Robotic Hull Cleaning Advances in Dutch Ports
Recent acceptance to operate in Rotterdam and proof of sustainability claims after more than 500 hull cleaning operations help propel ECOsubsea, the robotic hull cleaning system.
The Dutch national regulatory body Rijkswaterstaat gave the Norwegian company the green light to start offering hull cleaning services to vessels at all Dutch Ports including Europe’s biggest port, the Port of Rotterdam, a move that is helping the firm solidify its position in Europe following similar permissions in Antwerp, Zeebrugge, Ghent and Southampton.
“Ports want evidence that our system works,” said ECOsubsea CEO Tor Østervold. “We can now give it to them. They also want evidence that vessels have active hull biofouling plans, and we are helping operators and ports with the digital implementation of that too,” he added.
ECOsubsea’s system works by having a robotic cleaning system, move over a ship’s hull, gently removing the fouling off the hull without damaging the vessel’s hull coating. This is an important factor for ports that are increasingly concerned that heavy metals and micro-plastics, which are often found in hull coatings, may contaminate their waters when hulls are cleaned.
The cleaning and suction system then draws the fouling detritus ashore or onto a barge, where it is filtered out of the water and sent ashore for processing. Tests by ECOsubsea and seen by the ports that are keen to see the system used, show that virtually all of the detritus taken off the hull will be sent ashore.
“At the end of last year we were only in Southampton,” adds Østervold. “Now we are in a growing number of ports including Amsterdam and Rotterdam.”
For Østervold a giant port such as Rotterdam, with a strong environmental benchmark, is an important step in the evolution of the company.
The port of Rotterdam’s Breakbulk Business Manager Irene Bennett points to the role the Authority plays in generating a healthier environment, primarily concerning air quality, noise and the natural environment and biodiversity and water quality.
“We recognize that efficient cleaning of ship hulls is better for the water quality in the port and reduces CO2 emissions and fuel costs,” she ado.
“The advantages of initiatives like ECOsubsea will enhance the sustainability of the entire transport chain. The Port of Rotterdam is therefore happy to promote initiatives that fit in well with our corporate social responsibility goals.”
To help owners and operators ECOsubsea urges owners to be proactive and has a system in place to help operators determine the best time to undergo a cleaning. “While onboard performance systems can detect drops in performance due to hull and propeller fouling, it is often at a point when there is already a visible build up of biofouling on parts of the hull,” says Østervold. ”Visual inspections of a hull are still an important part of hull husbandry.”