Nippon Paint Marine has claimed that growing evidence exists that cruise ships are returning to service after lengthy lay-ups with hulls completely free of biofouling.
After full application of Nippon Paint’s coating Aquaterras to two cruise ships in early 2019 and 2020, followed in mid-2020 by a subsequent pandemic-enforced 18-months at anchor, in-water inspections in late 2021 found that their hulls were in a condition that exceeded expectations.
Photographs taken of the coating on hulls on cruise ships and other vessel types, laid up in the Philippines, Bahamas, La Spezia and the Sea of Marmara – areas known for being particularly challenging – also showed areas of ‘excellent antifouling performance’.
“Prior to the Covid-19 outbreak, we had two full hull Aquaterras applications on cruise ships,” said John Drew, European Director, Nippon Paint Marine. “Now, demand is growing, and we have had to increase production to meet that demand.”
The biocide free coating was introduced to the market in November 2017.
Typically, antifouling paints rely on a certain amount of ship movement to kick-start their fouling control mechanisms. During the pandemic cruise ships sailed to sea or left their moorings only to take on fresh water, which did not provide enough operational activity to activate the antifouling process. That leads to the risk of fouling, especially in warmer waters,” he said.
Ships coated with silicone-based paints, hard coatings and regular SPCs self-polishing coatings (SPCs), including the company’s own A-LF-Sea range, were unable to compete with the performance of the Aquaterras coated hulls. Extensive growth build up was often seen during the Covid cruise ship shutdown.
“Some cruise ships had so much fouling when they started operating again that they suffered vibration, as well as significant drag and excess fuel-consumption. However, despite extensive idling and static operation in warm and temperate waters, this coating kept the hulls of these ships extremely clean,” Drew claimed.
With some big players in the cruise sector rolling out technology upgrades to reduce fuel consumption and carbon emissions, the coating is seen as being very much part of a shipowner’s emissions abatement strategy.
“One major cruise line underwent stringent test programmes for over four years before its first ship’s hull was fully applied with the coating,” explained Niko Yamanoue, General Manager, Nippon Paint Maine (Europe).
“In-service performance monitoring gave the operator confidence to apply Aquaterras to another ship just before the pandemic hit. It kept the hull clean even during the biofouling challenges of the pandemic.”
Johan Wilckens, Managing Director, Nippon Paint Marine (Europe), added: “It has an extremely smooth and glossy finish. It’s much easier to apply than a silicone but its smoothness, self-polishing and resistance to fouling combine to lower hull friction. The Covid pandemic has proven the coating’s performance even in static conditions. The product goes beyond compliance but also its performance goes beyond our expectations.
“We anticipate it will become the benchmark eco-friendly antifouling, allowing shipowners to reduce underwater cleaning, save fuel, lower carbon emissions and mitigate the ecological damage from biofouling and species migration. The technology in this coating is way ahead of its time. Aquaterras gives us a 10-year head start on the competition,” he concluded.