Stolt Tankers doubles number of hull cleaning robots

Stolt Tankers has confirmed that it is to double its use of hull cleaning robots across its fleet, to reduce its carbon footprint and cut fuel costs.

Its initial trial implementation of Shipshave’s In-Transit Cleaning of Hulls (ITCH) system reduced fuel requirements by more than one-tenth, the company said.

The semi-autonomous hull cleaning robot – deployed by the crew from a portable winch mounted on the forecastle deck – swipes up and down the hull underwater using brushes to remove biofouling during a voyage.

Shipshave estimates the ITCH can clean between 80-90% of the parallel/vertical area of a vessel hull in a five-hour operation while in transit, with typical operational costs of approximately $250 per cleaning.

“We see proactive hull cleaning as a simple way to achieve rapid emission cuts at relatively low cost,” said Stolt Tankers’ Energy and Conservation Manager Jose Gonzalez Celis.

“The ITCH has therefore become an important technology in our toolbox after piloting the system on the Stolt Acer, along with five other ships, that yielded reductions in fuel consumption exceeding 10%.”

The shipowner is expanding application of the technology on its fleet by doubling its tally of units to 20, used to maintain hull condition at a level that minimises drag for continuous optimal performance, rather than creating large improvements when the hull is cleaned periodically.

Stolt Tankers is also trialling GIT graphene coatings on its hulls and propellers, which improve fuel efficiency through the reduction of biofouling.

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Rob O'Dwyer

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