Wallenius Wilhelmsen tests Jotun’s remotely-operated hull cleaning robot
Oslo-based Wallenius Wilhelmsen has pilot-tested Jotun’s remotely-operated proactive hull cleaning robot onboard one of its RORO carriers.
Jotun Hull Skating Solutions combines remotely operated underwater robotic Jotun HullSkater, a special antifouling coating named SeaQuantum Skate and a range of customized services including inspection, technical service and performance level guarantees.
The HullSkater is a remotely operated robot that stays with the vessel at all times. It is lodged in a custom housing on deck when not in use, roaming the vessel on magnetic wheels when operated through Jotun’s dedicated control centres via 4G connection.
Jotun approached Wallenius Wilhelmsen to pilot-test the system on board one of their vessels back in 2016 as part of the company’s efforts to find an owner who would be willing to test the technology and its performance.
“Finding owners willing to pilot-test an onboard remotely-operated proactive hull cleaning unit wasn’t easy, but when Jotun reached out to Wallenius Wilhelmsen, they found a partner who shared their vision for a more environmentally-responsible shipping industry,” Jotun said.
In 2017, Wallenius Wilhelmsen gave the Hull Skating Solutions (HSS) team access to the Talisman, a DWT 38500 RoRo carrier built in 2000.
The project team applied antifouling test patches on the hull, installed the unit on board and provided training for crew members on maintenance, deployment, retrieval and storage of the unit. Once underwater, the unit is remotely controlled.
Geir Fagerheim, SVP Marine Operations for Wallenius Wilhelmsen, acknowledged that some at Wallenius Wilhelmsen were sceptical at first.
“The concept is a radically new approach to hull maintenance so our team had a lot of questions,” he said.
“However, once we learned that Jotun had developed a prototype in cooperation with KONGSBERG and the Swedish technology company Semcon among other partners, we decided to participate.”
“By removing slime and fouling before organisms have time to firmly attach to the hull, HSS not only helps owners reduce fuel costs and corresponding emissions, it helps vessels stay in compliance with increasingly strict local and global regulations designed to protect marine ecosystems from alien invasive species,” he added.
“We can operate HullSkater units all over the world from our control centre here in Norway, day and night,” says Geir Axel Oftedahl, Jotun’s Business Development Director (Marine).
“High powered magnets attach the unit to the hull, allowing it to perform underwater inspections and proactive cleaning using HD cameras and a specially designed brush that does not damage the antifouling coating or release biocides into the water,” he explained.
“We learned that depending on the size of the vessel, cleaning and inspection can take between 2-8 hours.”
Oftedahl noted that the company’s multi-year pilot test with Wallenius Wilhelmsen (and other owners, including Berge Bulk and Maersk) provided the project team with valuable insight on what worked – and what didn’t.
“In addition to providing us the opportunity to test the unit under different operational conditions, Wallenius Wilhelmsen was also instrumental in helping us reach out to port authorities to ensure we could operate in compliance with local regulations,” says Oftedahl.
Following a number of tests at different ports, Jotun is now working to establish agreements with some ports which require documentation of a clean underwater hull prior to the port call.
“Because HSS is a new technology, no uniform standards currently exist,” says Oftedahl. “Our relationship with our pilot partners has been enormously helpful in working through these issues.”
The two companies have been working together for quite a while on anti-fouling solutions. The most recent cooperation saw Jotun and Wallenius Wilhelmsen sign a deal for the supply of Hull Performance Solutions (HPS) anti-fouling coating system for 42 RORO vessels back in 2019.
HPS combines SeaQuantum X200 antifouling with technical and digital solutions to measure hull performance.
Jotun’s Hull Performance Solutions encourages participating vessels to install sensors to enable performance monitoring based on standardized principles (ISO 19030) for the measurement of changes in hull and propeller performance.
“As a company we are focused on enhancing sustainability and reducing the environmental impact of our operations – maintaining clean hulls is a key enabler for that,” explained Fagerheim.
“On vessels where we have applied HPS, we have already seen significant, measurable reductions in speed loss over time, which saves fuel costs. We have opened a digital window onto how hull condition affects fleet-wide performance, efficiency and emissions, strengthening a culture of transparency and accountability.”