Trevor Solomon, Intersleek Business Manager at AkzoNobel’s Marine Coating’s brand, International, outlines his predictions on the key factors that will influence hull coatings investment in 2016.
While low oil prices have injected a degree of optimism into business profit projections for the next twelve months, considerable challenges still lay ahead for the shipping industry. For example, there is still overcapacity, low freight rates and intensified competition to contend with. And combined with more environmental regulations, as well as pressure from charterers to be more sustainable, it is still tough for many owners and operators, who are rightly scrutinising all costs to maintain healthy profit margins.
In particular, shipowners and operators are paying close attention to the rate of return from all services and solutions they procure – including hull coatings. When it comes to selecting the right coating for each vessel, decision makers are often influenced by the initial capex cost of the coating under consideration versus the opex savings and environmental benefits it can deliver in service.
Advanced eco-efficiency hull coatings have the ability to reduce average fuel spend on a vessel by up to nine percent per annum.
The more efficient the coating is throughout the dry docking cycle, the greater the fuel and emissions savings shipowners can pass to their charterers. It is this combination of environmental and economic benefits that increases the marketability of vessels with the most efficient hull coatings, enabling ship owners to retain a competitive edge.
While picking the hull coating that delivers the greatest efficiency may sound straight forward, it would be folly to assume so. Such an assumption would not take into consideration the fact that hull coating efficiency is dependent on a wide range of operating conditions and environmental factors, as well as the unique design of each vessel. In addition, while hull coating providers have long since produced performance predictions for their solutions; these statistics can still be met with a degree of scepticism from ship owners.
With these points in mind, what key factors will influence hull coating investment decisions in 2016?
While all technology providers, including those producing hull coatings, have long since offered insight into the fuel and CO2 saving potential of their solutions, shipowners have maintained a degree of scepticism around performance prediction. The lack of accurate and transparent supporting data underpinning statistics quoted has contributed to this mindset.
Performance testimonials can go someway in injecting confidence into a hull coating’s capabilities, but this does not take into account inherent differences in coating performance from vessel to vessel. For example, a coating on a ship operating in a ‘high fouling zone’ (warm Caribbean waters, for instance) will perform differently to the same coating applied to a vessel transitioning cold Atlantic waters, where there is a lower risk of fouling.
Therefore, creating accurate performance predictions requires a vessel-by-vessel approach, and a prediction informed by reputable and independent data sources. Additionally, accurate and transparent information should be available prior to application so that ship owners can explore the ‘what if’s’ in such a way that they can then make more informed decisions based on the key variables that influence the performance of fouling control coatings on their vessels.
To meet these expectations, in October 2015, International launched Intertrac Vision, the shipping industry’s first consultancy tool that provides accurate and transparent predictions on the fuel and CO2 savings potential of fouling control coatings, prior to application. Intertrac Vision combines an understanding of total hull roughness (micro and macro) and roughness associated with biofouling.
It also uses studies carried out by computational fluid dynamics (CFD) on different hull forms in order to make accurate predictions on the impact of fouling control coatings on the comparative powering requirements of a vessel. After four years of development, which included input from International’s scientists, operational research with more than 30 shipowners and operators, as well as leading academics and commercial research institutes, Intertrac Vision is now available to the industry.
The company has dedicated Intertrac Vision Consultants available to customer and manage relationships and the consultative engagement process. In 2016, International will continue to develop Intertrac Vision to ensure it remains current and relevant to latest shipping industry demands and dynamics.
The needs of shipowners continually change as the industry transitions. From a manufacturers perspective, this means having the capabilities to provide a real choice of fouling control technologies to meet the requirements of the full spectrum of the industry; from predictability to slime control, from customers who want premium eco-efficiency technologies, as well as those that don’t, and also those who want to slowly evolve their sustainability commitments in line with their approach to CSR and budgetary constraints, but still want cost and efficiency gains.
Within the market segment that understands the economic and environmental benefits in embracing sustainable practices, there are those who will pay the price for premium products that generate maximum efficiency gains as well as those that want something affordable that still delivers financial, efficiency and environmental benefits. These demands are reflected in International’s Intersleek and Intercept ranges.
Transitioning to eco-efficiency technologies
One of the key barriers preventing shipowners from selecting the most efficient hull coatings is the upfront investment required at the ship building and drydock stages. This is a challenge that must be addressed so that the sustainability transition is felt across the shipping industry.
Recognising this challenge, International has set out to make eco efficiency technologies more attractive to ship owners through its industry first carbon credits initiative, which rewards those who upgrade from a biocidal to a biocide free hull coating, such as one of the company’s Intersleek products. The scheme enables ship owners and operators to generate income in the form of carbon credits, which are earned by reducing CO2 emissions. These can then be sold for cash, or offset against other parts of a company’s operations.
The first carbon credits are expected to be awarded in Q1 2016, an announcement that we hope will act as a further catalyst to encourage more ship owners to select the most efficient and more sustainable hull coatings.
Delivering sustained support to shipowners
Understanding how to respond to the issues keeping shipowners awake at night is an essential hallmark of any successful coatings manufacturer. Ultimately, ship owners will continue to look for the bottom line and associated environmental benefits of each coating, but these omnipresent priorities do not give manufacturers an excuse to present the same business solutions year on year. It is essential that we continue to think laterally about how to help ship owners reach the right decision on which coating will deliver the greatest results, and in doing so, foster greater confidence in investment decisions.
The provision of added value, which goes beyond just the products, must remain a key goal that manufacturers strive for. This is our focus, and from International’s perspective, we will continue building on the innovative financial schemes such as our carbon credits initiative, which delivers extra revenue for customers, providing true consultancy through our Intertrac Vision technology, so ship owners select the products that are exactly right for their vessels and fleets, as well as sustaining R&D innovation that will enable new coatings to deliver even greater results.