Whilst shipowners are always searching for ways of improving efficiency and cost saving, the current coronavirus pandemic with its heavy financial losses, has accelerated the search. One of the areas under investigation is improving methods of restricting the biofouling on a ship’s hull, which causes increased drag leading to higher fuel consumption.

 Marine biofouling is the accumulation of microorganisms, plants, seaweed and live creatures which attach themselves to a ship’s underwater surface when immersed in seawater.( Similar fouling also occurs in freshwater). The amount of fouling depends on a number of factors including water temperature, climatic conditions and the vessel’s speed, thus a specific coating may be needed to suit the individual operating conditions of any specific vessel. Antifouling coatings applied to ship’s hull and propellers slow marine growth which can seriously affect the ship’s performance and durability. They also form a barrier against corrosion which in turn weakens the metal of the hull. Unchecked biofouling also results in more dry docking and thus more expense. Therefore, in order to obtain the necessary information to combat this problem, the International standards organization (ISO), introduced a performance standard for measuring changes which provides data for comparison for hull and propeller performance.

This ISO 19030 standard indicates, by the use of underwater sensors, the condition of the hull and propellers during a voyage or voyages. Using this information, the correct coatings and maintenance can be selected. The Danish coatings specialist firm, Hempel, created a performance system entitled SHAPE-Systems for Hull and propeller efficiency, which provides shipowners with the necessary data to obtain the most efficient performance.

SHAPE provides companies with a dedicated performance analyst, expert data interpretation and advice from their specialists, KPIs based on speed loss and performance tracking and cost-effective performance monitoring.

By reducing the resistance of both Hull and propeller, to ship will consequently use less fuel leading to considerable savings.

Apart from the obvious financial benefits involved in this technology, by reducing the amount of fuel used, the subsequent emissions and pollution will have a vital role to play in the improvement of the marine environment. The paint industry is therefore responding by producing more efficient Eco friendly products. The whole marine market is a target for better coatings which can be applied within the ship itself as well as on containers which are also subject to corrosion within such a harsh environment. The recent lowering of fuel prices such as the new low sulphur fuels, in turn reduces the effect on the environment and the balance sheet.