Skating into a new age of sustainability

Source: press release, 11 June 2020

Nor-Shipping – a key arena for Jotun
Nor-Shipping – a key arena for Jotun (photo: Nor-Shipping)

Jotun, provider of marine coatings, has taken everyone by surprise. Earlier this year it launched a startling innovation – a combination of robotic technology, a specially tailored anti-fouling, and ‘proactive condition monitoring’. The result? Clean hulls, reduced emissions, lower OPEX… and dropped jaws throughout the industry. This is the story of Hull Skating Solutions (HSS).

Geir Axel Oftedahl is talking dirty.

Jotun’s Business Development Director, Marine is explaining how biofouling – the slime, gunk and uninvited organisms that cling to the hulls of vessels – isn’t just a drag for ships, but rather a burden for all of shipping’s stakeholders.

“Everyone and everything, apart from the organisms themselves, is in some way damaged by the accumulation of biofouling on otherwise clean vessel hulls,” he stresses. “The owners and operators, broader society, and the marine environment itself fall victim. We cannot underestimate the issue. But, thankfully,” he adds, pausing to enjoy a slowly spreading smile, “we now believe we can solve it.”

Leading the way
If you own, operate, maintain or work on vessels you probably know Jotun.

Established in the pretty town of Sandefjord, Norway in 1926 it’s a family owned firm that has grown from providing paint for local ships into a global giant with leading market positions in the decorative, protective, powder and (of course) marine coating segments.

It currently provides solutions for over 20% of the entire world fleet, boasts 39 production facilities and employs around 10,000 employees, with representation in more than 100 countries.

The company is renowned for its innovative coating solutions. But, in March this year, it made waves of a different kind with HSS.

Foul play
“We wanted to approach the problem of biofouling from a new direction,” Oftedahl states. “We believed – that for vessels facing the gravest fouling challenges – there was nothing on the market capable of delivering ‘always clean hulls’. And that, quite simply, wasn’t good enough.”

Why? It’s a question that fires a mental starting gun for the Jotun man.

Organisms on a hull, he explains, lead to increased frictional drag, resulting in significant vessel speed loss and inefficiency. As a consequence, more fuel has to be consumed to maintain speed and manoeuvrability, meaning higher costs and greater emissions. The worse the fouling, the greater the impact.

In fact, Oftedahl reveals, according to the IMO, world fleet fuel consumption could fall by as much as 10% if hulls and propellers can be kept as clean as possible.

A huge figure in these pressing times.

“And that’s not all,” he stresses. “Fouled vessel hulls are the principal driver in the spread of marine invasive species, which can devastate local ecosystems and lead to widespread species extinction.”

Here he quotes a a study from New Zealand which attributed over 70% of aquatic invasive species to biofouling, with only 3% originating from untreated ballast water.

“So, you can understand the need for clean hulls?” He asks, somewhat rhetorically.

Proactive power
Jotun’s solution to this problem is as surprising as it is genius.

The showstopper in the HSS combination is arguably the HullSkater.

This is a remotely operated robot that bares a passing resemblance to a super-charged autonomous lawnmower. However, unlike its land-based counterpart this clever creation (which stays with the vessel at all times) works vertically, roaming its ship on magnetic wheels, with dedicated, expert operators controlling operations from Jotun bases via 4G connections.

High definition cameras and sensors, helping to monitor potential biofouling and collect data, ensure cleaning to a standardised level of excellence, with soft, motorised brushes ensuring zero damage to the specially developed Jotun SeaQuantum Skate antifouling coating.

The team has also devised a process of proactive condition monitoring (built around a proprietary algorithm) to predict fouling levels and determine optimal cleaning schedules… and performance.

“What this means,” Oftedahl explains, “is that we can catch biofouling before it causes problems – for both the owners and the environment – ensuring always clean hulls, with minimal speed loss. In fact, we can guarantee it!”

Proven solution
HSS isn’t for everyone. Jotun has created the concept for owners facing the most demanding operational profiles and fouling environments. Most vessels, Oftedahl contends, will be well catered for by the existing range of advanced antifoulings currently on the market.

But, for those that aren’t, HSS is a genuine gamechanger.

“We have thoroughly piloted and vessel-tested this for over 2 years, and the results speak for themselves,” he notes. “They show we can deliver unlimited idle days and minimal reactive cleaning requirements for owners facing the greatest biofouling challenges. The expected maximum speed loss for HSS protected vessels is just 1% over a standard 5-year drydocking period, with a minimum fuel cost saving of 12.5% (compared to a vessel with typical average performance). Now, that’s above and beyond the IMO’s 10% figure… and this is for the vessels most affected by fouling.”

To put this into perspective in an environmental context, Oftedahl says that if all vessels in Jotun’s targeted segments convert to HSS, it would result in CO2 emissions savings of at least 40 million tons per year.

He comments, “We expect this innovation, backed by those kinds of fuel, emissions and performance levels, will really make the industry sit up and take notice.”

Engaging industry
One of the key places the company will be hoping to turn heads is Nor-Shipping 2021, Your Arena for Ocean Solutions.

Jotun is a leading partner of the event week, taking place in Lillestrøm, Norway and at a variety of venues across nearby Oslo from 1-4 June 2021.

Oftedahl says that in the (expected) aftermath of the current corona virus crisis, Nor-Shipping will be even more of a pivotal industry meeting place than normal, helping stakeholders chart a new course for the unpredictable waters that lie ahead.

“Nor-Shipping is always an excellent arena for taking the pulse of the industry, sharing knowledge and meeting key individuals face to face,” he notes. “After the current period of lockdowns, disruption and isolation it’ll have an added sense of gravity and, well, necessity. I think there’ll be a lot of people who, like me, are really looking forward to it.”

Oftedahl says the event’s reputation as a showcase for the latest maritime innovations will make it the ideal platform to promote HSS:

“People come to Nor-Shipping to find out ‘what’s next’ in shipping and the ocean space. The audience is forward-thinking and open minded to change – to exploring new opportunities and ways of doing business. That’s what we can demonstrate with HSS.”

He concludes, “Because that’s really what this is about, it goes beyond biofouling. This is a solution that offers new levels of efficiency, savings, performance and environmental standards. And that makes it a business-critical innovation for our customers across the world.”

For shipowners looking to a sustainable future, both commercially and environmentally, it might well be time to ‘get their skates on’.

Oftedahl and Jotun will be on hand to help.

Nor-ShippingNor-Shipping 2021, Your Arena for Ocean Solutions, will focus on the people, companies and innovations taking positive #ACTION in our oceans – tackling challenges, seizing opportunity and achieving business success. The exhibition and event week, which attracted over 50,000 participants in 2019, takes place in Lillestrøm and Oslo, Norway, 1-4 June 2021.