South Korean ballast water treatment system manufacturer Techcross has signed a research and development memorandum of understanding to investigate anti-fouling treatment equipment for key clients
The MOU was signed with four customers – three major domestic shipping companies and one Japanese shipping company – to research and develop technologies related to ship biofouling prevention and treatment equipment.
Biofouling refers to a phenomenon in which various substances such as bacteria and aquatic micro-organisms accumulate on the surface of an artificial structure in contact with liquid, causing the structure to be corroded or difficult to move.
The development of technologies for biofouling prevention and treatment devices to prevent this phenomenon is drawing attention as a new business area.
In fact, after enacting the BWM Convention in 2004, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) also promulgated Guidelines on management and control for reducing the movement of invasive hazardous species by ship-attached organisms at the 62nd MEPC meeting in July 2011.
Although the destruction of the marine ecosystem due to harmful micro-organisms contained in the ballast water is perceived as a serious issue, it also recognised that the direct movement of organisms and disturbance of the ecosystem by the organisms attached to the ship cannot be overlooked.
According to various research projects, it is estimated that more than 60% of aquatic organisms invading the coast of California in the United States were caused by hull-attached organisms.
Outside of the shipping industry, during the 2016 Rio Olympics, water pollution in the rowing stadium caused by biofouling led athletes to visit hospitals, noted Techcross.
In February 2020, the IMO Subcommittee on Pollution Prevention and Response in London agreed to implement effective guidelines for resolving biofouling and review continuously for practicable measures.
Industry experts say legislation pertaining biofouling is also a matter of time as environmental regulations are being tightened. Currently, there are methods put into practice to prevent biofouling, but they are limited to passive activities, such as using antifouling paint to reduce deposits or cleaning the hull in a drydock.
Active solutions are problematic. Attachments to the hull increase the frictional force and the weight of the ship, thereby increasing the fuel cost and reducing the operational efficiency of the ship.
The anti-biofouling technology scheduled to be introduced in the market by Techcross is aimed at providing a total solution for biofouling management by securing both after-treatment and prevention technologies at the same time.
Techcross is developing a treatment solution that helps to eliminate biofouling by an eco-friendly method in a land-based or onboard treatment facility after a underwater robot cleaning process, as well as the physical or chemical method of prevention solutions to avoid biofouling attaching on a niche area such as a propeller and rudder, which is hard for an underwater robot to approach.
Through this anti-biofouling technology, ships will not only be able to improve fuel efficiency by about 5-10%, but will be able to contribute to the greenhouse gas emissions reduction policy IMO is pursuing as a major policy.
In addition, this technology has the potential to be applied not only to marine and plant businesses, but also to water treatment facilities, manufacturing and processing industries, and agricultural and farming industries, reported Techcross.