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Forces combine to bring hull efficiency into the spotlight

The coming decade for the shipping industry promises to be a momentous one, with change and challenges expected on a scale not seen in living memory. The scale and rate of advancement across our sector over the next few years is set to heighten the importance of innovation, collaboration and operational efficiencies, as owners and operators seek to adapt to the changing landscape in a step change fashion.

As emissions regulations continue to tighten as the shipping industry moves towards the IMO’s 2030 and 2050 emission reduction targets, the need to reduce emissions from shipping has increasingly come to the forefront of the industry’s focus. This drive, married to the general push for operational efficiencies in a commoditised and unsettled market, has caused the desire for decreased fuel consumption to increase exponentially.

There are many ways for the sector to realise these potential efficiency gains. As hull friction is one of the biggest contributors to a vessel’s fuel inefficiency, the simplest route to decreasing fuel consumption and improving the performance of a vessel is through regular hull cleaning to reduce the build-up of aquatic life and debris. Studies suggest that a serious level of hull fouling can increase fuel consumption by up to 85%, causing a substantial increase in the operating costs of a vessel.

These efficiency benefits can also be gained without the need for costly capital expenditure on vessel clean technologies, potentially leading to downtime and loss of vessel capacity.

Environmental concerns

Owners and operators should take the benefits of hull cleaning and hull efficiency seriously. However, it is crucial that it is done in the right way to ensure that hull cleaning does not leave the world a worse place for the sake of those efficiency gains.

Aquatic life can, using a vessel as an unintended mode of transport, travel across the oceans to environments and habitats beyond its own.

This process can have severe consequences for the environments that the foreign aquatic life comes into contact with, as these invasive species have the potential to translocate pathogens and diseases, destroy habitats and native wildlife and decimate local economies that are reliant on the oceans.

According to some estimates, financial damages due to bio-invasion could total up to US $7.7bn/yr, in the USA’s coastal waters alone.

For owners and operators pursuing hull efficiency, it is vital that they do not contribute to this massive and destructive problem for the world’s oceans. Any hull cleaning that occurs should see bio fouling reclaimed, the capturing of any aquatic life or hull fouling during cleaning for safe disposal ashore in an environmentally approved way.

Additionally, reclamation prevents other materials entering the ecosystem, such as heavy metals prevalent in hull coatings or plastic from cleaning brushes, further reducing the pollution potential of these operations.

Indeed, just as the scrubber debate has prompted some jurisdictions to clamp down on local emissions, a number of ports globally now stipulate that reclamation must happen during a hull cleaning operation.

Simon Doran, Managing Director, Hullwiper

New hull cleaning technology

This sounds like a tall order, but a solution to all of these issues is present on the market. Historically, hull cleaning has been completed by scuba divers manually cleaning hulls, requiring substantial planning and time out of a vessel’s schedule, directly impacting profitability. Moreover, as divers attempt to reduce their time in the water, human cleaning operations inevitably move quickly and vigorously across the surface of the hull, potentially causing damage to the coating, in turn creating not only the need for an increased frequency of repainting, but also an increase in microplastic pollution. This is not to mention the inherent safety risks of conducting underwater operations at all times of day to suit a vessel’s schedule, nor the potential for inclement weather to delay a clean and therefore set a vessel back even further.

The recent development of underwater Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROVs) goes some way to solve each of these issues. Such is their ease of use, an ROV can be used as a proactive method to prevent hull fouling before it starts, with regular checks and cleaning allowing a vessel’s hull to remain smooth and fouling free.

ROVs, such as HullWiper, can be deployed in a matter of minutes and can be used to partially clean or fully clean a hull’s surface whilst a vessel is in port. Moreover, modern hull cleaning ROVs also have built in reclamation systems, eliminating the risk to local environments and allowing for widespread use in even the strictest of ports.

Driven by regulatory pressure, forces are combining to pile pressure on owners and operators to seek fuel and environmental efficiencies across their operations. These forces highlight the importance of innovation, but also show that solutions already exist on the market to help with the challenges the sector faces. Hull efficiency is one of the deciding operational factors of our industry’s time – but with increased scrutiny on our sector, it is key that these efficiencies are pursued in a way that is good for our world and good for shipping.
Source: By Simon Doran, Managing Director, Hullwiper, as arranged on behalf of Hellenic Shipping News Worldwide (www.hellenicshippingnews.com)

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