Coatings: Professional Grade


By Tom Peters 05-13-2016 06:32:01

(Article originally published in Mar/Apr 2016 edition.)

Today’s coatings are technological marvels and can withstand almost anything Mother Nature throws at them.

By Tom Peters

American satirist Mark Twain once said, “To stand still is to fall behind.” And in today’s world of rapidly evolving technology, companies follow Twain’s maxim to the letter in order to remain competitive. It’s no different in the complex world of developing and manufacturing marine coatings. If you stand still, you will definitely fall behind.

According to a recent report by research firm MarketsandMarkets, the marine coatings market will be worth an estimated $10.4 billion by 2019. Asia-Pacific countries dominate with China and South Korea, the top two shipbuilders in the world, ranking one and two. The M&M report said the main contributing factors to the growth of the market are (1) “the continued expansion of the oil and gas market,” (2) “more extensive use of coatings to ensure long-term protection of marine assets,” and (3) “the implementation of IMO ballast tank coating rules.”

The report adds that “strict environmental regulations and customer preference for eco-friendly products are boosting innovation.”

From Lab to Market

Millions of dollars are spent annually in the development of marine coatings to combat numerous conditions – harsh environments, heat, cold, ice, corrosion and biofouling, to name a few. The list of requirements is almost as long as the number of products on the market to deal with them. Hempel, Sherwin-Williams, AkzoNobel and PPG Industries are among the major global manufacturers of these highly sophisticated compounds.

However, the development of a new product does not happen overnight. It can be a long and arduous process to find and produce a coating that meets specific needs. “It depends on the complexity of the product to be developed, but typically it can range from one to five years,” say the folks at Hempel.

As many as 15 to 20 raw materials are used in the development of a high performance marine paint. In the skillful and knowledgeable hands of chemical engineers and laboratory technicians, products are developed and tested extensively before being introduced to the market. There are often third-party approvals and certifications needed to document that the new product is fit for its desired purpose, says Hempel. Obtaining the external approvals and certifications can take a few months to more than a year, depending on the areas where it will be applied.

Extreme Temperatures

One of the harshest environments is the Arctic, where temperatures can drop to well below -50o C/-58oF, which means that even in fair weather atmospheric icing from sea-spray will seriously damage a ship’s superstructure or destabilize it.

Hull coatings play a vital role in a ship’s performance in ice, and the type of coating applied depends on the vessel. An icebreaker, for example, takes a different coating than a vessel moving through icy waters on a trade route. Improving a vessel’s performance in ice also helps reduce fuel costs and consumption and increase passage speeds. Hempel says it has achieved a high-performance, pure epoxy coating (Hempadur Multi-Strength GF 35870) that delivers exceptional results in ice conditions.

At the other extreme, Hempel has recently launched a product called Hempadur 15460 that deals with higher temperatures. Hempadur 15460 is a high-grade product specifically designed as a tank coating for crude and product tankers. It is resistant to continuous immersion in a range of chemicals, including crude oil, up to temperatures of 80oC/176oF.

More Than One to a Customer

The complexity of the coatings’ industry is amplified when you consider the number of different coatings required for one vessel type. A cruise ship that carries thousands of passengers has numerous scenarios to consider in its coating applications.

Hempel points out that “A cruise ship needs a beautiful and long-lasting aesthetic appearance, which is why color-matching, as well as long-lasting protection, is very important for the owner’s brand. The cruise ship has areas requiring highly abrasive-resistant coatings with high temperature resistance and low flame spread properties. Like other ships, it also needs specialty coating systems for drinking water tanks, different kinds of wastewater tanks, fuel tanks, etc. On top of this, cruise companies strive for a ‘green image,’ which often leads to a selection of fuel-efficient coating systems to prevent hull fouling and produce the lowest possible fuel consumption.”

Other types of ships have, to a large extent, similar needs, meaning that the number of different paints applied is roughly the same but the types of coatings can differ. Cruise ships, for example, mainly operate in extreme waters, either very cold Arctic waters or very warm waters such as the Caribbean. In warm waters fouling occurs much more easily, so a specific coating is required to deal with this. 

