Innovation key to addressing coating challenges

Improving efficiency and reducing environmental impact are two key issues generating much attention within an industry grappling with a lingering market recession and new, more stringent environmental regulations. Coating suppliers must innovate to help ship owners and operators meet the challenges ahead.

In the global supply and demand game, marine coatings companies are competing intensely to capture more market share. Shipowners and operators want their vessels to operate more efficiently, with the monitoring and graphs to match. Meanwhile, companies supplying the raw materials to the coatings market are pushing for higher prices to meet their own increasing costs.

The driving force behind this market pressure is, in part, new regulations which force many vessels to use more expensive fuels. Tier-III NOx regulations, and a new global sulphur cap coming in 2020, dictate an increasing level of environmental performance from vessels, and by extension, the coatings they use. For leading coating companies like Jotun, it is about responding to customer and market needs in a professional and responsible manner that benefits all stakeholders.

Unless something in the maritime industry changes dramatically, the world fleet will continue to be dogged by structural overcapacity as new and more technologically-advanced vessels hit the water. And ships are evolving to meet the new regulations; it was ballast water treatment last year, VOC emissions this year, and most likely followed by bunkering fuel in the coming years. The IMO might also regulate biofouling.

These incrementally more fuel-efficient newbuilds displace older tonnage, able to better offset their costs and provide a better value-offering for charterers.

Expanding on the possible implications of the new regulations, the cost of oil may be low at present, but it is correcting. Regardless, fuel is the biggest expense in ship operation in many cases. The entry into force of the IMO´s 2020 global sulphur regulations, too, capping bunker fuels´ sulphur content at 0.5%, is likely to chase up refinery demand ahead of capacity, making it very unlikely ship fuel will get any cheaper in the coming decades .

Two-fold problem

Owners of existing ships will be hit with a two-fold problem, then; just as the price of their fuel rises again, new environmental regulation like the EU´s monitoring, Reporting and Verification (MRV) plan, China´s newly-delineated ECA zones, and IMO’s Ballast Water Management Convention and sulphur cap will place vessels under ever-closer environmental pressure.

In this climate, it will be hard for older ships to compete, and many owners might elect to scrap them rather than fit them with the requisite machinery for compliance. As a consequence, the lifespan of a ship is shorter than ever. Where existing vessels do survive, owners face unprecedented pressure to ensure that the competitiveness of these assets diminishes as little as possible over the rest of their service lives.

Today’s interlude of low fuel prices, before the onset of much upcoming, market-upending regulation, is likely then to be the best time to invest to keep existing vessels “fighting-fit” and coating companies can play an important role in helping owners and operators.

Recommendations to reduce costs

Here’s some recommendations to reduce costs in relation to coatings and hull and propeller performance. For starters, the choice of a high-performance antifouling system is important. There are plenty of inefficiencies to worry about on an existing vessel, but even if it is not the most premium choice of coating, moving one step up the ladder will ensure the hull is not one of them.

Surface preparation is also key since a poor surface preparation can completely negate the advantages of a premium hull coating. Also, frequent propeller cleaning is probably the lowest cost approach to reducing fuel consumption and improving performance. Operators should also conduct regular underwater hull inspection and cleaning when required. Do not wait until the hull is covered with macro-fouling. An underwater hull cleaning carried out at an earlier stage minimises performance losses due to fouling organisms and minimizes the risk of damages to the coating.

Ensuring that the correct new building spec is discussed from the start is also recommended. Often antifouling systems are specified as ‘TBT-free self-polishing for 60 months’ leaving leeway for yards to ask for a low-cost system, and for paint makers to try to cut costs by offering their lower range, just-about-suitable products. Owners that are more specific and willing to invest a bit more at the initial stage, will recoup much greater savings over the service life of the vessel.

Performance management

Fully exploring the potential of performance management and efficiency is also key to sustainable operations. We recommend operators to start measuring changes in hull and propeller performance according to ISO 19030. We see that certain new building projects have started to specify requirements on speed loss according to the standard for vessels delivered. If used in the right way, the standard can help improve and monitor performance and save significant amounts of money in terms of fuel costs. These are just a few recommendations. Evaluating operational patterns and ensuring lay-up at suitable locations are other means to reduce costs.

Like other leading coatings companies, Jotun is actively developing both new and existing products and services to help customers address the challenges they face. Recent examples include our new Tankguard Flexline, a cargo tank coating designed for the transportation of aggressive cargoes such as methanol. Based on flexforce technology, the coating is ideal for chemical carriers transporting the broadest range of products with rapid turnaround and the longest maintenance interval.

We are also focusing on onboard maintenance planning to help owners meet demands for increased efficiencies. Our Seastock Management Solution helps customers to achieve transparent, predictable and efficient onboard maintenance and logistics related to seastock deliveries.

Measurability and transparency

Going forward, we believe measurability and transparency will play an important role in differentiating coating suppliers, especially in relation to hull optimization programs involving monitoring and verification. Indeed, data exchange and digitalization is likely to be the foundation for future partnerships as it creates mutual value between buyer and seller. Also, we believe it is strategically essential to be on the forefront of utilizing big data efficiently. In this strategy, we are working on a number of pilot projects that are proving mutually beneficial in our day to day interaction with customers.

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