Marine Coatings: Moving with the Tide
The maritime industry has always followed a path of gradual improvement, albeit with many opting to travel the route of least resistance. In some ways, this is a good thing. A cautious approach to navigating change brings stability, assurance and predictability. This measured attitude toward managing change has been fundamental to ensuring that the commercial shipping industry remains the most financially viable transportation solution for moving most goods around the world. But, we now live in very unpredictable times, and the world around us needs more than reliable shipping services; it needs future-proof solutions.
To address climate change - the most significant challenge of this and future generations - treading water is not going to be an option for those maritime companies looking to survive and thrive. Significantly reducing the impact of shipping operations on the natural environment, while remaining the most financially viable logistics solution requires ingenuity, perseverance, ambition and – quite honestly - a leap of faith. The International Maritime Organization (IMO) has imposed increasingly stringent environmental regulations on the shipping industry over the past decade in particular, but 2020 and 2050 are the beacons we are all heading toward.
Jumping in, head-first
First on the horizon, the IMO’s Marpol Annex IV 0.5 percent global sulfur (SOx) emissions regulation marks a significant step-change for global shipping and will inevitably bring disruption in the shorter term as shipowners, operators managers adapt. This regulation, which requires ships to either burn low sulfur marine gas oil, install an exhaust gas emissions scrubbing system, or burn liquified natural gas (LNG), does bring significant burden of cost. It’s been on the cards for a while, but confusion and protracted debate about the most viable options and issues of fuel availability have left many in a scramble to the finish.
While this is problematic for individual companies, what we see now is that the shipping industry can and will change, and perhaps more importantly, the industry is now showing signs that it wants to change in the name of ‘the greater good.’ We have seen that adopting eco-technologies on vessels has moved toward becoming a central tenet of maritime Corporate Social Responsibility. We have also now reached a consensus that investing in environmentally friendly solutions does deliver a return on investment, and there is an increased willingness to spend more to save more.
Using the right hull coatings solution has been an important part of this trend, and the results are bearing fruit. At Hempel we have seen a noticeable step-change in how customers are approaching their analysis of protective solutions. Excellent environmental credentials, longer periods of protection between dry docking periods and the ability to enhance fuel efficiencies are now top of the list in selecting the right coatings.
Fouling can dramatically affect a ship’s hydrodynamics and the frictional resistance from the roughness caused by slime on a ship’s hull can result in an increase in fuel consumption of up to 18 percent in efficiency (on average over five years) as the ship burns more fuel just to maintain a given speed. This problem is exacerbated on vessels with unpredictable trading patterns and longer idle periods. Choosing a hull coating which reduces drag, minimizes downtime, enhances physical durability and protects assets for the longest period of time should be the first go-to for every ship owner and operator, as the efficiency gains translate directly into cost savings. The fuel savings also translate directly into lower emissions and reduced environmental impact.
Reaching this end, however, requires a forensic approach. Using intelligent software and working closely with coatings experts, long-term trends can be monitored using in-service KPIs to develop and deliver an optimum protective coatings solution for that vessel. This data intelligence is evidence of the latent efficiency savings to be made (and where other eco-technologies can complement to deliver overall operational cost savings). This is exactly what Hempel’s SHAPE (Systems for Hull and Propeller Efficiency) system does. Based on the ISO 19030 framework, SHAPE defines a methodology to measure changes in hull and propeller performance and using the resulting data, provides a set of bespoke performance indicators for hull and propeller maintenance, for each vessel. The process is simple and there are six key stages to gathering the data.
First, the vessel’s individual speed power reference curves are established. This is followed by the collection of in-service data which is then cleansed and purified to eliminate extreme operating conditions and the effects of environmental factors. Next, a precise speed loss calculation is performed. This is a critical measure for understanding vessel performance and fuel efficiency as the power increase and speed loss are directly related. From this, the four vital performance KPIs can be calculated and a coatings solution tailored to the specific trading requirements of the vessel can be developed.
Gaining positive momentum
This level of detailed, empirical evidence is crucial if shipowners and operators, as well as coatings manufacturers including Hempel are going to be able to continue to adapt and meet yet more stringent environmental regulations in future. The IMO has now committed to reducing total annual greenhouse gases (GHG) emissions from the commercial shipping industry by 50 percent compared with 2008 levels. Doing so will mean reaching peak emissions as soon as possible, before radically reducing all GHG emissions across operations.
The target has been set in line with the United Nations Paris Agreement, and was ratified – in a very positive sign – with very little objection. Reporting suggests that from the absolute reduction in emissions, the strategy prescribes a 40 percent energy efficiency improvement by 2030 compared with 2008, pursuing efforts for a 70 percent improvement by 2050. Achieving this will require all across the maritime industry to work in the spirit of collaboration to develop new and improved solutions.
Looking at the bigger picture, it is important to recognize that we are not travelling alone in the challenge of tackling climate change. It would be defeatist to suggest that the maritime industry has been singled out by regulatory authorities wanting to implement regulations which seek to limit GHG emissions. This is, and should be, a concerted global effort. We, alongside other major industries, nation-states and individuals will be expected to play our part. The fact that so much emphasis has been placed on the shipping industry to deliver reflects the importance of our industry to enabling and maintaining life as we know it.
We may be wading into choppy waters, where the current is pushing full force towards an altogether different operating environment for the shipping industry – one defined by a vessel’s ability to move goods worldwide, at a profit, without detriment to the natural environment. Meeting the IMO’s 2050 target will without doubt be difficult. It will involve cost and we will be moving against the tide. However, if we proceed with cautious optimism, we will get there, and will continue to move most of the world’s goods worldwide, at a profit, without detriment to the natural environment. Simply treading water and avoiding this challenge, is not an option.