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The silver lining

The dark cloud of Covid-19 and the challenging market and regulatory pressures has a silver lining, according to Erik Risberg, global marketing director at Jotun Marine Coatings. That silver lining is innovation.

Beleaguered shipowners and operators around the world are presently challenged by the continued fallout out of the Covid-19 pandemic, tightening environmental regulations, unpredictable trade and fuel prices, and volatile freight rates.  

The pandemic was totally unforeseen and has hit demand massively and although it will eventually pass, the recent BIMCO bulletin tells us that shipowners do not see a V-shaped recovery and there are predictions of long-term changes in global and regional supply chains. 

The crisis also comes at a time when demands on environmental compliance as well as transparency and efficiency are escalating. The ongoing challenges relating to the 2020 sulphur fuel cap, ballast water regulation and decarbonisation are well documented and have sparked research into a whole range of technologies including alternate fuels, vessel designs, energy saving devices, operational changes and alternatives to replace or complement conventional marine engines.

Biofouling adding to the pressure for more innovation

Also, on the environmental front another issue is rapidly coming to the fore, biofouling. The economic and environmental impact of biofouling will undoubtedly complicate operations, adding to the pressure for more innovation and improvement in hull maintenance, cleaning and inspection methods. 

Indeed, as technology and innovation plays an ever-increasing role in shipping, marine coating suppliers are also developing new products and services to help ship owners and operators meet their challenges.  In addition to advanced and more effective hull coatings, some companies are adding performance monitoring, and inspection technology as part of their service offering.

“For sure the nature of the industry is changing, and the regulatory pressure will lead to a more demanding operational framework and higher stakeholder expectations,” predicts Erik Risberg, global marketing director at Jotun Marine Coatings. “Also, the drive for energy efficiency and low-carbon solutions will most likely result in a new range of technologies that will gradually transform the industry.”

Early movers

According to Risberg the market pressures and new environmental regulations are increasingly driving innovation in the maritime sector but at differing pace. For its part Jotun decided to move early by implementing new services to support ship owners and operators. 

“As an example, we have been using remote operating vehicles (ROVs) in Korea to monitor the development of hull fouling for some time. Since the first approved survey in 2015, we have carried out over 700 surveys in the yards and expanded operations to also include port call vessels,” says Risberg.   

Deepak Thacheril, senior engineer in Jotun’s technical support team, who has been working with underwater robotics in Korea, comments: “We see that owners and operators are becoming increasingly aware of the benefits of clean hulls. It is important for them not only because of cost savings and improved safety and efficiency, but also in terms of meeting new environmental regulations. Experience shows that the risk of damaging the antifouling coating when removing the fouling increases the longer the time the fouling organisms are left to grow on the hull so it’s very vitally important to take early removal action before it becomes a problem.”

Collaborative innovation

Jotun firmly believes underwater robotic cleaning is poised to play a bigger role to combat fouling issues. Earlier this year, it introduced its new Jotun Hull Skating Solutions. Developed in partnership with technology and shipping partners, the fouling-prevention system is an innovative and sustainable means to help ship operators maintain always clean hulls in the most challenging operations. 

A primary component of the new solution is the onboard Jotun HullSkater, the first robotic technology that has been purposely designed for proactive cleaning. In combination with advanced antifouling and associated services, the new solution will help ship operators combat early stage fouling, significantly reducing fuel costs, greenhouse gas emissions and the spread of invasive species, points out Risberg.  

With stricter regulations and common standards on the horizon, owners and operators will without doubt need to document and record what hull management measures they have taken to bring more transparency towards port authorities and other stakeholders. For instance, initiatives such as the EU MRV, requiring the operators calling at European ports to continuously report operational data increases the focus and transparency on vessel efficiency adds Jotun’s global concept director hull performance solutions Stein Kjølberg.   

Condition monitoring and analysis key to optimizing performance

“The use of advanced coatings and regular hull cleaning are important measures that operators can take to show they’re tackling biofouling,” says Geir Axel Oftedahl, business development director and adds, “Hull condition monitoring and analysis is also an important component of predictive hull maintenance since it helps owners make the right biofouling management decisions for their fleets. With this in mind, Jotun Hull Skating Solutions provides a proactive, condition-based approach to in-service maintenance. This helps to maximise hull performance in combination with Jotun’s SeaQuantum Skate coating and the HullSkater technology.” 

Jotun has conducted research and innovation in the field of performance for many years. Its Hull Performance Solutions unit, launched in 2011, provides monitoring and analysis services that are used by ship owners and operators worldwide.

As part of its data-driven analysis solution, Jotun has developed its own Voyager software tool. “We started to systematically incorporate trade and seawater-temperature data into our work process in 2013 in order to create optimal solutions for customers. These data were used to analyze vessels in their individual trades or entire fleets so as to map the challenges facing individual trades and tailor-make the strongest fouling protection systems,” explains  Joana Costa, a marine analyst at Jotun.

She adds, “We have continuously improved the way such data is processed and analyzed to further optimize its usage. Aspects that have been improved are the data quality, resolution of data, visualization of such data and availability of the data to Jotun’s entire sales force. Over time, we've also started to connect data such as AIS data with seawater depths. Another important usage area has been to connect these data with the vessel performance data monitored according to ISO 19030, so that our in-house analysts are able to further increase the reliability of the performance data by cross-checking, and thus enrich the data feed.”

In the interface, the user can choose the vessel of interest and period of interest. The trade is then visualized on a map and the statistics for the chosen trade parameters, such as speed and seawater temperature, are given. These, together with a time series visualization of the same parameters, allows the user to quickly see the most important characteristics of a vessel’s trade. All visualizations are interactive and allow the user to filter or zoom for further details. The tool also allows a detailed analysis of the condition during idling to compare vessels with each other or to analyze fleet groups.


“By using the Voyager system, combined with our advanced coatings, operators are able to make faster, better data-driven decisions, which in turn allows them to operate their vessels and fleets in a more efficient, sustainable way,” adds Risberg.

Data use and digitalization is taking off in shipping as owners and operators embrace new technologies. According to research conducted by Lloyd List Intelligence, two-thirds of vessels now use advanced technology and digitalization systems onboard. The driver for this, according to those surveyed, is the desire to improve operating efficiency. 

This development also benefits the leading coating manufacturers like Jotun who use the vast amount of data, artificial intelligence and robotic technology to show customers the potential performance benefits of fouling control coatings based on accurate, transparent information. This, in turn, helps customers to make informed decisions from both an economic and environmental perspective. 

Certainly, for the forward-thinking companies that are receptive to new technologies there are opportunities to use robotics and digitalization to optimize performance and to meet the challenges ahead.

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