A lot has been written on the advantages of the Ecospeed underwater ship hull coating system. The coating offers many long term benefits to shipowners, ship managers and operators and this both from an economical as well as ecological point of view. The more practical and direct advantages of Ecospeed have been documented much less. In this article we take a closer look at how applying Ecospeed to a vessel can save much worry, time and hassle for superintendents and shipyards during drydockings, as well as save expenses for the owner.
Despite some supplier claims to the contrary, almost no underwater hull coating provides for the most basic objective which is to protect the steel from corrosion and prevent the hull from ‘roughening’ with age. When ships come into drydock, it is not uncommon to observe delamination of multiple paint layers. There is often also evidence of corrosion and hull roughening. Repairs of the underwater hull coating systems greater than 50 percent of the underwater area, and up to and including complete replacement of the hull coating, are not uncommon. This results in significant cost to the shipowners, both in terms of materials and labor, and in fuel costs due to the roughened conditions of the hulls and ultimately also in frequent required drydocking-time. So it’s easy to see that the total cost of ownership (TCO) of a vessel would drop for a ship operating with a hull that is effectively protected.
Ecospeed is an extremely hard coating system with optimized hydrodynamics that can easily be maintained in service. This has a huge potential for reducing total cost of ownership of the vessel. When ships come out of the water after lengthy periods, there is no delamination of the coating from the hull, there are no paint blisters that would be indicative of anti-corrosive failure, and the overall hull is still smooth. There are also the environmentally friendly aspects of the product. Studies done in the EU, by the Netherlands in particular, have determined that in-water cleaning of Ecospeed produces no materials that are toxic to the marine environment.
High quality application– the secret of long term durability
The reason for the pristine condition of the Ecospeed coating after several service years is very simple according to Mr. Gunnar Ackx, managing director of SCICON Worldwide, an independent coating inspection and consulting company.
As a coating inspector and consultant, Gunnar Ackx has had the opportunity to inspect and assist the very first Ecospeed application, just over ten years ago. “When I first saw the ship come out of the water prior to the Ecospeed application and noticed how banged up the hull was, my first reaction was: ‘This is never going to work.’ But that job certainly did prove me wrong. I have been amazed at Ecospeed’s performance ever since.”
To Mr. Ackx it is clear that the high quality of an Ecospeed application is key to the excellent results obtained with the coating. “We always advocate that surface preparation is the foundation of any coating system. So as soon as you start tampering with the quality of the surface preparation, you will tamper with the total quality, hence service life of ANY coating. A proverb that we often use during our inspection assignments is: ‘If you fail to prepare, prepare to fail’ which says a lot about the above. Once you have applied the 2-coat Ecospeed hull coating, you’ll never have to reblast again, throughout the entire service life of the ship.”
The importance of a quality standard during application cannot be overestimated. Ecospeed’s manufacturers have access to very extensive research in this field and especially regarding the decay or degradation of other paint systems over drydocking intervals. Most of the time the effect of this degradation of the paint system and the build up of paint layers on the fuel efficiency of the ship has been largely underestimated. Ideally, during a second special survey of a ship in drydock there are very substantial benefits in stripping away all the old paint; immediate fuel savings of up to 20-30% are very realistic numbers.
When the Ecospeed coating is applied correctly this build up of paint layers is ended forever. Any paint system is only as good as it is applied. For this reason at least one Ecospeed coating inspector is present and available for the painters on every job. This is to check the conditions during the application process, but also to work closely with them to help ensure a very easy and smooth application. Because the inspectors are closely involved with the application, they know exactly what has happened during the coating process. This allows them to approve the 10 year warranty that comes with an Ecospeed application.
Ecospeed works with its own team of highly certified, highly qualified coating inspectors. These inspectors have been working with the company for many years. They are not only familiar with Ecospeed, but with a wide variety of other coating systems. They are also very important in terms of cooperation with the shipyard, making sure that the product is applied according to the required standards and thus that the results will be there for the shipowner for the next ten years and beyond.
Cost of application and maintenance in relation to total cost of ownership
If an owner really has problems with the cost of such surface preparation, Gunnar usually sits down with them to do the math on the alternatives. “If you reapply 2, 3 to 4 layers of antifouling coating on the entire hull and are re-doing the above every 3 to 5 years, you inevitably come to a point where there are too many layers of coating on the ship’s hull.” Gunnar then tells them that, “This will degrade the quality of the coating even more easily and rapidly because of the internal stresses being built up in the coating, resulting in a required full reblast, probably every 10 years or so.” He recalls a drydocking of a large cruise vessel where some 2.0 to 2.5 mm thick old coating system was removed completely. “It probably consisted of up to 15 or more layers, which were continuously flaking off here and there and were patch-repaired for a number of years. If you make such a calculation over, say, a 25-year service life and compare that with the initial cost of the Ecospeed application combined with the very minimal maintenance it requires, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out which is more economical. And that is not even taking into account possible reduced drydocking times and fuel savings because of some other characteristics of the Ecospeed hull coating.”
