24 May 2022
Authored by Simon Doran, HullWiper MD.
The ocean can be an unforgiving environment, and although we as humans were not created to inhabit this mysterious force of nature, we persist in exploring its depths and experiencing its magnificent beauty. I have spent the best part of nearly 37 years working wet in and around seafaring vessels and the subsea sector, both on grey funnel and white funnel lines, and now know the ocean underworld and ships’ bottoms very well. There are are good bottoms and bad bottoms!
Our seas bear the weight of the good, the bad and the ugly of the shipping industry. Moving around 90% of world trade, shipping is at the centre of the global economy and intercontinental trade. It enables the transport of food, raw materials, and manufactured goods. However, the high volume of shipping activities makes our industry one of the world’s top polluters – producing a whopping 940 million tons of CO2 emissions annually. Lurking beneath the surface is hull fouling and we cannot ignore the costly impact it has on a vessel’s operational efficiency and fuel consumption, and not least the harm of its impact on our delicate marine environment.
Wave of change
Many of us feel a personal responsibility towards the mounting social and environmental issues. This has started to affect how and where we spend our money. ‘Sustainability’, ‘eco-friendly’ and ‘fair trade’ are just a few terms we have become familiar with as we look for innovative products and services to fix what we have broken.
Correspondingly, sectors and companies are increasingly taking a transparent and sustainable approach in doing business. Examples include retailers such as Patagonia, an outdoor clothing and gear company who use mostly recycled or organically grown materials to reduce their environmental footprint and major brands such as Coca-Cola who has committed to collecting and recycling the equivalent of every bottle or can it sells by 2030.
Growing global consciousness
Ship owners and operators who do not start investing in innovative and sustainable operating models may face an increase in fees and operational costs, limited finance prospects and hefty penalties. Conversely, there are big wins and savings for those looking to go green.
Ports and governments around the world have started implementing the requirements set out by international institutions, with some introducing private initiatives to financially incentivize and promote environmentally-friendly maritime transport. The Port of Aarhus in Denmark introduced a 4.5% shipping tax discount for green ships that achieve at least 30 points in the Environmental Ship Index (ESI). The ESI identifies vessels that outperform current IMO emissions standards in reducing air emissions.
Major financial institutions are also getting in on the action as they need to incorporate sustainability and environmental risks considerations in their investment evaluation. BNP Paribas, the largest banking group in Europe, offers a performance incentive loan where an improvement in the client’s Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) score leads to a reduction in interest rates.
While these incentives have made green shipping appealing, innovation and green solutions remain the key to unlocking a sustainable industry.
As the global economy expands, more needs to be done to avoid a pollution-filled future. The shipping community is no exception. It is a sobering fact that CO2 emissions produced by oceangoing vessels could soar well above 250% in the next three decades.
Strict rules and regulations have been introduced by regulatory bodies such as the International Maritime Organization (IMO) who developed MARPOL (the International Convention for Prevention of Pollution from Ships). Ambitious goals are in place to reduce our environmental impact by 2050, but are ship owners and operators ready to conquer the challenges and meet the looming deadline?
Getting rid of the grit
There is no better way to see immediate results in profits and environmental protection than by tackling one of the sector’s biggest threats – biofouling. Marine fouling is a drag on our industry. It cuts into the bottom line, damages expensive anti-fouling coatings, and contributes to the release of greenhouse gas emissions. A dirty hull is also responsible for the harmful transfer of invasive aquatic species to foreign areas which disrupts local marine ecosystems.
With tougher restrictions on the horizon to address what the IMO describes as “one of the greatest threats to the ecological and the economic well-being of the planet”, a hull maintenance plan will become part of your daily operations.
HullWiper’s Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) is one of the world’s leading innovations that provides a green hull cleaning solution to this issue. Adjustable high-pressure seawater jets are used to dislodge accumulated biofouling on vessel hulls and all removed fouling is captured onboard a filter unit for safe disposal onshore. Trained technicians’ man the unit onshore or on a support vessel, eliminating the risk to human life. Our ROV cleans up to 500 m2 per hour and the entire cleaning procedure is CCTV recorded and can be delivered to you along with the operational hull cleaning report.
My team and I have invested a significant amount of our time to develop a product and service that meets the industry’s need for an eco-friendly, efficient, safe, and affordable hull cleaning alternative to traditional methods such as divers with brushkarts or the use of abrasive equipment, think wire brush! Ongoing research and development play an important role in ensuring our ROV stays at the forefront of eco-conscious hull cleaning solutions.
A sustainable, healthy, and vibrant future is dependent on what we do today. With more than 10 operational hubs located around the world (and more to come), the HullWiper family is committed to supporting ship owners and operators in their voyage towards greener and more environmentally responsible operations.