Underwater hull cleaning may be a necessary activity for many vessel owners, but it can result in substantial amounts of waste being produced. This is an obvious concern for companies anxious to enhance their ESG credibility.
Marine coatings manufacturer AkzoNobel says that recovering waste material or reclamation is vital for the sustainable future of the industry.
“Reclaiming the waste generated from underwater hull cleaning operations provides assurance to vessel operators that materials generated from their operations are handled in a sustainable, environmentally and socially responsible manner, says AkzoNobel, adding that, “without reclamation, it’s fair to say that no-one can be truly serious about their sustainability credentials.”
By doing this, any paint debris and biofouling arising from the cleaning operation is gathered and can be safely disposed of, rather than accumulating in the area where the hull cleaning has been undertaken. This minimizes the potential for any invasive biofouling species moving to a new place where it does not belong.
AkzoNobel says the issue is firmly in the spotlight at the International Maritime Organization (IMO), while the Bellona Foundation has launched the Clean Hull Initiative (CHI) which aims to create a new standard, focusing on “proactive hull cleaning.” AkzoNobel, as a marine coatings manufacturer, says that it intends to take part in this initiative and will insist that reclamation is part of the process.
AkzoNobel notes that, in 2020, the Baltic and International Maritime Council (BIMCO) developed the first global standard for ship hull cleaning, that focused on the need for reclamation, diver safety and maintaining the performance of the fouling control coating applied onto a ship’s hull.
Meantime, IMO has embarked on the Glofouling initiative to review both the commercial impact of biofouling accumulation on hulls and the potential for shipping to act as a vector for the translocation of invasive species. This may result in the introduction of new regulatory requirements to maintain clean hulls.
Additionally some ports, including Southampton and Rotterdam, do not allow underwater hull cleaning without reclamation.
“AkzoNobel leads the sector with its innovative Intertrac HullCare system,” says Chris Birkert, marine segment manager at AkzoNobel. “The proactive and optimized cleaning regime is designed to maintain performance over the operational cycle of deep-sea trading vessels, while they are conducting their normal operations.
“Unlike diver-operated brush cleaning methods which can increase the risk of damage and potentially reduce the effective scheme life of a fouling control system, Intertrac HullCare uses technology which cleans the surface with water jets and reclamation with sustainable waste disposal routes.
“AkzoNobel has specifically selected cleaning partners with an established track record, industry leading knowledge and expertise, port presence and reliable and mature technology availability.
“The cleaning technologies have been demonstrated to effectively clean fouling control coatings with no loss of scheme integrity, optimise foul release performance, deliver a clean hull and help to minimize the risk of translocation of invasive species.
“The combination of ultra performance fouling control coatings and pro-active hull cleaning with fouling reclamation as standard, boosts fuel and emissions savings and makes Intertrac HullCare one of the most sustainable hull performance packages in the marine industry .
“All of this is achieved with minimal impact to vessel operations and without upfront capital investment or vessel modification.”
As the industry becomes ever more focused on providing a sustainable future, any lack of a focus on reclamation is short-sighted, according to Birkert.
“If waste debris is not handled properly and disposed of in a responsible manner, it has the potential to steadily accumulate in ports and harbors and may cause unintended harm,” says Birkert. “Invasive biofouling species can spread into new habitats and waterways, leading to a destructive impact on local ecosystems and an even greater potential knock-on impact on national and international economies.
“From the point of view of a vessel owner or operation, there will likely be limitations, too, on cleaning operations imposed in ports and harbors by local authorities to insist on the highest standards of social governance when it comes to cleaning and reclamation.
“If vessels are not cleaned when they require it, this also leads to higher fuel consumption and vessel emissions, hitting the operator in the pocket.”