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Home Environment A 100% non-toxic underwater hull coating for an ecofriendly newbuild research vessel

A 100% non-toxic underwater hull coating for an ecofriendly newbuild research vessel

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MYA_II_SyltEarlier this year the underwater hull of the newbuild research vessel MYA II was given a lasting Ecospeed protection. The application was carried out at the Fassmer shipyard in Berne, Germany, where the vessel was launched on August 12.

The vessel was handed over to the coastal researchers at the Alfred Wegener Institute (AWI), Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research at the Wadden Sea Station on the island of Sylt, Germany.

In a brief speech, AWI director Prof. Dr. Karin Lochte emphasized the importance of the ship for research into the Wadden Sea, which is a world heritage site. She also referred to the benefits for young scientists who, in future, will use the MYA II as a marine research platform on the doorstep. “Whilst this is our smallest research vessel, it is extremely modern and ideally equipped for coastal research”, said Prof. Dr. Karin Lochte. She is impressed by the modern technology on board which is reminiscent of the equipment on large research vessels.

The head of AWI logistics, Dr. Uwe Nixdorf, underlined the positive cooperation with the shipyard and suppliers which, bearing in mind the demanding requests of scientists, was impressive. The order to build a research ship around 20 meters in length for up to twelve researchers was supplemented by wishes such as: shallow draught, possibility of falling dry in the mud flats, various winches, plumb lines, measuring instruments, a crane and a speed of ten knots. After all, the new ship ought to be able to outperform its predecessor, the now 35 year-old MYA.

Lasting protection for vessel sailing in UNESCO world heritage site

The interaction of flora and fauna in the food web is one of the biological key issues examined at the AWI Wadden Sea Station. Scientists are now able to investigate the demands of individual species and their interaction without a need for intervention in the ecosystem. This provides them with the basis for a responsible use of the Wadden Sea, which is a UNESCO world heritage site.

MYA II was also awarded the “Blue Angel” eco label for its environmentally friendly design.  “We placed great value on environmentally friendly technology when building the MYA II in order to minimise disturbance to the Wadden Sea caused by research activities, ” says Prof. Dr. Karin Lochte. The new ship has a particulate filter as well as a waste gas purification system, which removes nitrogen oxide (NOx) from engine exhaust fumes. As a result, the NOx emissions of the MYA II are around 85 % below the current limit.

Ecospeed ties in perfectly with the ecological ideas behind the design of the research vessel. The coating offers a TBT-free, copper-free, biocide-free and silicone oil free solution for the protection of the underwater hull. The Ecospeed hull protection and performance system is today’s Best Available Technology for reduction of fuel consumption, GHG and other emissions through hull hydrodynamics and fouling control.

In 2008, stringent tests were carried out within the framework of an EU LIFE demonstration project to provide scientific data and to authenticate the non-toxicity of the Ecospeed hull performance technology. This research proved that the coating is 100% free of toxic substances  and that there is no negative effect on the water quality or the marine environment at any point of its application or use. Moreover, the massive amounts of VOC and zinc anode emission associated with conventional hull coating systems are reduced to almost zero.

Preventing the spread of Non-Indigenous Species

Over the last several years, there have been concerns that non-indigenous species (NIS) are transported by fouled hulls just as much or even more than in ballast water. Once a hull becomes heavily fouled, a situation occurs where there is an increased risk of transporting NIS that needs to be remedied by defouling activities, either by out-of-water removal or by underwater cleaning. In this respect, underwater cleaning has come under some scrutiny out of fear that viable NIS are released and spread, rather than contained and disposed of by the operation. Several ports and countries have banned underwater cleaning out of concerns about pulse release of biocides and/or an increased risk of transferring NIS. Taking into account the delicate environment MYA II will be sailing in, this is an especially important issue for the researchers.

The underwater cleaning of Ecospeed can be regarded as a safe measure that prevents, rather than remedies, the spread of NIS. Firstly, Ecospeed can be cleaned on a regular basis without damaging the coating’s surface. The cleaning interval is optimized to minimize fouling and the associated increase in fuel consumption. In other words, regular cleaning prevents macrofouling from building up and at the same time presents an opportunity to inspect so-called niche areas. Secondly, Ecospeed is a very durable coating that withstands abrasive cleaning for which very effective specialized tools have been developed. As a result, many of the fouling organisms will be destroyed during cleaning. As long as only microfouling or locally acquired macrofouling is cleaned off the hull and niche areas, the risk of translocation of NIS via hull fouling is minimal. Standard use of Ecospeed is the key to resolving the hull-borne NIS issue.


The use of an environmentally safe underwater ship hull coating was essential in fulfilling the ecological goals of the Alfred Wegener Institute. During research in the Wadden Sea it needs to be ensured that the ecosystem being studied is not disturbed. Ecospeed offers a perfect lasting solution for any individual or company that takes its environmental responsibility seriously.

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