Cargo hold cleaning robots undergo testing

Cargo hold cleaning is a critical aspect of the complex bulk carrier operations that require careful preparation to maintain cargo quality and to avoid any delays. A conventional bulk carrier may transport coal this week and soya beans the next week, which requires thorough wash-downs and cleaning in between. Danish shipping company Norden has said it has tested a cargo hold robot which can be remotely operated to prevent risk and delays, also leading to enhanced safety for crew and others who are required to enter holds.

The prototype, developed by Danish company CLIIN with assistance from the Market Development Fund, is a new belt-driven robot which can be operated remotely to go up and down along the sides of the holds while pressure cleaning them. The robot is driven forward by belts that are magnetic and therefore stick to the sides of the vessel. On top, there is a holder for the high pressure cleaner which can be turned individually.

“Preliminary results with the robot are positive. The cargo hold cleaning robot is easily operated and also reaches those places that can be difficult to get to. I have seen many robots in the market, but this one is a qualified suggestion for how cargo hold cleaning in the future can be done in a better, more safe, environmentally friendly and quicker way, and it’s about time. It is pretty much the same method being used to clean cargo holds today as it has been for the past 20-25 years”, says Jonas Warming, Senior Optimisation Manager, who has followed the developments closely for the past few months.

Until recently, this process has been both laborious and, at times, dangerous and time-consuming, as it has required skilful employees to clean the cargo holds with high pressure cleaners and chemicals while being suspended from the hatches above.

In addition, the robot is also more environmentally friendly in how it cleans the cargo holds as it does not require as much water or chemicals. Until now, crews have had to complete up to 4 wash-downs to clean the cargo holds. First salt water, then possibly a chemical solution, then salt water again finally fresh water. With the robot, cargo hold cleaning can be done with just one wash-down of fresh water as the robot is equipped to apply higher water pressure closer to the surfaces that need cleaning.

It is expected that the cargo hold cleaning robot will be ready for operation onboard a selection of Norden vessels during the autumn of 2018. Norden and CLIIN will continue working together to further develop the robot.

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