Latin America Report

By Charles W. Thurston | September 19, 2005

Surf(ace) Protection

Concerns about the environment and the preservation of the booming tourism industry in the South Pacific region are driving demand for the latest technology in industrial marine and yacht coatings, says John Cotter, the assistant marine manager for AustralAsia at International Paint Ltd., a wholly-owned subsidiary of Akzo Nobel, in Camellia, New South Wales, Australia.

"With the Great Barrier Reef here, tourism operators are looking for low-VOC, non-biocide anti-fouling coatings, which now are silicon based. Within five years, environmental regulations will not permit any in-water-cleaning; some ports do not allow any at this stage," said Cotter.

Dive operators, in particular, lead the tourism industry in the South Pacific, especially in the "Ring of Fire" volcanic area that rises from the Great Barrier Reef, off Australia's north-east coast, to the north. "As tourism grows, the operators will be adding more vessels to their fleets," he said.

International Paint manufactures a "full line" of both marine and architectural coatings, including enamels and epoxies, at its facility in Port Moresby, the capital of Papua New Guinea, just north of Queensland, Australia, Cotter said. Coatings made there and in Australia supply the company's AustralAsia region, which includes the Solomon Islands and extends out to the Marshall Islands, Cotter added.

Marine coatings demand in Papua New Guinea also is being fueled by new port development at several locations in the country, and will further expand with the start of a proposed $4 billion gas pipeline and refinery project, now in the design phase, that would link the country to Australia.

"Business for Papua New Guinea will increase over the next five to 10 years. Vessels going in to the country will take on coatings for on-board maintenance, and hopefully also will perform dry dock work at Port Moresby," he said.

The demand for marine coatings from International Paint's Papua New Guinea unit doubled in July 2005 compared to the prior-year month, according to Cotter. The Port Moresby facility produces between 40,000 and 50,000 liters per quarter, he said. In comparison, the company's combined Australian production amounts to about 820,000 liters per year, he said.

The company's silicon-based products offer a more environmentally friendly solution than older formulations common in the industry, which contained tributyl tins, now banned. The TBT formulations were found to have toxic effects on oyster beds and other marine life. Copper acrylate biocides, which followed TBT use, also have been banned in some countries. International Paint's water-based weldable primer, sold under the Interplate Zero brand, has won international awards for protection of the marine environment. Other International Paint brands serving the maritime industry include Interfine, Interguard, Intershield, Intersleek, Intersmooth and Interswift.

Protection against hazardous cargoes is another factor driving new marine coating technology in the region. International Paint's Interline brand epoxy coatings, which include high solids and low VOCs, are used for aggressive cargo materials. Such coatings will be in greater demand in Papua New Guinea as more oil and gas, and mining development work progresses.

Charles Thurston covers Latin America and other markets for Coatings World.

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