Sustainable technology on the backburner, but not forgotten
The Naval Architect: June 2020
Although overshadowed by the Covid-19 pandemic, the implementation of IMO’s global sulphur cap, the transition to low sulphur fuels and scrubber installations are still ongoing, as are efforts to prevent invasive species transfer, which I-Tech CEO Philip Chaabane claims will all soon return maritime media limelight.
“These headlines will come back and emphasise the need to become a more environmentally friendly industry. It’s clear that people have been seeing a different sky, and I doubt humanity will accept going back to what we had previously. There will be a social-political drive force stronger than before, to cut emissions and become more sustainable,” he predicts.
Sustainable technologies need to be adopted to reduce emissions, Chaabane insists, comparing this uptake to global strategies used to combat the Covid-19 pandemic. “We need to ‘flatten the curve’ so to speak, we need to drop the number of cases and the spread. It’s the same in our industry, we need to reduce emissions, and in shipping this is related to the introduction of new technologies.”
Chaabane claims antifouling products, such as hull coatings containing I-Tech’s sole product, Selektope, are important in the Covid-19 period, as a trend for longer idling periods is emerging due to reducing demands for transported goods. Extended idle times will have severe implications on hull resistance through water when vessel’s return to service, he says, as barnacles arrive within weeks depending on seasonality and temperature.
Selektope is an active ingredient used in commercial antifouling paints, Chaabane explains: “It’s introduced into coatings to provide static performance in terms of resisting barnacles from settling on a hull surface. Barnacles settle on the static ships hence it is relevant for those who have longer idle periods and unpredictable trade routes.”
Chaabane comments that although I-Tech have found it difficult to determine the precise number of vessels currently idle, estimations from the last financial crisis suggest there were around 1,000 vessels reported to be at warm lay-up, a static period which lasts up to six months. “And that’s a significant amount of time when it comes to biofouling. If the idling continues for too long and there’s no relevant protection, the hull will have severe fouling,” he adds.
Biofouling was heavy even before the effects of Covid-19, according to drydocking data recorded by Safinah Group in an independent report commissioned by I-Tech. Chaabane points out: “We have seen through a report that many ships, aside from the idling we’re now talking about, are heavily fouled. Of a sample size of 200 vessels, 44% had over 10% coverage of barnacle fouling.”
Even light to medium fouling can have a profound effect on fuel consumption and emissions. Chaabane explains: “These (barnacles) create a lot of resistance and ONR, an academic institute linked to the US Navy, has quantified the impact of very severe fouling. At lower surface coverages of 10%, the increased power that needs to be applied to the shaft to maintain a 50knot speed is 36%, which is linear to the increased fuel consumption required.”
Considering this 36% increase compared to normal conditions, Chaabane estimates that after 60 days sailing, a vessel consuming about 40tonnes of fuel daily could potentially save around US$190,000 by using an antifouling solution, even at an oil price of US$216 per tonne of fuel.
Within these 60 days the customer would see ROI, Chaabane explains, suggesting that despite oil prices posing a challenge for sustain-tech companies, short-term price fluctuations are unlikely to significantly affect the advantages of installing sustainable technology. He adds: “We have to look at these investments on a five-year horizon or more and in that case, low temporary oil prices will likely not play a role.”