A ground-breaking new hull-cleaning technology saves both costs and the environment.
Words by: Eeva Haaramo
Clean underwater surfaces keep vessels operating smoothly and protect them from corrosion. Still many ports have banned conventional cleaning methods, such as divers with brushes or high-pressure cleaners which can contaminate local waters by spreading paint debris and alien invasive species. But Norwegian startup company Ecosubsea has a solution.
“We have developed a system which collects 97.5% of all the debris released in a cleaning operation, substantially more than previous technologies,” says Tor Østervold, CEO of Ecosubsea.
Ecosubsea uses remotely controlled minisubmarines to clean large vessels while they are in a port. The submarine is equipped with a unique cleaning and collection technology which cleans the hull efficiently without damaging its antifouling paint and stops alien invasive species from spreading in the water. A software application is then used to accurately estimate when the vessel needs cleaning in the future.
Ecosubsea’s advancement is important not only for the marine environment, but a debris-free hull also causes less friction in the water which minimises emissions to air and reduces fuel costs.
“We give shipowners and operators control over their bio-fouling so their vessels perform better, use less fuel and have reduced CO2 emissions,” Østervold explains.
THE POWER OF COLLABORATION
Ecosubsea was founded in 2008 by Tor Østervold and his brother Klaus to develop an in-water cleaning system for the fishing industry. But it wasn’t until late 2010 when the brothers met captain Filip Svensson, vice president of marine operations at Wilh. Wilhelmsen ASA, that the concept really took off.
Wilhelmsen championed the technology from the start and helped Ecosubsea develop their offering specifically for the needs of the maritime industry. The cleaning system, which was launched in mid-2014, has now won three industry awards and is used by all Wilhelmsen’s vessels in Europe.
“It has been a beneficial collaboration for both sides,” says Svensson.
“We have been able to clean our hulls in an environmentally friendly way and reduce the cost of operating our ships, while Ecosubsea has been able to penetrate the market and create a beneficial service for it.
” Wilhelmsen also played a part in opening the doors to the port of Southampton for Ecosubsea. The English port has some of the strictest bio-risk policies in the world and didn’t allow any hull-cleaning until hearing Ecosubsea’s plans. Two years later Ecosubsea has just finished the installation of its second cleaning station at Southampton.
The collaboration between Wilhelmsen and Ecosubsea comes as the impact of environmental issues is under increasing scrutiny in the global maritime industry.
“From our point of view the environmental aspect is the number one key factor when choosing a product or a service,” Svensson stresses. This change can already be seen in regulation. Several ports around the world are planning to forbid vessels even entering their port if they cannot prove their hulls are kept clean. In Europe, a new reporting system is also being introduced which requires vessels to annually submit their CO2 emissions. This all means a growing demand for Ecosubsea. The company is currently building up its capacity in Europe and preparing to expand into Asia and the US within the next few years.
“Our goal is to make as big a difference to the environment as possible and help optimise the performance of vessels. We want to set a new standard for in-water cleaning and environmental services,” Østervold concludes.