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How Biofouling Impacts Vessel Efficiency – And How to Fix it

How Biofouling Impacts Vessel Efficiency – And How to Fix it

The maritime shipping industry has set ambitious decarbonization targets over the next decade. Shrinking the shipping industry’s carbon footprint is going to take a range of innovative solutions and technologies — from simple solutions like more efficient route planning to more advanced options, such as hull design.

Biofouling presents a major threat to the industry’s progress toward decarbonization targets. Biofouling is the accumulation of microorganisms, plants, algae, or small animals on wet surfaces that have a mechanical function, causing structural or other functional deficiencies. Maritime shipping and logistics companies face challenges in vessel marine performance related to macrofouling — the attachment of larger organisms such as barnacles, soft corals, and seaweed.

[Read more: What is Biofouling and How Can We Stop It?]  

Here’s how biofouling is affecting the shipping industry and what marine logistics companies can do to prevent and combat biofouling.

How biofouling impacts vessel efficiency

Biofouling happens in two stages: microfouling and macrofouling. In macrofouling, heavier organisms such as barnacles and small coral colonies adhere to the submerged hull of a ship. These organisms can weigh up to 10 tons, significantly increasing the vessel’s drag.

“The costs of these hull-fouling stowaways are substantial: According to one study, the U.S. shipping industry spends more than $36 billion each year in added fuel costs to overcome the drag induced by clinging marine life or for anti-fouling paint that prevents that life from hitching a ride in the first place,” reported Science Magazine. “And that figure doesn’t include the cost to regularly scrape a hull smooth, which costs approximately $4.50 for every square foot of hull surface.”

Even minor microfouling can decrease vessel efficiency by 10 – 16%; macrofouling and result in loss of 86% of a vessel’s cruising speed, contributing to delays across the marine shipping industry.

These losses are only expected to increase due to climate change. A recent study found that warmer water creates the conditions for even more intense macrofouling. The median-projected scenario of a 3.5°C increase in water temperature causes marine organisms to grow twice as fast as they do at today’s surface temperatures. Not only did organisms grow more quickly — but they also formed a thicker layer.

Biofouling is expensive no matter how you measure it: in terms of time, energy (e.g., fuel), and actual dollars. Plus, cleaning and other antifouling measures are regular expenses that add up over time.

What is antifouling?

The IMO defines antifouling as “a coating, paint, surface treatment, surface or device that is used on a ship to control or prevent attachment of unwanted organisms”. Basically, antifouling is a measure that reduces the impact of biofouling on vessel efficiency.

Historically, ships used compounds like arsenic and lime to protect the hull of a ship against biofouling. Over time, however, those compounds leach into the water and can destroy marine ecosystems. The IMO now regulates the types of antifouling paint, compounds, and methods that the shipping industry can use to prevent biofouling safely.

It’s also worth noting that antifouling differs from “fouling-release” tactics: “Fouling-release describes the force required to remove an organism that is already attached to a surface. These two terms have been used interchangeably in the literature; however they are truly different phenomena,” explained Science Direct.

As the demand for antifouling and fouling-release strategies grows, here are some of the most effective measures currently in use today.

6 Ways to combat biofouling to improve vessel efficiency

There are a number of preventative measures and fouling-release tactics that can help combat biofouling.

Preventative measures include:

  1. Using an electrolytic system: This system passes a current between two anodes usually made of copper and aluminum. The current produces copper ions that prevent marine organisms from settling on the hull, as well as prevents the surface from corroding, as rough surfaces are more susceptible to biofouling.
  2. Chemical dosing: This measure is used specifically for a ship’s piping method. It involves using an antifouling chemical such as ferrous chloride to coat the pipework with a protective layer that prevents corrosion.
  3. Using an ultrasonic system: One of the most effective antifouling measures, this method uses high-frequency electrical impulses to prevent marine growth from attaching to piping systems.
  4. Electro-chlorination: A mechanism on the ship uses chlorine to produce sodium hypochlorite, which is then used to prevent fouling. This method is slightly more risky than others and must be tested as chlorine can damage marine ecosystems.

These tactics often require machinery on board: for smaller vessels, these preventative measures may not be cost-effective or efficient. As a result, some ships use antifouling paint to try to prevent biofouling. These coatings work in a few different ways. Some repel organisms from the hull; others make the surface slippery so that organisms have trouble sticking. Hydrophobic foul-release coatings make it easier to clean organisms from the hull of a ship.

There are a number of boat hull cleaning practices to remove marine organisms off the hull of the boat while the boat is still in the water. “Conventional hull cleaning is conducted by divers using rotating-brush carts, or using ROVs equipped with rotating brushes or waterjets,” explained one expert. “Alternatively, preventive maintenance approaches have also been suggested, such as hull grooming on US Navy vessels, consisting of frequent and gentle wiping of the hull and continuous prevention methods, such as aeration or ultrasound transducers.”

Ancillary technology like Sofar Ocean’s Wayfinder platform provides data that can help schedule antifouling maintenance to improve vessel efficiency before macrofouling becomes a big problem.  By combining the most accurate weather data from the Sofar network with custom vessel performance curves, Wayfinder is able to predict when a vessel might be underperforming due to fouling of the prop or hull. Marine logistics companies can use this information to schedule the appropriate cleaning — optimizing operational efficiency, improving vessel maintenance, and limiting unnecessary delays caused by biofouling.

