As diverse as the coatings market is, all coatings share a common bond in that one of their main purposes is protection. The differences stem from what, exactly, the coating is formulated to protect against. Marine coatings are formulated to provide a water-resistant finish, and to resist salt, ultraviolet rays, abrasion, corrosion and the growth of fouling organisms, such as slime, vegetation, marine life and calciferous growths.
Obviously these growths can cause damage to a ship, but they can also indirectly damage the environment. The presence of fouling organisms increases the drag of a ship through the water which makes the engines work harder. This wastes fuel and adds pollutants to both the air and water.
"The overall goal of marine coatings is to keep vessels fouling free and, thereby annually save an estimated 70 million tons of fuel, which also means lowering emissions to the atmosphere by 210 million tons of CO2 and 5.6 million tons of SO2," said Claes-Skat Rordam, global product manager, Hempel's Marine Paints A/S.
Lowering the emissions from ships is becoming increasingly important because the market is growing, albeit at a slow pace. U.S. demand for marine coatings (encompassing products used on commercial ships, offshore rigs and platforms and recreational boats) is forecast to increase 2.1 percent per year in gallons by 2006, according to The Freedonia Group.
Despite the slow growth of the market, marine coatings are a highly specialized area. Coatings makers need to produce products that will not only protect against everything listed above, but will also do so in a variety of environments (fresh water and salt water and warm and cold climates) and on a variety of surfaces ranging from fiberglass to aluminum to wood to steel.
Like all coatings segments, the marine and yacht market continually faces concerns regarding the environment. The drive to lower or remove harmful compounds from coatings that can damage the environment is a constant battle. In the marine and yacht segment, this issue is especially poignant, as one of the stated goals of marine coatings is to prevent the growth of life on a ship's hull. Contrary to popular misconception, antifouling products do not kill the marine life they strive to protect against.
"The way I've been led to understand it," said John Ludgate vice president, sales and marketing, Kop-Coat Marine Group, which includes Pettit Marine Paint, is that antifouling products make the hull a less preferred site to land for fouling organisms. There is some sensitivity there. Some people are under the misconception that there's something like a four-foot halo of death around the hull of the ship, but my understanding is that antifouling products simply make it uncomfortable and organisms decide to go somewhere else, like a rock."
For many years, the major product used to discourage fouling organisms was Tributyl Tin (TBT). As all involved in the marine and yacht coatings business know, TBT is in the process of being phased out because of its danger to marine life.
"When they originally banned TBT, the main concern was that they wanted to protect a lot of the bays and estuaries," said Mr. Ludgate. The thought process was that a boat larger than 80 feet was a more ocean-going vessel, and wasn't considered as much of a problem. "The belief was that you had these yachts in Chesapeake Bay or in local harbors contaminating the area, but the toxicant is more spread out in the ocean, so it wasn't thought to be as big a deal."
This is no longer the case. As a result of years of debate, the International Maritime Organiz-ation (IMO) decided to institute a worldwide ban on TBT, the first portion of which goes into effect Jan. 1, 2003. According to companies Coatings World spoke with, the effective date shouldn't take any company by surprise.
"I think you'll find with most companies that they are aware of this and they have prepared for it the past 14 years," said Mr. Ludgate. "Most have made adjustments for it."
|Because of the immense size of sea-going tankers, and the resulting difficulty in removing them from the water to apply antifoulant coatings, makers of coatings for commercial ships strive to create antifoulants that last a number of years.|
International Marine Coatings has also thrown its weight and research dollars behind products that follow the IMO agreement to ban TBT. "We have always supported a globally enforceable, orderly phase out of TBT antifoulings for all vessels," said David French, worldwide marine market director, International Coatings Ltd. "We therefore confirm that we are committed to comply with the IMO Conference Resolution as stated." International's plans included an early reduction in TBT product offerings prior to a complete phase-out of all TBT antifoulings globally by Dec. 31, 2002. In addition, the company has sharply increased its production capacity of TBT-free and foul release products worldwide throughout 2002 and will introduce more TBT-free alternative products in the coming year.
Once TBT is outlawed, there will be a void to fill in the formulations of antifouling yacht and marine coatings. Industry insiders say this isn't going to be a problem. Since the TBT ban has been a foregone conclusion for years, R&D efforts have focused on alternatives.
"TBT as a single compound is not replaced with another single compound since TBT had two effects: one was working as the active ingredient (biocide effect) and the other was controlling the polishing mechanism of the paint," said Mr. Rordam. "In our new generations of TBT-free paints we use binders and co-binders to control the polishing and release of the active ingredients.
"Integrated herein," he continued, "is a goal of doing it in the most environmentally friendly way." In Hempel's highest quality products, the firm is using an active ingredient that has a half-life of one hour. "One hour after the product has been released into the water, half of the active material has degraded into less harmful substances, which again turns into less and less harmful substances. The product ends up as natural minerals after some time," he said.
Also new in the U.S. from Hempel is Globic, a TBT-free high-performance antifoulant with excellent self-polishing properties, recently approved by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Globic features the use of a unique fiber composite structure that combines with the binders in the paint to form a three-dimensional structure that not only provides extraordinary elasticity, but also allows the addition of greater amounts of binder, according to the company.
