Vessel idling – a growing problem in a changing world

Source: I-Tech, 1 October 2021

I-Tech CEO, Philip Chaabane (photo: I-Tech)

According to findings a new White Paper, Managing biofouling in shipping – the idling challenge, published by I-Tech, biofouling – a perennial headache for the shipping industry for centuries – now looks to get far worse, particularly for vessels idling in warmer waters.

illustration: I-Tech
illustration: I-Tech

Based on a I-Tech/Marine Benchmark study, the White Paper reveals a substantial increase in the numbers of idling vessels over the past 10 years, with resulting biofouling “hotspots”, where water temperatures have risen above 25° C. Vessels spending the majority of their time sailing in these regions are at acute risk of excessive hard fouling accumulation.

I-Tech/Marine Benchmark study emphasises adverse effect that ship hull biofouling has on hydrodynamic performance and that it gives rise to significant financial and environmental penalties for the shipping industry, due to the increase in fuel consumption and carbon dioxide emissions, as well as impacting significantly on maintenance.

While the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 – much like the economic crash in 2008 – forced many vessels into lay-up, operators must ensure that, after any idling, the vessel is in good condition to perform optimally. Familiarisation with the individual vessel’s risks of biofouling based on its operating footprint is a good starting point.

A proactive future-proofing approach to antifouling coating selection, without any certainty of future trade, is exerting great pressure on the coating suppliers, furthering innovation and new approaches toward fouling prevention technology using the active substance Selektope®.

An antifouling technology mix within an antifouling that is suitable for the vessel type, activity, and trading patterns offers assurance of extended static protection against barnacle fouling during unexpectedly long idling periods. Building on this, operators would benefit from planning their potential idling periods away from the biofouling high-risk zones whenever commercial considerations allow.

Moreover, owners and operators need to take into consideration that only the best protection guarantees are sufficient. For many antifouling coatings on the market this is made possible by the inclusion of the antifouling agent Selektope®. This can also be considered alongside the prospective operating geography for their vessels, especially if they foresee operating and idling in warmer, tropical waters, which are well-known barnacle fouling hotspots.

With the industry still facing its looming IMO GHG reduction targets and the impending introduction of EEXI and CII for existing ships, the findings of this study should serve as a reminder that a clean hull should be the first step of a fleet’s decarbonisation strategy argues I-Tech’s CEO Philip Chaabane.