Cruise ships also have varying sailing patterns, another factor to be considered when choosing marine coatings. They often steam for one day and then sit for another, which can increase the chance of fouling.

PPG Protective & Marine Coatings has taken aim at antifoulings with its product SIGMA SAILADVANCE, a new range of high-performance antifoulings suitable for a variety of operating conditions. SIGMA SAILADVANCE currently comprises four coatings based on self-release binder technology using controlled surface active polymers (CSPs), which provide a self-lubricating and self-release mechanism to the coating.

CSPs act on the coating/water interface as a lubricant, lowering the hull friction when the ship is sailing and delivering fuel savings averaging five percent. In addition, CSPs create a “slippery surface” that increases the resistance to fouling when the ship is not sailing.

AkzoNobel, another prominent coatings manufacturer, has introduced an innovative feature that will benefit the cruise industry when selecting coatings. The company has added cruise vessels to Intertrac Vision, its “big data” tool that provides accurate and transparent predictions on the fuel and CO2 savings potential of antifouling coatings prior to application.

“Hull coatings play a key role in the profitability and sustainability of these vessels due to the fuel and CO2 savings that can be delivered,” said Michael Hindmarsh, Project Lead for Intertrac Vision. “Through Intertrac Vision we can provide cruise vessel owners with tangible proof of the ROI from the comparison of fouling-control coatings prior to application. In doing so, we can support the long-term profitability and sustainability of the cruise industry. Furthermore, as part of the continued evolution of Intertrac Vision, we expect to add LNG vessels to the technology shortly.”

Worker Safety

Global coatings manufacturer Sherwin-Williams, like its counterparts, is constantly striving to produce coatings that meet and exceed industry and regulatory standards. The company’s Protective & Marine Coatings Division has introduced a new product, Heat-Flex 3500, designed not only to minimize corrosion under insulation (CUI) but also to enhance worker safety, a major concern in any environment.

The new insulative acrylic coating was not designed specifically for the marine industry but has several marine applications. It offers burn protection and insulation for piping, manifolds and ductwork throughout a vessel; burn protection for hot surfaces in engine rooms; heat transfer mitigation on engine room walls to minimize heat migration to other areas; freeze protection for fuel lines and water lines, and sound-dampening for anywhere that the transmission of noise and vibration is undesirable, including accommodation spaces, engine rooms, bulkheads, overheads and decks.

The product can be applied directly to ambient or hot surfaces up to 350°F/177°C, says the company, helping reduce downtime by keeping systems online during coating and recoating applications. In addition, the product insulates hot and cold surfaces, helping industrial processes retain heat and preventing condensation on cold surfaces by maintaining surface temperatures above the dew point. Its insulative and anti-corrosive properties can eliminate concerns related to CUI. The protective coating system prevents corrosion-causing condensation on the exterior of piping, ductwork and other surfaces wrapped in conventional insulation and cladding.

Eliminating VOCs

The complexities and science involved in the development and production of marine coatings in a highly competitive industry are vast. But the challenge involves more than just covering surfaces with appropriate coatings.

“We understand that the marine industry is under increasing pressure to comply with evolving environmental regulations, and these have been a key influencer for innovation and technological advances in our sector,” says Hempel. “These new regulations demand antifouling products with lower volatile organic compounds (VOCs), higher solids and less harmful biocides while at the same time providing superior performance, which is why we have invested heavily in R&D to modify and develop new coatings that meet shipowners’ environmental requirements.”

To enhance its focus, Hempel said it has signed a cooperation agreement with classification society DNV GL to work together to bring customers clear, comprehensible and verifiable analytics to track and assess hull and propeller performance for reduced fuel costs, improved energy efficiency and a smaller environmental footprint. – MarEx  

Tom Peters is a regular contributor to The Maritime Executive.

The opinions expressed herein are the author's and not necessarily those of The Maritime Executive.