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New Hull-Cleaning Robot Travels With the Ship

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Image courtesy Jotun

By The Maritime Executive 03-13-2020 11:46:00

Jotun and Kongsberg Maritime have jointly developed a robotic hull cleaning device called the HullSkater, designed to be carried with the vessel and deployed regularly to remove early-stage fouling. 

The HullSkater removes bacteria and biofilm from the hull before macro-fouling like weeds and barnacles can take hold. Biofouling is a major contributor to fuel consumption and operating cost, and the partners believe that removing it early and often with HullSkater will save operators money. 

“We believe this is a landmark development for shipowners worldwide,” said Geir Axel Oftedahl, Business Development Director for Jotun. “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. And once fouling grows the impacts are immediate, and damaging, with poor hull and propeller performance accounting for around one tenth of the world fleet’s energy consumption. This can make a massive impact on any owner’s bottom line."

The HullSkater stays on the hull using magnetic wheels, each equipped with electric motors for propulsion and steering. The vehicle has several cameras and sensors, supporting the operator with data for navigation and documenting fouling on the ship hull. The unit's motorized brush keeps the hull free from fouling without causing erosion or damage to the hull coating. Inspection and a proactive cleaning of a hull will normally take around two to eight hours, depending on the vessel's size and condition, according to Jotun. 

The unit stays on board the ship as a "permanent member of the crew," and it is connected to the operator’s control center through an umbilical. It can be operated remotely for vessels anywhere in the world with 4G coverage. 

Kongsberg Maritime is responsible for the manufacturing of HullSkater, which will take place at a new facility in Horten, Norway. HullSkater will be backed by extended performance and service level guarantees. To complement HullSkater, Jotun has developed a coating specifically intended for its use.