Cruise ships rejected from dock -
how hull management tools can help

Within the past month, two large cruise vessels have been denied access to Australasian waters due to biofouling issues on their hulls. Robots are increasingly being used to help monitor previously hidden hull conditions. 

Marine biofouling can harm large vessel operations in a number of ways. One danger of biofouling is that it can increase the vessel’s drag, which can reduce its speed and fuel efficiency. This can lead to increased fuel consumption and operating costs. Additionally, biofouling can cause lengthy and expensive delays if the fouling is found to be excessive or unaccpetable for the waters being entered. 

This is the problem that has been happening recently in Australia and New Zealand, with two large cruise vessels being denied entry due to hidden biofouling below the waterline. Technologies are being devloped to combat this issue and give vessel operators constant underwater knowledge of their previously hidden hull conditions. 

What is Marine Biofouling?

Marine biofouling is the accumulation of aquatic organisms on underwater surfaces, such as the hulls of ships, offshore oil and gas platforms, and coastal infrastructure. Organisms such as barnacles, mussels attach themselves to a surface and begin to grow. As more organisms grow and cluster, they a form dense layer.

Biofouling can harbor invasive species that can be transported to new areas and cause harm to local ecosystems. These organisms can be introduced via the ballast water of ships or by attaching to the hull or niche areas.

marine biofouling

Marine biofouling displayed on the underside of a small vessel.

Cruise Ships Denied Access to Australasian Waters due to Biofouling

Viking Orion

News reports state that the ‘Viking Orion’ cruise ship was recently denied permission to dock in Adelaide, Australia after authorities discovered biofouling on its hull. The ship had to remain at anchor outside of Australian waters and engage in the services of a diving team to clear the hull of biofouling that may have been harmful to bring into the local ecosystem. This delay caused the cruise to miss four scheduled stops along its route, resulting in frustration and anger from passengers.

Coral Princess

Similarly, on the 23rd of December 2022, the ‘Coral Princess’ cruise ship was denied entry into New Zealand due to an infestation of snails below the waterline. The government ordered the vessel to clean its hull and discharge pipes before being allowed to dock in the country. The ship was on a voyage from Australia to New Zealand when it was turned away. The removal of the snails was required as they are not native to the Milford Sound area of New Zealand, and if spread could cause damage to the local ecosystem. There have been delays and damages involved with the unplanned cleaning process – with the vessel being diverted to Auckland for cleaning and news reports stating that “Passengers have been offered $106 and 15% off their next cruise as compensation”.

Hull management tools are key - inwater inspection robots with 3D modeling capabilities

The maritime industry is facing challenges with inspections and compliance as the global fleet gets bigger, older, and dirtier.

New regulations require more cleaning and monitoring of hull conditions below the waterline, in order to mitigate and cost-efficiently plan around issues such as:

  • fuel over-consumption
  • biosecurity restrictions
  • damages
  • coating failures

This has led to a search for solutions that can streamline inspections and reduce costs.

One promising solution is in-water inspection robots, which allow companies to replace time-consuming manual tasks, such as divers or manual ROV operations, with largely automatic robotic inspections. These robots can perform regular visual inspections to monitor biofouling growth, making it easier for decision-makers to predict the best times for cleanings or repairs.

Four cameras from the Sentinus robot, capturing a vessel hull
from four different camera angles simultaneously.

Blue Atlas Robotics 3D
advanced mapping technology

Blue Atlas Robotics uses underwater robots to perform high-quality and safe inspections of marine vessels to detect early corrosion, coating wear, and marine growth on hulls and niche areas.

The Sentinus robot is able to navigate surfaces, included curved or cornered areas, with minimal human intervention. The robots capture steady and clear visual data which ideal for converting into interactive 3D models for detailed analysis and visualization.

Right: A 3D model of a vessel hull segment, created from the same visual footage from the video above. 

Who can benefit from using robots for underwater visual inspections?

  • Ship owners: Whether you own a small or large commercial fleet, it is important to know the condition of your assets below the waterline in order to keep your ships running smoothly. Using robotic inspections is the most efficient and fastest way to gather this information.
  • The shipping industry: The shipping industry is responsible for transporting 90% of the world’s goods. New regulations from the International Maritime Organization (IMO) also require additional cleaning and monitoring of vessels.
  • Regulatory bodies: Biosecurity officials of many countries need to regularly examine vessels below the waterline for the presence of invasive species or excessive fouling.
  • Entities requiring documentation: Many marine-based services and products require documentation of conditions below the waterline. For example, coating companies, insurance companies, and companies that facilitate the sale or acquisition of vessels may all benefit from using underwater visual inspections to assess conditions at a specific point in time.

Who can benefit from using robots for underwater visual inspections?

Ship owners: Whether you own a small or large commercial fleet, it is important to know the condition of your assets below the waterline in order to keep your ships running smoothly.
Using robotic inspections is the most efficient and fastest way to gather this information.

The shipping industry: The shipping industry is responsible for transporting 90% of the world’s goods. New regulations from the International Maritime Organization (IMO) also require additional cleaning and monitoring of vessels.

Regulatory bodies: Biosecurity officials of many countries need to regularly examine vessels below the waterline for the presence of invasive species or excessive fouling.

Blue Atlas Robotics © 2022     |     10 Forskerparken, Odense, Denmark    |       Ph: +45 29 28 25 48     |     CVR: 39944618

Blue Atlas Robotics © 2022     |     10 Forskerparken, Odense, Denmark    |
Ph: +45 29 28 25 48     |     CVR: 39944618