Jotun – hull cleaning service with a robot

May 21 2020

Coatings company Jotun has launched a hull cleaning service with a robot cleaning device which stays permanently attached to the hull, activated and controlled by staff in a centre in Norway.

Coatings company Jotun has launched “HullSkater”, a service based around an underwater robot which can clean ships hulls of bacteria and biofilm, running across the hull on magnetic wheels.


Shipping companies don’t just buy or lease the robot, they pay for a full fouling management service. The robot stays permanently attached to a vessel’s hull, but is controlled by a team working remotely in Norway.


The remote staff estimate when the fouling needs to be removed, based on data about the ship’s position and cross referencing it to water temperature data and other environmental factors.


When the robot is in operation, the operator can see a high resolution video feed, and understand how much fouling is actually present from this. Over time the company will be able to optimise the decision about when exactly the robot should be brought into operation.


They can also use the video feed to drive the robot.


“It is a great challenge to navigate on these huge hulls without getting lost,” said Arne Rinnan, EVP sensors and robotics with Kongsberg, a partner in the project.


”We do that with sensors and technology like machine learning.”


The robot is powered by batteries, driving electric motors.


The robot has a special motorised brush which can remove fouling without causing erosion or damage to the hull coating.


The idea is that if individual bacteria and biofilm can be removed early, it will stop “macrofouling” taking hold, and a requirement for reactive cleaning. This also means that there is no requirement to capture the fouling, because it is removed at an early stage before it gets thick enough to be a biosecurity risk (from depositing live microbes into the water in a different place from where they originated).


Jotun says it has been developing the technology over a number of years, with comprehensive testing on a number of vessels and ports.


Pilot projects have been running with Wallenius Wilhelmsen, Berge Bulk and Maersk.


DNV GL is also involved, providing risk management and specialist knowledge about vessel types and systems.


Kongsberg, a Norwegian technology company which has been working with underwater technology and autonomous underwater vehicles for 70 years, provided technology development, robotics industrialisation, manufacturing, services and support.


Swedish technology company Semcon is involved, providing design, analysis, software and hardware development.

Solution not a product

Jotun emphasises that HullSkater should be seen as part of a full fouling management solution for shipowners, not (for example) as just the lease of a product.


This solution includes condition monitoring, inspection, cleaning, technical service, specific level of performance, alerts and service level guarantees.


It has designed a new coating specifically for use with Hull Skater, called SeaQuantum Skate. Although Hull Skater can work with any coating, HullSkater has been optimized for proactive cleaning on SeaQuantum Skate and SeaQuantum Skate has been optimized for proactive cleaning with the Hull Skater. 


The research work into the system started in 2011, when the company decided it want to move to "thinking hull performance" not thinking about fouling and paint.


Jotun wanted to create a solution which “wouldn’t just deal with the problem, but rather prevent it.”


“Vessels are often faced with unpredictable operations, with erratic idling periods and varied operational profiles that make the selection of antifouling problematic, even for the best coatings,” Jotun said.


CO2 benefit

Jotun sees Hull Skater as a way for the shipping industry to improve its CO2 performance, as well as just reduce fuel cost.


If Hull Skater was fitted to all ships in the world, the annual CO2 savings could be 40m tonnes, equivalent to Norway’s entire CO2 emission, estimates Per Marius Berrefjord, SVP strategy and business development DNV GL.


At DNV GL, “we are very serious in supporting any mission that can contribute to that.”


Shipping needs to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions “2-3 times faster than what has been the normal way of going,” he says.


Wallenius Wilhelmsen

Geir Fagerheim, SVP marine operations with Wallenius Wilhelmsen, a shipping company specialising in cars, trucks, rolling equipment and breakbulk, says the company has an ambition of zero CO2 operations, and this strategy could help towards that goal.


Wallenius Wilhelmsen was sceptical when it first heard of the solution, since it was coming from a company “mainly known for selling paint,” he said.


But now the system has been in operation on its ro-ro vessel Talisman working around the globe for two years.


“We can see this as a potential game changer in the way we manage biofouling today,” he said.


“It is a self-sufficient, semi-autonomous solution - not needing interference from the office.”


Previous: Shipowners’ experiences of scrubbers

Next: Macgregor – using virtual reality crew training

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