Flexible and easy to learn application process
The high standard that are demanded for an Ecospeed application does not mean that learning to work with the coating is a difficult process nor that the application itself is hard to schedule or carry out.
Applying Ecospeed is quite straightforward. Common sense needs to be used with every single coating application. There are stricter guidelines on the pot life and the thorough cleaning of equipment, but in general it paints like any other paint. Most applicators are quite familiar with hard solid paints and they know the tricks of the trade. Mr. Ackx confirms this. “Our inspectors have inspected over 125 Ecospeed jobs and every time the specifications were followed by the coating contractor, the application went very well and smoothly.”
The Ecospeed coating also offers a tremendous flexibility to the shipyard. The minimum overcoating time is three to four hours, which means that, for smaller surfaces such as rudders, propellers or bow thrusters, the two coats required can often be applied in one single day. “If blasting is done overnight and approved during a morning inspection, the object to be coated can be ready by nightfall.” Mr. Ackx tell us. “As the coating inspector, you rarely come in at the exact right time when the yard is ready to start blasting and/or coating. Especially during drydockings, there is a lot more going on than just the hull coating, which can easily interfere with the planning of your project. Because of the fact that Ecospeed consists of only 2 coats and has quick and flexible overcoating times, this often allows the Ecospeed job to be scheduled around other work taking place, resulting in minimal interference among various activities.”
Ecospeed only requires two layers of 500 µm each. This is also a major advantage compared with other hull coatings. “Whether you’re looking at classic antifouling coating systems which easily have five or more coating layers to be applied, or when comparing Ecospeed to some of the newer silicone based hull coatings, which also consist of four to five layers of coating to be applied, a two coat application is always going to be quicker, cheaper and more flexible, ” Gunnar Ackx explains.
The coating schedule can be adapted to that of the yard and it does not have to be the other way around. A traditional paint application schedule is defined by surface preparation and by the weather conditions, which are difficult to predict. In this respect the application of Ecospeed is easier to adapt to the application windows that become available. You can apply the coating quite rapidly on a prepared surface and the possible overcoat time ranges from three hours to very extended periods of time. Depending on whatever suits the owners’ or the shipyard’s schedule the second (final) coat can be applied within a couple of hours or after a few weeks or even months.
Easier to plan drydockings for the rest of the vessel’s service life
The durability of Ecospeed makes the planning of future drydockings far easier for the shipowner and the shipyard. Shipowners will not have to do any repainting beyond minor touch-ups, if needed. These can easily be done during a short drydock visit, which is in contrast to the full renewal of paint layers that is needed with other paint systems. Ecospeed is a coating system that lasts the lifetime of the vessel; the initial application is therefore critical for the success of the coating.
Mr. Ackx confirms that if a ship coated with Ecospeed comes into drydock after some years of service, the planning of this docking is so much simpler than with vessels coated with other underwater hull paint systems. “I have had the opportunity of witnessing the drydocking of a number of vessels, with different types of hull coatings. With classic antifoulings, most people in the shipping industry know what’s happening: the antifouling has to be renewed every three to five years, maximum, during which there will also easily be five, ten or more percent of corrosion present on the underwater hull, which requires spot blasting and touch-up as well. After a couple of recoating cycles, the total coating system becomes increasingly weaker, resulting in more repairs and maintenance that needs to be done with every drydocking and this up to the point where the entire underwater hull needs to be fully reblasted.”
The amount of time many ships spend in drydock is directly related to (re)painting the underwater hull. When repainting the underwater hull can be taken out of the equation for the choice of location and season for drydocking, then the story becomes a lot easier for superintendents, for the shipyards, for everybody involved.
Easy and environmentally friendly fouling removal
The standard procedure for shipyards when a ship enters drydock is a general wash down of the ship hull to clear away any fouling and residues, especially salt residues that may adhere to the coating system. With Ecospeed the coating is always in a brand new, excellent condition after the high pressure washing. The surface texture is very smooth. The high pressure washing reveals without exception that Ecospeed does not need any additional paint layers. There is also a very big difference between cleaning Ecospeed and other paints. When washing an antifouling paint in drydock, everything on the bottom of the drydock is discolored with dirty red water filled with toxins, and the antifouling paint spreads everywhere on the bottom of the drydock. With Ecospeed, none of the paint material is lost. It’s clean water that you see. Only the fouling is removed. The coating stays on the ship instead of dispersing in the water and contaminating the shipyard and the surrounding waters.
We hope that this article has helped communicate the practical aspects of applying Ecospeed, the differences between Ecospeed and other underwater hull coatings, and the low cost-to-savings ratio that can be obtained by using Ecospeed to protect the underwater hull of any vessel afloat today.