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Professor Corbett Q&A Hull coatings – a viable contribution Professor James Corbett


It is estimated that commercial shipping consumes about 350 million tonnes of fuel a year and, in so doing, emits around one billion tonnes of CO2 and 10 billion tonnes of SOx. The figures would be worse were it not for advanced antifoulings, such as International Paint’s fluoropolymer foul release (FFR) coating, Intersleek 900. A study undertaken by Energy and Environmental Research Associates (EERA) of the US demonstrated an average 9% fuel saving across a range of around 30 ships, as compared with conventional antifoulings. Here, EERA’s Professor James Corbett, one of the authors of the IMO’s two Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Reports in 2000 and 2009, answers questions on the subject.


Q: You were closely involved in the research and preparation of the IMO’s GHG reports. Why did coatings receive such scant attention?


A: We used the information that was available at the time. The scope of the study was very broad and the team was perhaps more heavily weighted towards engine systems, fuels and the issues that are more directly related to the use of carbon in vessel operation. This more recent study has identified the role of coatings as one of the possible solutions towards more energy efficient ships. It has been a terrific advance to be able to look at very detailed data for very specific vessels over a long period of time.


Q: How did you decide which parameters to use?


A: Our goal was to look at the energy consumption of the vessels and then to estimate the emissions. So we have to look at engines, fuel consumption, speed and the various operational conditions of real vessels over a long period. For some vessels, we were also able to look at voyage conditions such as weather and sea state.


Q: Were you surprised at the findings? A: We were interested to find whether or not the numbers would reinforce the industry’s understanding about coatings; whether they would reinforce the claims for these advanced coatings. I think, in some cases, they performed as well or better than the manufacturer claimed. The average performance across the 30 vessels we looked at was a 9% fuel saving and that’s a number bigger than the IMO GHG study estimated.


Q: So do you think this is an area that has not received enough attention?


A: As a general analyst of energy efficiency in shipping, I think there are a number of areas that have not received enough attention. This is definitely one that we believe the data shows merits more attention.


Q: What implications are there for the global shipping industry?


A: This study shows that there is an economic benefit to the fuel savings and we have associated a related environmental benefit of a reduction in carbon dioxide and


greenhouse gases. So there is a win-win situation apparent in the data that we looked at for the vessels that we saw. More importantly, this is a study of the before and after ‘benchmarking’ and then showing and measuring improvement. In a general sense – for the shipping industry – all of the technologies will provide benefits when we have good benchmarking of what the fleet is doing, regardless of how green or fuel-efficient it is, or is not. Then, we can see how much greener, how much better, it can perform.


Q: How do you think the IMO will receive the report?


A: The way that they receive the report will be through a submittal to their committees. Those materials are often read diligently by 180 nations and a variety of NGOs, with that sort of spectrum. I think that, to the extent that the data is reported in a transparent way and can be evaluated and critiqued, it will be used. My highest purpose is to see that the data is of value to the IMO.


Q: The wheels of the IMO turn slowly. What can be done to move things forward?


A: I think that the industry now probably has ten years, fifteen years of really diligent records and an understanding that new information is now available. They’ve been receiving more of it through their IMO submittals – the formal reviews and reports that they are officially reviewing and discussing in their diplomatic sessions and in their committees. I think they’re also doing a very good job of reading an expanded literature of environmental performance and the opportunities for new technology. I think that with higher fuel prices and the recession, there’s a large population of technology providers who are coming to the IMO forum with really novel ideas. 


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