All over the world, we can encounter increasingly strict regulations surrounding environmental safety in sea ports. California, Australia and New Zealand are at the forefront of this development, followed by various ports in Northern Europe, and specifically Rotterdam. And the providers of hull cleaning services are responding to this trend.
Since it was founded in 2008, the Norwegian firm ECOsubsea has already collected 90,000 kilograms of fouling – the equivalent of 3 million tonnes in carbon emissions. ECOsubsea is active in the sea ports of Scandinavia, the southern UK and the Belgian and Dutch sea ports. ECOsubsea cleans all types of sea-going vessels and continues to expand its international network.
‘Around 70% of all non-indigenous mussels, algae and shells have entered the area via the fouling found on the hulls of seagoing vessels,’ explains ECOsubsea founder and CEO Tor Østervold. ‘After all, fouling is a natural phenomenon. After a fresh coating, it takes less than two hours for the first crustaceans, algae and mussels to attach themselves to the ship’s hull.’
‘It’s an important priority. This is one of the reasons why the Port of Rotterdam Authority and Rijkswaterstaat were looking for environmentally friendly alternatives to the traditional approach to hull cleaning. Which is how we came in touch with each other. We’ve developed a clean, efficient method for removing 97.5% of the build-up under water. Our submersible robot can gently clean the surface of the hull without damaging the existing coating. We immediately suck up the loosened fouling and separate it from the water. The solids are collected and sent to a waste processing company.’
‘One great example is the port of Southampton, where the fouling we’ve collected is used by a biogas company to generate green electric power for local households. This results in a circular ecosystem that benefits all stakeholders: the ships remain clean, are more fuel-efficient and produce less air pollution, and the ports are able to control their biosafety and simultaneously support the energy transition. In due time, we hope to be able to implement similar concepts in Norway and Rotterdam.’
‘We’ve installed our systems for cleaning the hull surface and sucking up and transporting the build-up on a 20-m long trailer, which can also be loaded on board of a ship. This ‘ECOstation’ allows us to work both from the shore and from the seaward side. Our ECOstation for Rotterdam is also deployed in other Dutch and Belgian ports.’
‘The underwater visibility is good. Both the Port of Rotterdam Authority and Rijkswaterstaat pay a lot of attention to water quality. But of course, the port also benefits in this respect from its situation on the North Sea coast as well as significant water depths. We also have a very pleasant working relationship with the Port of Rotterdam Authority and local service providers for the transport and processing of the collected waste, among other things. One of our regular partners is the Rotterdam-based diving and salvage company W. Smit.’