R&D propels the shipping industry forward

As the demands on environmental compliance, transparency and efficiency are escalating around the globe, the role of research and development (R&D) is a key for driving the industry forward. Its importance as being the first step in solving complex challenges cannot be over emphasized, but it is only of value if the industry is able to make use of the knowledge obtained.

As an industry shipping is obliged to adapt to rapidly changing regulatory and ESG demands whilst remaining competitive and efficient. To be able to deliver both “must haves” and “nice to haves” to the industry, product and solution providers are increasingly investing in R&D with significant efforts targeted at green innovation which may be in production processes or in developing products that are greener or which improve efficiency and sustainability.

Jotun is recognised as one of the leading players in the marine coating industry and has for almost a century invested significant resources in its in-house R&D. Its research activities actually started with the marine industry delivering coatings for whaling ships, and today the aim of helping the shipping industry keep clean hulls is at the core of Jotun’s Clean shipping commitment. Although not all coatings companies have close to 100 years of R&D, research still serves as the backbone for the whole industry with transparency and joint industry projects helping lift the knowledge and science behind what eventually end up as products and solutions for the shipping industry.

Focus on sustainable solutions

“In all of its R&D, Jotun has three primary elements that it works across. These are technology and platform development, direct innovation where there is a defined product to innovate and create, and finally existing products that are in the market and their management and maintenance to keep them relevant and performing,” says Christer Lorentz Øpstad, Global R&D Director at Jotun.

As well as addressing known challenges, in essence R&D should be proactive and not reactive and look forwards to possible new challenges that may arise in the future.

Christer Lorentz Øpstad

Øpstad points out most processes for developing new products and solutions at Jotun are driven from a customer-centric perspective. When a specific challenge arises in one of its markets, it looks for solutions. That could be an improvement to an existing product or may involve completely new products and approaches.

“I believe we are at the forefront of driving the development of innovative solutions which aim to contribute to safe and sustainable operations in the industries Jotun serves. This does not only include the shipping industry, but also for several industries such as the energy sector both offshore and onshore, as well as infrastructure, just to mention a few,” Øpstad says, and continues:

“Because of the impact of new regulation and the drive to develop innovative solutions, Jotun has expanded its scientific footprint. For example, the expertise in our company centred on antifoulings is no longer solely in chemistry, but represents a wide range of disciplines, everything from data science and mechanics to polymer science and marine biology - a vast difference compared to how it used to be some years ago.”

Øpstad explains that new ideas will be developed and refined through a structured innovation process that involves testing the new concept before an innovation board to determine its potential. This approach has resulted in several technologies, products and solutions that may not previously have been thought possible.

Finding smarter ways to fight fouling

In the past, the driving factor in this market was the need for owners to reduce biofouling to preserve fuel to save money and to meet time charter commitments around speed and consumption. In recent times that has changed with international regulations developed at the IMO putting a mandatory requirement upon ships to operate within strict efficiency limits to reduce emissions from the fuel used on board. In addition, emission charging such as the EU ETS has resulted in a new type of expense that shipowners need to meet.

Furthermore, a new form of regulation is slowly coming into being with ships obliged to protect biodiversity by reducing or eliminating the transfer of invasive species.

Collaboration is key to success

Øpstad firmly believes R&D is not just a matter of working with customers to overcome challenges and points out there are many benefits to also working with other stakeholders, including academic researchers and even different players in the industry.

As an example, Jotun experts recently presented papers and shared unique insight on developments in antifoulings at the International Congress on Marine Corrosion and Fouling (ICMCF), hosted in Guangzhou, China. The comprehensive papers centre on Jotun’s Clean shipping commitment and details new solutions and methods to help the shipping industry navigate these challenging issues.

Senior Chemist in Jotun, Aslan Esmurziev, presented at ICMCF 2024

Commenting on the importance of research work and Jotun's participation at ICMCF, the Congress Chair Professor Guangzhao Zhang from South China University of Technology says, “The shipping industry is highly dependent on new and relevant research that can contribute to make it more sustainable and efficient. We find that conferences such as ICMCF are important for players who contribute in the field of marine corrosion and fouling, with research and concrete solutions. We endeavour to create an arena that can contribute to transparency, so that knowledge and research do not remain in individual silos.”

Both companies and academia play an important role in research and progress in this industry, and our opinion is that R&D is getting an increasingly greater focus in various companies. Jotun is one example of a company that puts R&D first, with the goal of cleaner operations at sea which, in turn, will benefit the whole industry in the long run.

Professor Guangzhao Zhang

The congress secretary Dr. Qingyi Xie adds, "Jotun's invited keynote talk contributes to the ICMCF, demonstrating their effort in developing new eco-friendly antifouling technology."

“It may be considered relatively niche from a commercial perspective, whereas for the scientific community revolving around this industry it is the single most important conference in terms of gathering researchers together,” Øpstad adds.

New technology and field test methods

One of the papers addressed an issue that is less about ship operations and more about preventing air pollution from VOCs emanating from antifouling coatings, as stricter VOC regulations implemented around the world have had a major impact on the paint and coating industry. The paper and presentation explored waterborne coatings from a VOC reduction perspective and outlined some of Jotun’s efforts in developing waterborne antifouling coating technology.

“Waterborne coatings contain far fewer VOCs than conventional products because the polymer particles are carried in water rather than a solvent. The coating forms and hardens as the water evaporates achieving the same end result of a stable coating with less emissions,” explains Øpstad.

Another area where Jotun specialists contributed was within risk assessment of release of biocides and substances of concern such as copper and zinc from compounds in antifouling coatings. Current methods for measuring release of chemical elements are not considered accurate enough or are expensive and impractical for routine use. Jotun presented a new field test method which is believed to be more robust, and less resource demanding and proposed a new ISO standard method based on research findings.

“These are just a few of the developments within marine coating we are working on in Jotun and we know other players are also having a great focus on R&D. Adding knowledge and sharing experience on the main issues that we are trying to improve transcend what we as a company, and the whole industry, can and should achieve,” says Øpstad and concludes, “So, the work we do in our labs, in combination with conferences and meeting places like ICMCF, will drive the industry forward and also pulls down the walls between stakeholders. This way we can together elevate our overall knowledge base, and faster solve the issues at hand.”


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Clean shipping commitment

With nearly 100 years of experience of charting through unknown waters, Jotun is committed to continuously innovate and develop advanced products and solutions designed to protect biodiversity and cut carbon emissions to support global sustainability ambitions and achieve cleaner operations for all industry players. A clean hull ensures cleaner operations.

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Jotun develops products and solutions that solve customers' needs for protection in a changing environment. Applying our first-hand knowledge and insights, we use state-of-the-art technology to solve the challenges faced.

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