Unacceptable levels of barnacle fouling found in over 40% of ships reveals I-Tech whitepaper

Barnacle fouling has been exacerbated by the pandemic says whitepaper
Barnacle fouling has been exacerbated by the pandemic says whitepaper

More than 40% of vessels were suffering from over 10% hard fouling coverage on the hull even before the idling of fleets caused by COVID-19. This is one of the key findings of hull fouling collection data in a study commissioned by I-Tech AB, the results of which are set out in a white paper entitled ‘Quantifying the scale of the barnacle fouling problem on the global shipping fleet’.

I-Tech contracted independent marine coating consultants, Safinah Group, to analyse underwater hull barnacle fouling conditions on a sample of 249 ships which drydocked over a four-year period between 2015-2019. The sample included all major ship types covering a range of trading activity and it transpired that nearly every vessel surveyed had some degree of underwater hull hard barnacle fouling.

On 44% of vessels surveyed, over 10% of the underwater hull surface was covered with hard fouling. According to experts, anything more than 10% coverage is deemed to cause an ‘unacceptable’ impact on vessel performance. On many of the vessels surveyed, fouling levels were even worse; approximately 15% of vessels had between 10-20% of hard fouling coverage on the hull, 10% of vessels had 20-30% of hard fouling coverage and the remaining 10% of vessels had between 40-80% of hard fouling coverage.

Extrapolating from published data taken from a 2011 study by Michael P. Schultz, this level of hard fouling could be responsible for at least 110 million tonnes of excess carbon emissions, and an additional $6 billion spent on fuel per year by the global commercial fleet.

Barnacle fouling can only occur when a vessel is static for a few weeks in coastal waters. Since this data analysis was carried out before the COVID-19 pandemic, I-Tech believes it is inevitable that in recent months, the extent of barnacle fouling coverage across the global fleet will have increased significantly.

As most antifouling coatings only offer a guarantee for protection for up to 30 days of idling, many owners will now be at risk of performance issues caused by hard fouling.

“With up to 5% of underwater hull fouling coverage being seen as good and up to 10% being considered acceptable, the findings that 44% of vessels having more than 10% hull fouling is troubling, even more so when we consider the impact of long idle periods,” Markus Hoffmann, Technical Director of I-Tech AB said.

“Shipowners, operators, and managers need to be proactive on prevention when considering the antifouling components of their coatings and static-period guarantees offered to ensure they protect their vessel from hard fouling during any unanticipated long idling periods, such as those recently encountered,” said Markus Hoffmann, Technical Director of I-Tech AB.

Philip Chaabane, CEO, I-Tech AB said, “The insight into the barnacle fouling problem across the global fleet, based on the inspections carried out by the Safinah Group, make for alarming reading. Based on this sampling, it is extremely likely that a large proportion of vessels are in fact operating with high degrees of hard fouling. Given the increase in idle vessels throughout the first six months of 2020, we can reliably assume that the extent of fouling across the shipping industry will have spiked significantly.”

Read the whitepaper: ITECH-Whitepaper

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