Pathway to optimising hull efficiency

Jotun Hull Performance Solutions head underscores importance of advanced antifouling coatings and procedures to tackle biofouling and improve vessel performance.

Stein Kjølberg, global concept director, Jotun HPS

Photo credit: ShipInsight

How can operators tackle the biofouling issue? With energy so cheap, what does it take to get ship fuel purchasers to invest in keeping hulls clean? How realistically can operators be expected to maintain the areas of the ship that are normally only seen during drydocking? Does the biofouling issue require IMO regulation or should it be handled on a regional basis after a risk assessment by port states?

These are just a few of the questions that were raised by delegates at ShipInsight’s inaugural conference in London recently. “It is not surprising that the conversation about the importance of antifouling measures is growing. At a time when market pressures and regulatory developments are forcing the maritime industry to focus on energy efficiency and meeting environmental challenges, owners and operators are eyeing opportunities in efficiency-based solutions and technologies. This is also the case when it comes to vessel optimisation due to its direct link to fuel savings,” said Kjølberg when addressing delegates during the session titled ‘Biofouling – the next big environmental battle’.

Ecological and economic drivers
With conditions improving within the global economy, and the prospects of continued growth in global trade, it is foreseen that fuel consumption – and comparable CO2 emissions – in the shipping industry will increase in the coming decade. Therefore, any measure that saves fuel meets both ecological and economic drivers argued Kjølberg.

“The cost of oil may be relatively low at present, but this does not alter the fact that fuel is still one of, if not the biggest expense in ship operation. The entry into force of the IMO’s 2020 global sulphur regulations, too, capping bunker fuels’ sulphur content at 0.5%, is expected to impact operational expenditures. Experts disagree on what the outcome of the regulation will be but most agree that fueling vessels will become a more complicated and expensive business,” said Kjølberg.

“Owners of existing ships will be hit with a two-fold problem, then; just as the fuel price climbs again, new environmental regulation such as the Energy Efficiency Design Index (EEDI), the EU’s Monitoring, Reporting and Verification (MRV) regulation, the IMO Data Collection (DCS), Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC) emission regulations and China’s newly-delineated ECA zones place vessels under ever-closer scrutiny. 

“As a consequence, older ships will grow increasingly uncompetitive, increasingly quickly. Owners and operators of existing vessels will face mounting pressure to ensure that the competitiveness of these assets diminishes as little as possible over the course of their service lives,” added Kjølberg.

Pathway to optimizing hull efficiency
With this in mind, an interlude of low fuel prices, and before the onset of much of the upcoming, market-upending regulation, is likely the best possible time to invest to keep existing vessels “fighting fight and work on a path to optimize hull efficiency,” emphasized Kjølberg. 

“It is a well known fact that biofouling both slows the ship down, and can hugely impact vessel performance. That said, experience shows that advanced antifouling coatings and procedures can improve hull efficiency and vessel performance,” he added.

Choosing a high performance antifouling system, carrying out proper hull surface preparation and frequent propeller cleaning, and regular underwater hull inspection and cleaning, if needed, were highlighted by Kjølberg as “important steps on the pathway” as is ensuring that the antifouling specification matches the operational parameters. 

“Experience shows that regular inspection should be carried, and that cleaning could be done earlier than today for a range of commercial, standard antifouling. By selecting ultra premium coatings, the need for cleaning is likely be less so it pays to take a proactive approach, and not just catch up when there is already too much fouling on the hull,” said Kjølberg

Measurability and transparency to the fore
Fully exploring the potential of performance management and efficiency is also a key to sustainable operations opined Kjølberg, who recommends operators to measure changes in hull and propeller performance according to the ISO 19030 standard. “Measurability and transparency will play an important role, especially in relation to hull optimization programs involving monitoring and verification. 

Kjølberg firmly believes that “those companies that are working to improve fuel efficiency using advanced antifouling coatings and procedures (in addition to new technologies and fuel types) will increase competitiveness and reduce the impact on the environment”, though he warned “achieving the IMO’s 2050 Greenhouse Gas (GHG) target cannot be done by the shipping companies only, it will require a huge, collaborative industry effort.”

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