The future of antifouling the debate continues

The future of antifouling the debate continues

Peter Franklin
Monday, 11 March 2019

Back in 2017, we published a blog entitled: ‘Antifoulings and the environment… a complex future.’ Peter Franklin touched upon the changes in regulations for coating type products as they could result in increased carbon dioxide emissions and proliferation of invasive species. Now, two years later, more alternatives to traditional ‘wet applied’ antifoulings have continued to be developed.

The argument has also persisted about whether relatively uncontrolled ‘Do-It-Yourself’ application of such toxic materials should continue in future. Therefore, the adoption of more 'non-paint' type systems would be helpful in this regard, and here we highlight how that might happen. 

Against this background, we were pleased to see that a day-long workshop was organised by the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management in The Netherlands. This brought together over 80 stakeholders across the value chain of antifouling technologies for use in recreational boating.

Innovation Workshop on Safer and Sustainable Antifouling

Despite the availability of a variety of antifouling alternatives that appear to have lower ecosystem and health impacts, markets have been slow to adopt these new technologies. What are the primary reasons for this in the recreational boat market? What are the needs that if addressed, could advance broader adoption of safer, sustainable antifouling choices?

Targeted outcomes:

  • the health and environmental implications and trade-offs of alternative antifouling applications.
  • To understand the performance and associated testing needs of emerging antifouling technologies.
  • To explore current marketplace challenges as well as needs and opportunities for multi-sectoral collaboration to scale adoption of sustainable, alternative antifouling technologies.
  • To identify concrete collaborative next steps to advance sustainable and feasible antifouling innovations.
  • Panel discussion - stakeholder

    A was held about performance needs from the end-user perspective. This identified that a common theme across the highly varied types of recreational boater, is that all users expect the same performance: they do not want growth/fouling that reduces the boat’s speed or increases fuel use; they want to see a clean hull; and they want solid corrosion protection.

    Some of the alternative methods of antifouling mentioned in the panel discussion included: hard coatings, ultrasonic systems, a slick, self-cleaning and repellent surface, and a surface with fine nylon hairs (like a sea urchin) which is applied as a film/wrap, thus preventing barnacles and other organisms from reaching and attaching to the hull.

    A number of common themes expressing the biggest challenges for innovators emerged from the discussions, these included:

  • Lack of consideration of lifetime ownership costs: short term expenditure decisions, rather than investment in new technologies giving longer term benefits.
  • Moving from R&D to full production: more customers willing to navigate the innovation experience are needed.)
  • Lack of standardized and recognised testing standards is a barrier: the sector is comparing apples to oranges.
  • Convincing recreational boaters is difficult: the industry is still highly influenced by word-of-mouth.
  • Another question posed was: ‘’What other actions are needed to stimulate development and adoption of safe and sustainable antifouling options?’’ Responses included:

  • We need government to stimulate transition options, particularly hull cleaning operations.
  • Use a fleet of government vessels to showcase alternative technologies. (Dutch Navy is already doing this.)
  • Create a group of ‘pioneers’ – shipyards and boat owners – to test the new alternatives.
  • Undertake government-initiated education and awareness initiatives.
  • Participants also strongly suggested other measures going forward, such as:

  • Continued evaluation of environmental impacts. (A lot of questions remain unanswered about the long-term effects of some new technologies on the ocean environment.)
  • More collaborative performance testing. (Involving users, product producers and independent scientists.)
  • The next steps

    The workshop clearly proved that a productive dialog is possible, despite some areas of disagreement, and the amount of conflicting information about an ever-wider range of alternative products.

    The Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management will continue to work on different lines of action suggested at the workshop, such as awareness raising and communication, and looking for incentives for adoption of alternatives. In particular, the Ministry will, together with stakeholders, endeavour to set up a joint performance testing programme.

    METSTRADE will be kept informed of developments, which we will continue to share details of with our Online Community. 

    Previous antifouling blogs at METSTRADE:

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