The Dangers of Biofouling: A Silent Threat to your Vessel Hull Performance

VESSELS operate in harsh marine environments, and fouling is one of the biggest challenges facing operators. Biofouling can reduce propulsion efficiency by up to 30% and increase fuel consumption by as much as 20%. This can have a significant impact on operational costs.  

Marine biofouling can harm your vessel operations in a number of ways. It can reduce your ship’s speed, increase its fuel consumption, and make it harder to steer. 

In this blog post, we’ll give you a brief overview of how biofouling is a threat to your vessel and methods for its early detection.

What is Marine Biofouling?

Biofouling is the accumulation of organisms on the surface of ship hulls, marine structures, and other underwater surfaces. Although marine biofouling isn’t always a bad thing; it can have negative implications for ship operation and safety if left unmanaged. 

 

These organisms also leave behind additional slime and mucus that completely deteriorate the appearance of the marine vessel, corrode metal surfaces, and reduce efficiency at a higher level. 

marine biofouling

Harmful Impact on your Marine Vessel 

Deterioration of marine vessel bottoms

When submerged in water, the hull of a ship will be subject to attack from water-borne organisms, such as barnacles, mussels, seaweed, and crabs. These organisms will latch onto the hull, increasing hull roughness and drag. This forces the ship to either increase power consumption to compensate or operate the ship at a slower speed. Increasing power consumption also increases bunker consumption, which causes costs to climb. Operating the ship at a slower speed means the ship completes routes slower than it is capable of. Both options result in an ultimate loss of finances that would otherwise be negated on a clean hull. 

Higher operating costs 

When submerged in water, the hull of a ship will be subject to attack from water-borne organisms, such as barnacles, mussels, seaweed, and crabs. These organisms will latch onto the hull, increasing hull roughness and drag. This forces the ship to either increase power consumption to compensate or operate the ship at a slower speed. Increasing power consumption also increases bunker consumption, which causes costs to climb. Operating the ship at a slower speed means the ship completes routes slower than it is capable of. Both options result in an ultimate loss of finances that would otherwise be negated on a clean hull. 

High load on on-board systems

According to a recent study, hard-shelled fouling species such as mussels, and barnacles can increase ship resistance by up to 40% The study, carried out in 2017, found that at only a 10% coverage of barnacles on a hull, with 2.5 mm in circumference and 1.5 mm in height, an increase of resistance would be seen of 27%. This results in additional load on critical systems, which is not at all good for the ship’s performance. 

Solution: Remote vessel inspection using subsea technology – Underwater Robots

The maritime industry is facing an uphill battle concerning inspection and compliance. The global fleet continues to get bigger, older, and dirtier. New regulations are coming into place that require additional cleaning and monitoring of the fleet due to concerns regarding oil spills, sewage contamination, and other hazards. This has resulted in a scramble for solutions that can streamline inspections while also reducing costs. 

With so much at stake, a remote inspection of ships is one of the most promising solutions to this growing problem. Remote inspection allows companies to reduce time-consuming processes which involve manual laborious tasks performed by humans, such as divers or operating manual ROVs.  

Self-operating robot inspections are now enabling marine biofouling inspections to become more frequent and readily available. With robotic visual inspections, operators can monitor biofouling growth and implement measures to prevent it from occurring or reoccurring, as well as predict the optimal times to take actions such as cleanings or repairs.  

underwater robot

Blue Atlas Robotics 3D advanced technology

Blue Atlas Robotics is dedicated to working to keep your marine vessels up and running efficiently by detecting early corrosion, coating wear, and the growth of marine life on vessel hulls. Inspections are performed via advanced self-operating underwater robots. The Sentinus robot can steer itself on un-curved surfaces, around corners, and around rounded surfaces, with minimal human intervention. Inspections are performed in an ‘S’ pattern that ensures no area of the inspection target is missed.  

These robots capture high-quality inspection data which later on can be converted into interactive 3D models for extraordinary detailed vision so the asset can be zoomed in and visible from every angle.  

3D model of a ship hull generated from the captured footage of Blue Atlas Robotics underwater robot “Sentinus”

Who can benefit from using robots for underwater visual inspections?

  • Ship Owners – Whether you are an owner of a small or a large commercial fleet, knowing the condition of your assets below the waterline is essential to keep ships running optimally. Robotic inspections are the easiest and fastest way to get the job done. 
  • Shipping Industry – According to a report by the International Chamber of Shipping, 90% of the world’s goods are transported through ships. Moreover, new regulations by IMO also insist on additional cleaning and monitoring of vessels.  
  • Entities needing documentationThere are many marine-based services and products that benefit from or require solid documentation below the waterline. For example, coating companies, insurance companies, companies facilitating the acquisition or sale of vessels, can all benefit from utilizing underwater visual inspections to assess conditions below the waterline on a particular date in time.  

Blue Atlas Robotics © 2022     |     10 Forskerparken, Odense, Denmark    |       Ph: +45 29 28 25 48     |     CVR: 399 446 618

Blue Atlas Robotics © 2022     |     10 Forskerparken, Odense, Denmark    |
Ph: +45 29 28 25 48     |     CVR: 399 446 618