Bringing ship husbandry into a new age was the message of a briefing to maritime journalists at the Antwerp headquarters of underwater repair specialists Hydrex and sister company Subsea Industries, manufacturers of the Ecospeed coatings.

“Ship care is at the point of a major step into the future with new technologies for hull maintenance”, said Hydrex CEO Boud Van Rompay in a statement to the industry outlining a strategy for the widescale adoption of hard hull coatings. These require little or no repair at drydock and last the lifetime of the ship. The hard coatings such as Ecospeed are suitable for regular cleaning which returns ongoing improvement in hull performance, as opposed to the normal pattern of gradual paint degradation and increased hull friction.

The growth of adoption of hard coatings would attract more work to yards in North-West Europe, he explained, as shorter dry-dock times would make them more cost-effective than travel to Asia. As part of the strategy Hydrex has recently opened up sale of its hull cleaning machines to the industry at large, giving owners wider options for cleaning.

“The technology to greatly improve maintenance, environmental care and efficiency is already with us”, said Van Rompay. “We can make ships washable with hull coatings that last the lifetime of the vessel. They can be cleaned as often as needed, so they are always at their most efficient. The technology is Ecospeed, a glass-flake coating that is treatable underwater, is easy to apply and forms a complete and lasting barrier between the steel of the hull and the water. It is the next step in ship hull evolution: after going from wood to steel, we are at the beginning of a new age: the combination of steel with a hard, durable coat to protect it.

“Our hull coatings completely answer the problems of corrosion, cavitation and environmental safety. And in doing so they represent a huge cost saving for owners and operators, since it is well established that a freshly cleaned hull uses the least amount of fuel.”

Hydrex say more than 800 vessels have adopted the coatings, either to fully replace anti-fouling coatings or for rudders, where application offers lifetime prevention of cavitation damage. “Our customers are developing their own tailored strategies and have all reduced drydocking times considerably by adopting Ecospeed. Recoating is simply not needed, and even after sailing in extreme and abrasive ice only minor touch ups are required”, he continued. “Ecoshield, an adaptation of our coating for rudder protection, has been used by some 500 vessels in the short time since its release. With this coating we close the book on cavitation damage to rudders.” But rather than reduce yard business, the yards would be able to concentrate on more profitable refits, repairs and maintenance on ships which would remain profitable for their owners, he continued.

Non-toxic hard hulls, with a regime of regular cleaning, also offer a solution to the joint problems of fouling ad NIS transfer, he said.

“Hydrex is a producer of new expertise and disruptive technology – we have already changed the face of ship repairs with the introduction of a whole raft of underwater repairs. These techniques now daily save ship owners millions of dollars and lost time, as schedules do not have to be abandoned for unscheduled drydocking.

“With autonomous ships now on the horizon, our expertise brings care of the ship hull into the 21st Century.”

The briefing coincided with the announcement of completion of application of Ecolock, a version of Ecospeed designed for static vessels, on a newbuild Floating Storage and Regastification Unit (FSRU) in China. This was the second project carried out for EXMAR, after the application on the Caribbean FLNG in 2013.

Like the first project, the FSRU was built in blocks, coated individually before assembly and leaving only the weld seams and the areas inaccessible due to the support blocks to be painted after assembly. Ecolock is designed to remain in excellent condition for up to 20 years without drydocking, repair or replacement, and can be cleaned underwater as often as needed to meet the UWILD and weight requirements of FPSOs, drill ships and other offshore vessels.