Kop-Coat has also worked to produce TBT-free coatings. According to Mr. Ludgate, copper-based paints work well against hard fouling agents such as mussels, but without TBT, are not effective against slime. To make up the difference, he said Kop-Coat is combining copper-based paints with Ciba's Irgarol biocide, which has proven more effective against slime.
Pettit Marine Paint, part of the Kop-Coat Marine Group, has put out a number of new products recently, including its three-step Ultimate System. According to the company, the trio of products-Pettit Protect, Trinidad and Ultima SR-eliminate barnacles, slime, water absorption and reduce the need for ongoing maintenance.
Pettit Protect is a special, two-part epoxy system that helps to prevent and repair blisters on a ship's hull caused by water seeping through a boat's gelcoat. Applied beneath anti-fouling paints, Pettit Protect creates a tough barrier that locks out water, according to the company. The epoxy is brush, roller and spray compatible and features a "high-build" formula that allows more epoxy to be applied in fewer coats.
|Pettit Protect, Trinidad and Ultima SR make up the three-step bottom protection system introduced by Pettit Marine Paint.|
Ultima SR is a multi-season ablative fouling with dual-biocide protection.
International Coatings, Ltd., part of the Akzo Nobel Group of companies, has introduced Interswift 655, a patented hybrid TBT-free antifoulant incorporating the company's unique copper acrylate technology. Copper acrylate SPC technology provides improved leached layer control, according to the company. In addition to being TBT-free, Interswift 655 boasts a controlled polishing rate and biocide release which allows for tailored specification design with optimum dry film thickness, up to 36 months service time for the vertical sides of a ship and up to 60 months for the flat bottom. A high volume solids content helps control solvent emissions and the coating, which is surface tolerant, can be applied over existing antifoulants in good condition. Interswift 655 is suitable for coastal, deep sea bulk cargo ships scheduled for maintenance and repair drydocking as well as new construction, according to the company.
All of these new products have shown promise in working against fouling agents, but TBT had been used for more than 40 years, so it's obvious that, despite its environmental impact, it did its job well. Will these newer, TBT-free products work as well? Coatings makers say yes.
"We have cases where the TBT-free coatings perform better and we have a few of the opposite cases," said Mr. Rordam. "Generally speaking, our TBT-free antifoulings are performing on the same level as the TBT-based coatings. The major difference today is the price, where the TBT-free coatings can be up to two to three times more expensive, depending on the quality chosen."
Commercial and Recreational Concerns
Price and performance are not the only issues that must be addressed. On the commercial side of the business, longevity is a key component to marine coatings. "In the commercial market, longevity is a huge problem because you don't want to take a tanker out of the water unless you really have too," said Mr. Ludgate. "They are always looking for a three year to five year life of a coating."
Mr. Rordam agreed. "For the marine market (big ships) our TBT-free antifoulings offer up to five years of service time."
The recreational boat market is a far different situation, according to Mr. Ludgate. "The commercial side is so much different from the recreational side," he said. "In the recreational market, the life of the coating isn't that important. Generally owners take their boats out of the water in winter.
|Because recreational boat owners generally take their boats out of the water in winter, the life of the coating isn't a major issue. Instead, makers of coatings for recreational boats focus on color, ease of application and safety, according to John Ludgate of Pettit Marine Paint.|
According to Mr. Ludgate, about 50% of recreational boat owners apply the paint themselves, the others use the services of boat yards.
The marine and yacht coatings market has managed to weather the biggest storm on its current horizon-the TBT ban-through careful planning and successful R&D of alternative formulations. The continued reliance on shipping in commerce, combined with the popularity of recreational boat owning in the general public should point towards a rising tide of profits for companies offering seaworthy coatings technologies that meet environmental and performance requirements the market demands.
Australia Fines Shipping Company for Reef Damage
Australian authorities recently charged the owners of a Greek bulk carrier that ran aground near the Great Barrier Reef with causing environmental damage and could fine them up to $1.1 million (AUS) or $600,000 (U.S.).
The 73,350-ton Doric Chariot was freed from Piper Reef, 370 miles north of Cairns off northeast Australia, on August 6, after being stuck on a sandbank since July 29.
Virginia Chadwick, head of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, the body responsible for protecting the world's largest living organism, said the 225-meter, coal-carrying Doric Chariot had left a 50 m by 30 m gash in Piper Reef. "It appears as though there is 1,500 square meters of coral damage," said Ms. Chadwick.
Significant to the coatings industry, a scientific team investigating the accident scene found contamination of the reef by tributyl tin (TBT) paint. A worldwide ban on the sale of TBT goes into effect on Jan. 1, 2003.
"We have also found evidence of contamination by tributyl tin paint, which could have long-term impacts on the environment," she said, adding that the owners, the ship's master and its second mate had been charged in the incident.
The Doric Chariot incident has generated renewed concerns about protecting the environmentally fragile Great Barrier Reef, one of Australia's main tourist attractions, and has generated interest in the impending ban on TBT fouling paints.