Experts from Nippon Paint Marine detail how a well-polished hull can help the shipping industry meet emissions abatement targets
The staging of the United Nation’s COP26 climate conference in Glasgow, Scotland towards the end of last year finally put the focus back on tackling humankind’s longer-term challenges after the considerable distraction of COVID-19 for the last two years.
In terms of its impact on global climate change, shipping has spent several years on the environmental naughty step due to its spewing in excess of a billion tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere each year, accounting for around 3% of all human-made emissions, as it transports 90% of world trade.
COP26’s Clydebank Declaration is therefore seen as a definite step forward for the sector. An initiative signed initially between 22 governments and industry leaders, the agreement commits to establishing green shipping corridors – zero-emission routes between two or more ports – while acknowledging that existing efforts and technologies need to be accelerated if previous commitments to reducing greenhouse gas emissions are to be met.
In addition to alternative propulsion systems and alternative marine fuels, hull coatings have long been recognised as playing a significant role in reducing the environmental impact of vessel operations, as Bill Phua, Managing Director, Nippon Paint Marine (Singapore), attests.
“Energy efficiency and carbon emissions are inseparably linked to fouling growth. Algae and barnacles add significant frictional resistance [drag] requiring more engine power to move the ship through the water. This results in speed loss and, as a result, fuel consumption and carbon emissions increase.”
Additionally, the accumulation of marine fouling may cause the spread of invasive aquatic species in the environment they have been transported to, thus affecting biodiversity and its ecosystem. “An effective antifouling paint minimises all of these environmental impacts,” says Phua.
Nippon Paint Marine, the maritime division of Nippon Paint, Asia’s largest coatings company, has been at the vanguard of environmentally safe marine coatings for more than 140 years.
In more recent times, the company’s R&D facility, the Marine Seafront Research Centre, in Japan’s southern Okayama region, has been responsible for much of the pioneering work in marine industry coatings.
In 1990, the facility developed Ecoloflex® SP, the world’s first tin-free, self-polishing copolymer (SPC) antifouling paint that pre-dated the AFS Convention (the law prohibiting the use of TBT [tributyltin] antifouling paint on ships), by more than a decade.
The popular low friction antifouling paint LF-Sea series was launched in 2008, followed five years later by an ultra-low friction version, A-LF-Sea®. Then, in 2017, the world’s first completely biocide free, self-polishing antifouling paint AQUATERRAS®, a unique technology that incorporates a patent protected SPC antifouling resin material based on a carefully formulated mix of hydrophilic and hydrophobic components.
The technology, similar to that used in the medical industry to create artificial hearts and blood vessels where surfaces are required to suppress platelet aggregation, contains no heavy biocidal pigments, active ingredients nor silicone but is proven to reduce a ship’s drag (frictional resistance) by up to 10%.
It is this pioneering binder technology that forms the basis of Nippon Paint Marine’s latest innovation, FASTAR®.
Pushing the boundaries of what is possible from a self-polishing copolymer antifouling paint, FASTAR incorporates nano-sized hydrophilic and hydrophobic resin binders, enabling the antifouling ions that come from the biocide to be extracted to a high level of accuracy and uniformity.
Two versions of the new self-polishing coating are available: FASTAR I and FASTAR XI, of which the latter variant incorporates Nippon Paints famed hydrogel water trapping function to achieve further fuel savings of up to 8% with just a 1.2% loss in speed over a 60 month service interval. Both versions benefit from reduced dry film thickness (DFT), meaning it takes less time to apply and dry than conventional coatings.
“FASTAR sets the benchmark high in terms of delivering precise, predictable polishing rates and antifouling performance, but also improves drydock efficiency, reducing application costs, fuel consumption and emissions,” says Jun Ye, M & R Sales Director, Nippon Paint Marine (China).
“Both variants are already winning orders on newbuilding projects, particularly in China, which is predicted to turn out 49% of all new vessels this year,” he says.
After the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic saw the world’s shipbuilding activity all but stop, China’s order book for 2022 has 918 newbuilds – a 178% increase over the previous 12 months – with a compensated gross tonnage of 45Mt, the highest since 2013. In particular, the global shortage of container and tanker vessels is driving demand for those vessels, with Nippon Paint Marine currently selected to provide the hull coating on 30 of those, with bids in for many more.
One early adopter of FASTAR is Chinese major shipping owner JOSCO Shipping, which has specified the coating for a number of newbuild vessels under construction. Similarly, another Asia Pacific giant operator, has specified Nippon Paint Marine coatings for their four largest 24,000TEU vessels currently under construction in China.
“A key consideration for operators in specifying a hull coating is the increasing congestion at container ports. Waiting to get dockside on arrival at port can mean lengthy idling time – the increasing size of container vessels inevitably means they take longer to dock and unload, while the ongoing COVID-19 situation has only added to delays, not least through reduced staffing in the port,” says Jun.
“An idling ship is more at risk of marine life attaching itself to the hull, so an antifouling coating that minimises this risk offers the operator a real and measurable commercial advantage.”
MAINTENANCE and REPAIR
While many newbuilding vessels of all types are increasingly incorporating less environmentally damaging technology, of the world’s 50,000-strong maritime fleet, about 2500 are expected to be fully green by 2030. Therefore, the ship repair market is key to increasing the number of ocean-going vessels incorporating more fuel-efficient coatings on their hulls.
“We expect the number of vessels drydocking in the Asia Pacific region for a new coating to be 680-800, slightly up on the previous two years, but still only 60-70% of the 980 docked in 2019 that had a combined tonnage approaching 76 million deadweight,” predicts Phua.
“For vessel owners and operators, the inevitable commercial imperative is to minimise time spent in drydock,” says Phua. “For Nippon Paint Marine, the reduced thickness and fast drying time of FASTAR – up to 37% faster for a large container vessel, depending on the ambient local temperature – gives them a key commercial advantage.”
While the COP26 Clydebank Declaration has increased the pressure on ship owners and operators to adopt cleaner shipping solutions and technologies, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) has also set a target for a 50% reduction in greenhouse emissions from the global fleet by 2050 compared to 2008 levels, following a 40% reduction in carbon intensity by 2030.
As part of efforts to deliver this, the IMO introduced the Energy Efficiency Existing Ship Index (EEXI) and the Carbon Intensity Calculator (CIC) coming into force on January 1, 2023.
For Nippon Paint Marine, the regulatory and commercial imperative for any shipowner is clear: “Working to improve fuel efficiency by using advanced antifouling coatings will increase competitiveness and reduce impact on the environment. The enforcement of ever stricter regulations requires ship operators to up their ante to comply with the many regulations that will come into force. Investing in green technologies will help them to save costs, as well as conserve the environment. Keeping a clean hull is the way ahead,” says Phua.