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Two-Thirds Of The Maritime Industry Underestimates The Negative Impact Of Biofouling

Biofouling's Detrimental Effects Often Underestimated by the Vast Majority of Maritime Industry

A groundbreaking study conducted by Jotun has revealed that a staggering 59% of the shipping industry fails to grasp the profound ecological repercussions of biofouling, with a concerning 25% admitting to possessing limited knowledge on the subject. Biofouling, characterized by the accumulation of microorganisms, flora, algae, and diminutive aquatic organisms on a vessel’s hull, can inflict substantial operational impediments. The encrusted marine growth beneath the waterline diminishes both speed and maneuverability, prompting captains to augment power consumption and fuel expenditure in order to compensate for the resulting velocity decrement. In the direst scenarios, the hull itself can even sustain damage.

The comprehensive survey, commissioned by Lloyd’s List on behalf of the specialized marine coatings manufacturer, encompassed the input of 100 esteemed professionals from within the shipping industry. The inquiry, conducted in May of this year [2023], follows the recent release of the GloFouling report, a collaborative effort with the International Maritime Organization (IMO). This seminal study exposed maritime transportation as accountable for a noteworthy 3% of the planet’s cumulative greenhouse gas emissions. However, the report postulated that the adoption of a pristine, biofouling-free hull would precipitate a remarkable 20% reduction in CO2 emissions, accompanied by an impressive 19% decrease in fuel expenditure.

Biofouling, an Intricate Phenomenon Biofouling materializes through the accumulation of microorganisms, flora, algae, and diminutive aquatic organisms on a ship’s hull.

Regrettably, the recent research conducted by Jotun highlights the considerable gap that still persists within the industry, hindering the realization of such substantial benefits. Merely 38% of shipping companies expressed willingness to invest in biofouling remedies beyond the conventional dry-docking process, typically conducted at five-year intervals. The prevailing reasons cited for this notable disparity revolved around lack of awareness and financial constraints. An overwhelming 62% of shipping companies acknowledged solely engaging in biofouling mitigation during the dry-docking phase. However, the GloFouling report incontrovertibly demonstrated that proactive hull and propeller cleansing, even beyond dry-docking, had the potential to save a remarkable $6.5 million in fuel costs over a span of five years.

Morten Sten Johansen, Global Marketing Director, Hull Performance Category at Jotun, remarked, “If the shipping industry adopted a more proactive stance on hull cleanliness, we could collectively reduce CO2 emissions by a staggering 198 million metric tons, according to the IMO’s global estimations published in 2022. This figure surpasses the annual emissions of Norway by more than sixfold.”

“However,” Johansen continued, “an often neglected aspect pertains to the potentially calamitous impact of biofouling on biodiversity, accentuated by the propagation of invasive aquatic species such as the Pacific oyster, which has wreaked havoc on European coastlines. The responses to our survey underscored the persistently misunderstood nature of this issue, with a mere 14% acknowledging the substantial risks it engenders.”

“In addition to enhanced fuel efficiency and reduced emissions, proactive cleansing measures would effectively mitigate the hazards that vessels pose to international waterways while safeguarding the shipping industry’s license to operate.”

The survey also shed light on the encouraging repercussions of the novel Carbon Intensity Indicator (CII) regulations. A resounding 88% of shipping industry professionals expressed their anticipation that biofouling abatement would form an integral component of their strategies aimed at bolstering fuel efficiency, curbing greenhouse gas emissions, and aligning with environmental policies.

Morten Sten Johansen further elaborated, stating, “It is heartening to witness the transformative impact that new policies are already having on the industry. Undoubtedly, we will face further regulatory challenges in the future. The imperative for decarbonization necessitates the adoption of regulations that align with the long-term objectives outlined in the Paris Agreement. Achieving this ambitious goal mandates extensive cooperation between industry stakeholders and policymakers.”

“As a global enterprise,” Johansen emphasized, “we are duty-bound to adopt a unified international approach if we are to triumph in our endeavor to reduce emissions, conserve fuel, and safeguard the precious biodiversity of our oceans.”

Jotun is set to unveil the full extent of its research during the forthcoming Nor-Shipping event. The company seeks to draw attention to the pressing issue of biofouling within the global shipping community, fostering a cleaner, greener maritime sector that diligently works towards achieving the IMO’s ambitious decarbonization targets.