When marine plants and animals attach to the hulls of ships, a process known as fouling, it creates big problems for budgets, businesses and the environment. But one Finland-based startup has a breakthrough idea that could reduce environmental impact, while enhancing business for ship owners and operators.
Once marine life attaches to underwarter objects, like a ship’s hull, they can damage the ship and increase drag. In addition to increasing fuel costs and CO2 emissions from higher power needed to propel the ship, mussels and barnacles can be difficult to remove, leading to operational downtime and another hit to a shipping business’s budget. The accumulated costs of hull fouling can amount to $30 billion in business costs, plus millions of tons of CO2 annually.
FoulFighter is developing an automated device to fight fouling early, preventing buildup and helping ships reduce environmental pollution and operational costs. Here’s how it works:
- A rail is installed on the side of a vessel or is integrated with an existing side rail.
- A wagon is attached to the rails on both sides of the shop and runs between the bow and aft to carry a line running beneath the ship, like floss across teeth.
- The wagon has rotating and tightening systems and the line has a cleaning function. As it runs back and forth on the shop, the line must apply the correct pressure on the hull.
Though the device is automated, it comes with a user interface to enable easy control and safe operation. Remote access to the unit is also routed through the interface and automation system.
Collaborating during COVID
As a member of the 3DEXPERIENCE Lab, Dassault Systèmes’ global initiative for accelerating startups, FoulFighter has access to the 3DEXPERIENCE platform, with its software tools, dedicated monitoring and training, among other benefits. This proved invaluable for a diverse international team, who’ve been able to collaborate seamlessly even though they’ve never met in person due to the COVID-19 pandemic. FoulFighter uses 3DS design, simulation and collaboration tools to develop its products from the first sketch to production of systems for international delivery to shipowners.
“We always work remotely, collaborating with online tools and meeting regularly to drive our physical product ideas forward,” the FoulFighter team explains. “Now, our network will continue to grow naturally through the association with Dassault Systèmes, enabling us to work in ever wider circles and bringing in talent with additional expert skills.”
Huge global impact
Roughly 90% of the world trade is carried across the oceans. It’s easy to see how the costs of biofouling add up. For example, 3 tons of additional fuel consumption produces 9.6 tons of additional CO2 emissions.
Proactively dealing with early-stage fouling biofilm on a tanker can avoid as much as a 10% increase in fuel consumption due to fouling and prevents costly damage to the vessel, according to FoulFighter. By that math, the FoulFighter solution should more than pay for itself in just three years, the company said.
Additional benefits of the FoulFighter solution include reducing the spread of invasive species carried on ships and reducing the amount of potentially dangerous underwater cleaning and repair work needed to be done by divers.
The company says the optimal vessel type for the FoulFighter solution is a shoebox hull tanker/bulker that’s over 100 meters. On such a ship, the continuous soft-touch cleaning system could clean about 90% of the ship’s hull sustainably.