local marine life and the marine ecosystem.

There are many ways and means to clean vessel hulls. Divers using handheld brushes or driving brush karts to scrub away at biofouling - but this time-consuming and labor intensive method makes use of rough and abrasive plastic bristles causing damage to vessel anti-fouling coatings. And removed residues is released into the ocean including the brush bristles themselves.

Thermal shock technology kills biofouling by using hot seawater (around 70 degrees) enclosed in a thermal applicator. It covers large surfaces but is not the best option for vessels which already have excessive fouling as its incapable of cleaning tougher growths such as barnacles.

Hull cleaning robots operate with or without human interaction. The effectiveness of this method is diverse and depends on which technology is used. A study performed by The Worcester Polytechnic Institute, Washington, D.C. Project Centre states that “many of these technologies have only been tested in a controlled environment, and many of these designs present potential concerns in an actual operating environment e.g. a port or open waters.”

Unmanned remotely operated vehicles (ROV) is a less invasive method and provides a much humanly safer alternative for the industry to make use of, but does it have the green factor?

The green is in the clean

Designed after consultation with ship owners and operators, and at start up in line with Norwegian offshore standards, HullWiper is the only operational ROV that offers a unique onboard filtration system to capture removed biofouling. The residues are disposed of onshore using a locally approved environmental waste management company.

Our ROV has received several international maritime awards and is recognised for its innovative eco-friendly cleaning capabilities. It is designed and modified to be operational-friendly for work alongside or at anchorage. Adjustable, variable-pressure seawater nozzles are used to direct the water as the cleaning medium, removing the cause of micro abrasions produced by brush cleaning to expensive antifouling coatings. Cleaning can be done day or night, during cargo or bunker fuel operations and in most weather conditions.

Approved for in-water operations in Australia, Denmark, Gibraltar, Guinea, Mauritius, UAE, Norway, Panama, South Korea, Singapore, Sri Lanka, and Sweden (with more locations to come), all our operations are in full compliance with local and international regulatory rules and requirements.

We’re not the only hull cleaning company, but not all hull cleaning is the same!