ECOsubsea gains further foothold in major European ports to become benchmark for sustainable effective hull cleaning
The robotic hull cleaning system maker ECOsubsea says it has won another port over to offer its services. The Dutch, national regulatory body, Rijkswaterstaat has given the Norwegian company the green light to start offering hull cleaning services to vessels at all Dutch Ports including Europe’s biggest port, the Port of Rotterdam, a move that is helping the firm solidify its position in Europe following similar permissions in Antwerp, Zeebrugge, Ghent and Southampton.
“Ports want evidence that our system works,” says ECOsubsea CEO Tor Østervold. “We can now give it to them. They also want evidence that vessels have active hull biofouling plans, and we are helping operators and ports with the digital implementation of that too,” he added.
ECOsubsea’s system works by having a robotic cleaning system, move over a ship’s hull, gently removing the fouling off the hull without damaging the vessel’s hull coating. This is an important factor for ports that are increasingly concerned that heavy metals and micro-plastics, which are often found in hull coatings, may contaminate their waters when hulls are cleaned.
The patented cleaning and suction system then draws the fouling detritus ashore or onto a barge, where it is filtered out of the water and sent ashore for processing. Tests by ECOsubsea and seen by the ports that are keen to see the system used, show that virtually all of the detritus taken off the hull will be sent ashore.
“At the end of last year we were only in Southampton,” adds Østervold. “Now we are in a growing number of ports including Amsterdam and Rotterdam.”
For Østervold a giant port such as Rotterdam, with a strong environmental benchmark, is an important step in the evolution of the company.
The port of Rotterdam’s Breakbulk Business Manager Irene Bennett points to the role the Authority plays in generating a healthier environment, primarily concerning air quality, noise and the natural environment and biodiversity and water quality.
“We recognize that efficient cleaning of ship hulls is better for the water quality in the port and reduces CO2 emissions and fuel costs,” she says. “The advantages of initiatives like ECOsubsea will enhance the sustainability of the entire transport chain. The Port of Rotterdam is therefore happy to promote initiatives that fit in well with our corporate social responsibility goals.”
ECOsubsea has been working closely with a number of major ship operators, including Carnival, Wallenius Wilhelmsen and Hoegh Autoliners, that recognise the need for clean hulls, and the additional need to clean their vessels’ hulls responsibly. Vessel operators are increasingly under pressure to operate their vessels with the lowest fuel consumption, and fouled hulls are a leading cause of poor operational performance.
While many ship operators will look to deploy top of the range hull coatings that are both sleek to reduce water friction when sailing, and offer long term fouling deterrent, they will find that the coatings performance dwindles, sometimes quickly. Even slime on the hull can be a cause for 10% increased fuel consumption according to science.
To help owners and operators ECOsubsea urges owners to be proactive and has a system in place to help operators determine the best time to undergo a cleaning.
“While onboard performance systems can detect drops in performance due to hull and propeller fouling, it is often at a point when there is already a visible build up of biofouling on parts of the hull,” says Østervold. ”Visual inspections of a hull are still an important part of hull husbandry.”
About hull cleaning
A clean freshly painted new hull straight out of a newbuilding yard is the most efficient hull and allows the vessel to operate at peak efficiency, with the least amount of fuel consumed and lower emissions. However, over time all hulls, regardless of coatings, will see a deterioration of their effect as slime, barnacles and other aquatic species attach themselves leading to drag and friction thus increasing engine power and fuel consumption to achieve a vessel’s desired speed.
Often vessels have hulls recoated during drydocks to regain a performance level close to optimum. Owners are advised to inspect and clean hulls regularly between drydocks, with many charter parties including a clean hull clause. However, due to the environmental risks, port authorities and coastal states are banning or deterring hull cleaning methods that allow the fouling to fall into the water.
Key benefits of ECOsubsea
● Minimises vessels air pollution to 5 – 15%
● Minimises the spread of alien invasive species between continents (identified by IMO)
● Saves ship owners 5 – 15% fuel costs
● Efficient handling of waste from ship hull
● Full debris collection rate under water
ECOsubsea was formed in 2008 by the brothers Tor and Klaus Østervold to develop a prototype hull cleaning technology that could safely and efficiently remove hull fouling without leaving any fouling in the water. Tor Østervold won the Nor-Shipping Young Entrepreneur Award in 2013 from the leading trade show Nor-Shipping and the company won the WWL Orcelle Award later that year. The company has been developing its technology in the UK port of Southampton winning contracts from leading ship owners. The Southampton based system has accumulated more than 4000 hours of service. The ECOsubsea system consists of a sophisticated and reliable remotely operated vehicle that crawls along the ship hull. It’s unique cleaning system ensures the removal of hull fouling without damaging the hull coating. The system removes over 97% of all the fouling detritus which is then safely pumped ashore.