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Shipping industry to welcome in-water hull cleaning standard

Shiprepair & Maintenance: 1st Quarter 2021


In its ongoing drive for greater fuel efficiency, and to lower its environmental impact, the shipping industry has over the course of recent years put an increased focus on the in-water cleaning and maintenance of hulls. This can remove unwanted organisms, reduce friction and hence energy consumption.Q1 2021 1st enews image


However, there has been an environmental downside in that materials removed from the hull during this process can also be harmful to marine environments. That is why the recently published ‘Industry Standard on In-Water Cleaning with Capture’, sponsored by BIMCO and the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS), is highly welcome.


The aim of this initiative is to raise the minimum standard of cleaning “several notches higher” and ensure that the end result is both a clean ship and safe working practice.


Setting a benchmark for safe and environmentally sound underwater hull cleaning – an issue that has been of increasing concern, with many jurisdictions imposing restrictions on the practice in port areas – has been developed by an extensive coalition of industry participants. These include Akzo Nobel, C-Leanship, CMA Ships, DG Diving Group, Fleet Cleaner, Hapag-Lloyd, Hempel, HullWiper, International Association of Classification Societies, Minerva Shipping, Portland Port (UK), Port of Rotterdam and PPG Coatings, as well as BIMCO and ICS.


According to the standard, at least 90% of the macrofouling must be captured by the cleaning company and effluent water coming back into the sea will have removed organisms and materials down to a microscopic size. For the partners involved, the next step is to implement the standard on a small scale and several shipping companies have already signed up to participate.


Other stakeholders have also agreed to update their procedures, which will hopefully lead to a widespread acceptance of the standard and associated certification and to more ports allowing in-water cleaning.


The standard details the documentation and assessment part of the operation, as well as the actual cleaning and management of the effluent before it is released back into the sea. It further includes criteria for the cleanliness of water pumped back to sea, methods to help shipowners act before biofouling growth and coverage become severe, an approval procedure for cleaning companies, minimum reporting requirements, and minimum requirements for inspection, service and cleaning reports.


There has also been positive news of progress on another important environmental initiative, the retrofitting of scrubbers. Last year, there was a temporary lull in retrofitting as the narrowing gap in the price between high and low sulphur fuels eroded the viability of the technology. Shipbroker Gibson reported that 31% of the world’s VLCC fleet is now equipped with scrubbers with the proportion expected to increase still further by the end of 2021 to over 40%.


As the broker observed: “More recently scrubber economics have started to change once again with the spread between HFSO and LSFO widening to US$100 a tonne and scrubber savings climbing to over US$5,000 a day for VLCCs.”


That suggests that yards could well see growing interest in scrubber retrofits after the slowdown in demand in 2020. Environmental concerns expressed by some bodies, while challenged by manufacturers, are likely to see a steady shift towards retrofitting hybrid scrubber technology in particular, some industry analysts predict.