Why Hull Cleaning Matters: Recognizing Its Significance

The hulls of vessels collect marine fouling like seaweed and barnacles. These slimy stowaways add a significant amount of weight to the ship, creating extra drag resulting in a fuel penalty.

Regularly scheduled hull cleaning keeps boats free of drag-creating marine growth. This saves on operational costs through reduced fuel consumption and lowered greenhouse gas emissions.

A fouling-free hull reduces hydrodynamic drag, fuel consumption and operating costs and allows vessels to operate at a higher speed. This increases efficiency and lowers carbon emissions. Fouling also allows invasive flora and fauna to travel from one area to another, causing serious damage to marine ecosystems.

Today, ship hulls are protected by fouling-control coatings and regular in-water cleaning. Cleaning must be done without causing damage or wear on the coatings and, for optimal coating lifetime and reduced antifoulant release, cleaning forces should be matched to the adhesion strength of fouling.

Our remote-controlled underwater robot works like an underwater vacuum cleaner or a lawnmower, gently stripping the surface clean of biofouling without damaging the coating. The debris is then collected and sent for reuse as biogas production, in compliance with strict port and environmental regulations. This makes ECOsubsea a greener alternative to manual scrubbing, and a sustainable solution for the long-term protection of your vessel’s hull.

Hull (and propeller) fouling increases a ship’s drag, which negatively impacts the relationship between fuel consumption, speed and power. This is also why hull cleaning is a critical component of the overall vessel maintenance plan.

The best way to protect the integrity of your hull and marine growth is to clean regularly with an environmentally safe product. While some hull cleaners contain acids, the latest non-acid cleaners are safe for fiberglass hulls and metal surfaces. They also work on black steak, waterline stains and thick greasy buildups and don’t damage gel coats or painted exteriors.

The latest hull cleaning technology at Gulf & Bay Dock Works, LLC  uses adjustable seawater jets that do not create coating cavities and require minimal cleaning force. This new-age approach removes fouling faster than traditional methods, and requires no divers. It is recommended to close all sea suction valves and stop any pumps or machinery that may cause suction around the hull during a cleaning operation. This will protect divers from being pulled towards the sea suctions and help them avoid potential injuries.

Many of the lakes in our region are infested with aquatic invasive species such as zebra and quagga mussels. These species can spread to new water bodies by attaching to boats, trailers, fenders, fishing gear and other equipment. These microscopic veligers (baby mussels) can survive for weeks in standing water on boats and their equipment. If they are released into another water body, the invasive mussels can choke out native shellfish, damage boat propellers, clog water lines, and cost lake owners and visitors a fortune in repairs.

To prevent the spread of these invasive hitchhikers, it is important to inspect and clean your boat, trailer, waders and other equipment. A simple rinsing with hot (140 degrees F) water is an effective treatment. Be sure to rinse the entire boat including bilge and live well areas. In addition, be sure to drain all bait containers, empty boat ballast tanks and remove unused gear before leaving a launch site.

Hull cleaning removes marine organisms from a vessel, and a clean hull can look much like new. This makes a boat more attractive to potential buyers or renters, which can increase its value.

Regular hull cleaning can also prevent the spread of invasive species, which can harm local ecosystems. Many ports and marinas have regulations regarding the cleanliness of hulls.

Grooming is an alternative to traditional underwater hull cleaning methods, which typically involve qualified divers utilizing brushes that clamp down on the surface of the hull to scrub away biofouling growth. Unfortunately, these brushes introduce abrasive debris to local port waters, and the bristles can damage expensive antifouling paint.

A grooming strategy that uses lighter tools, which can maintain a lower fouling rating than conventional cleaning, may allow for significant savings in operating costs. Using these light-cleaning tools every few days can keep the hull clean without significantly decreasing the hull coating’s physical condition or service life.