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Sunday, 27 September 2020

Why development for marine coatings?

Friday, 14 March 2014 | Posted by: Sonja Specks, European Coatings Journal

I heard about well working coatings with high corrosion resistance and perfect antifouling properties. The next generation coatings also have even less impact on the ocean and may lead to further reduction of fuel. However, there is still a huge gap.

These are my findings when I moderated at the European Coatings Conference "Marine coatings" last week.

Why being motivated to develop new coatings ?

Ship builder and ship owner are usually two different companies, with different approaches and they mostly agree only on one topic: price. One will sell as highly priced as possible, while using as less material as possible. The other one wants to buy as cheap as possible with as many functions as possible. Both focus on the economic reasons. But: The shipbuilder doesn’t know where the ships will be cruising. In Germany every ship owner company owns 9 ships (on average), but even they can’t really estimate where the ships will be on duty.

All-in-one coatings on the oceans

The coatings technology, like antifouling simply has to work. Sun, abrasion, different environments and climatic zones are totally out of their sight. The main target is: being ready to use, or in this case to cruise.
Furthermore depressing: The number of ships is globally growing, this leads to increased lay times. However, this is not possible to be planned ahead. This circumstance causes a different growth of algae, slime and mossles

Repairing ships means destroying the coatings performance

Seamus Jackson showed this picture at the conference.


A typical maintenance procedure of a ship in a harbor. He explained as well another usual work: 10-20 m was the distance between the ship and the workers who tried to coat the whole vessel with a more or less flexible tube.
I think to hit the whole surface of the ship was - with both ways - the only challenge which could be solved realistically. But to guarantee a uniform coating layer and thickness is not possible. And the target for a more responsible treatment was not to achieve. It also causes longer lay time in the harbor, higher harbor fees and personnel costs.

Without a real standardisation no profit

The reality is measured in money assets. But we pay a high price for this old-fashioned manner. It’s a kind of mockery and disrespectful towards the researchers. It takes 3-5 years on average, as our polling during the conference showed, to launch a new development.
It seems to me like a Sisyphean labour: You don’t know against what you need to protect ships from. But what you know is: The ocean is full of different creatures. It just can be a pious hope to find a coating preventing against all. And, on what do you focus then? And even if there is a more standardized project: you should never start thinking, what happens after maintenance procedures.

Half way being perfect

Japan, Australia and soon the EU protect their shores against invasive species. To save their own flora and fauna in their seas. I think this I is a very good thought. Usually the countries have specifications, such as the last time a ship had to undergo a maintenance procedure before it is allowed to stop in their harbors. But is protection then guaranteed? In fact the ships can’t be protected against all foulings and corrosion, i.e. they transport species from one coast to the other. And not being protected means: more fuel will be needed to cruise on the oceans. An ideal coating development is able to avoid this. But to achieve this, you  will need, planning, regulation and: time!

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