With its innovative positioning system and high-pressure water jets, Fleet Cleaner guarantees the quality of its services. Hull cleaning also needs to be done efficiently because in the shipping industry, time is money. The Fleet Cleaner cleaning robot attaches itself to the vessel using magnets. ‘It can be used in all weather conditions without affecting the vessel’s operational work’, explains Fleet Cleaner Director Cornelis de Vet.

Since 2017, Delft-based Fleet Cleaner has been providing hull cleaning services to clients in Dutch and Belgian ports. Its programme also includes inspections of the vessel’s hull surface and propeller. Working with a team of around 20 employees, the firm executes the majority of these activities in the port of Rotterdam.

number 1How do you go about ship cleaning?

‘Our systems are fitted to a working ship, allowing us to sail from vessel to vessel 24/7, just like a bunker barge. It is both adaptable and safe for the crew. In order to expand our service, we are putting a second support ship into service this year. It’s from the support ship that we control our cleaning robot. The robot removes the fouling with high-pressure water jets to prevent damage to the coating. We can accurately regulate the impact the cleaning has on the coating. After collecting and filtering the fouling, the clean water can be pumped back into the dock. We then take the waste to a processing plant ashore.’

number 2Why do you have a positioning system?

‘It lets us keep track of which section of the hull has already been cleaned and what still needs to be done. Underwater visibility in the Western European ports is limited; it’s as if you have to mow a football pitch while blindfolded. The positioning system helps us deliver quality. We load the drawing of the vessel into the computer system we use for navigating. We take photos that we can match to the position of the robot. We also use these in our reports.’

number 3What role does efficiency play during the cleaning operation?

‘It’s incredibly important because immobility costs a lot of money in the shipping industry. That’s why we do as much of the cleaning as possible while vessels are unloading and loading. It requires a lot of coordination. As soon as a vessel moors at the terminal, all kinds of nautical service providers, of which we are one, surround it like flies. As long as we organise things properly with the other parties, everyone can do their thing. We often combine the cleaning service with propeller polishing, which involves working with local diving companies, making us a one-stop shop for our clients.’

number 4Has awareness of hull cleaning grown?

‘Absolutely. Shipowners are all perfectly aware that regular hull cleaning saves fuel and has environmental benefits, but they often have no clear picture of the condition of the hull below the waterline. We are able to reveal this in two hours using a small robot. The cleaning operation itself takes on average one day per vessel, during which time we can clean all types of seagoing vessels: from container ships to dry bulk barges and from oil tankers to the largest offshore crane vessels.’


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