Combatting the impact of biofouling on vessel efficiency takes a multi-pronged approach that starts with data. Vessel-specific performance models can provide the feedback shipping companies need to understand the causes and effects of decreasing vessel performance. From there, the appropriate combination of antifouling and fouling-release tactics can be used to remove marine organisms safely.

The original article by Emily Heaslip was originally published at Sofarocean

Featured Image Credits: Pixabay

Supply Chain Decarbonization: Corporations Must Consider

Supply Chain Decarbonization: Corporations Must Consider

New research published earlier this year shows how tackling supply chain emissions can be a game-changer in the worldwide battle against climate change. Net-Zero Challenge: The Supply Chain Opportunity from the World Economic Forum and the Boston Consulting Group looks at the top eight worldwide supply chains that produce more than 50% of global greenhouse (GHG) emissions. They find that several corporations can multiply their climate impact by focusing on supply chain decarbonization.

Global Emissions - Decarbonizations

Image Credits: WEF

On the other hand, even leading corporations struggle to set clear goals and standards for their suppliers and get the data they need.

How best can corporations build a meaningful pathway to deep decarbonization within their supply chains?

In this article, the GHG emissions management experts at SINAI explain what corporations should consider when getting to grips with supply chain emissions. We present practical and scalable ways in which corporations can achieve deep decarbonization, from setting a carbon baseline to automating data collection throughout your corporation’s supply chain.‍

Slowing down climate change ‍

The Paris agreement is a legally binding global treaty on climate change aiming to slow down climate change. Unfortunately, current pledges do not go far enough. Many agree that to hit the targets set, deep decarbonization is needed, particularly in global supply chains across a variety of industries. ‍

What is decarbonization? ‍

The term “decarbonization” is used to represent the process of reducing and removing the carbon dioxide, or CO2e (carbon dioxide equivalent, meaning, all 7 greenhouse gases included), the output from a country’s economy. The most common way this is done is by decreasing the amount of CO2e released from active industries within each economy – including but not limited to utilities, transportation, consumer goods, construction, and materials.‍

A robust picture of emissions ‍

The first step every corporation should take to get a handle on supply chain emissions is to gain a complete view of what those emissions are. The GHG Protocol’s Scope 3 Standard provides corporations with a methodology that can be used to account for and report carbon emissions from companies of all sectors, worldwide.

Corporations should consider building a detailed view of emissions with supplier-specific data to set ambitious targets for reducing carbon emissions. You can take control of your supply chain’s carbon emissions by performing a carbon inventory.

You should be able to compare emissions sources and resource consumption together with quickly identifying trends and patterns. Ensure you can aggregate, sort, and filter your emissions data to manage risk better and help/support suppliers to find deep decarbonization opportunities. ‍

A detailed carbon baseline‍

Corporations should consider exploring historical activity data to project emissions as their business grows and changes, creating forecast baselines they can use to monitor progress.

Establishing a comprehensive emissions baseline for your corporation is vital. Baselines are built according to business growth, and you can combine these with supply chain emissions with different levels of detail, to generate multiple baselines according to additional premises. Use granular data to analyze suppliers that contribute the most significant emissions.

Emerging software can help corporations easily match procurement data with environmentally extended input/output factors, building a high-level picture of their supply chain’s overall carbon footprint. Corporations can also leverage predictive analytics on resource consumption and emissions trends to gain better insight and business intelligence. ‍

Automated GHG inventories  ‍

Corporations should consider engaging diverse partners in their supply chain in a meaningful way, assisting them in a value-based exchange of emissions data.

Work towards a flexible data collection process to move away from generic data sources and create custom emissions factors that you can track with ease.

Collaboration is crucial, and we know supply chain emissions data can be messy. By automating data collection, corporations can consolidate, analyze and organize data from various sources quickly and easily, leading to more accountable reporting and better decision making. ‍

Smarter carbon emissions strategies ‍

Corporations should look to optimize their carbon emissions strategy through a scenario and sensitivity analysis and enhanced risk management for deep supply chain decarbonization.

Intelligent, data-driven scenario analysis can future-proof your corporation and your supply chain, with a heightened understanding of your projected deep decarbonization pathways.

Accurate and precise data can show which assets of the corporation are most at risk. Explore any reduction opportunities that exist and what cost-positive opportunities may be worth investing in, in the long term. Suppliers that go over the same type of analysis, will ultimately reduce their scope 1 and 2, which will reflect back to their buyers’ scope 3. The overall approach helps everyone in the supply chain to reduce emissions, with their own individual definition of success.

Technology to help your organization to remain accountable ‍

Front runners in several global industries are using innovative and cutting-edge technology to better manage their supply chain’s journey to deep decarbonization. They have a complete view of carbon emissions throughout their supply chain and baseline definitions in place, reviewing more granular data of those with the highest emissions. They are working towards deep decarbonization through automated carbon inventories from suppliers and following carbon emissions strategies, backed by data.

SINAI’s GHG emissions management solution can help you achieve supply chain decarbonization. Our software provides a seamless way to measure, analyze, price, and reduce emissions. Supply chain carbon management doesn’t have to be difficult, with the right solution that’s customizable to your corporation’s unique needs, you can move closer to net-zero.

To see SINAI in action, reach out for a demo today.

This article was originally published at

Featured Image Credits: Pixabay