antifouling paint on ship hull cargo ship

Antifouling paint protects your vessel and the industry

The Irish fishing industry employs some 11,000 people with more than 2,000 registered fishing vessels operating out of Irish ports. The two biggest ports in terms of landings are Castletownmere and Killybegs, bringing in nearly 200,000 tonnes of seafood between them. In 2016, the GDP of the seafood sector in Ireland is estimated at €1.1 billion and, with more people than ever eating seafood, the industry is only expected to grow. Of course the maritime industry is more than fishing – by volume, 80% of the world’s trade is conducted on our oceans. As our dependence on the maritime industry grows, so does our dependence on the vessels that allow us to achieve it. These vessels are not only under attack from the conditions above, but also those below the waterline – biofouling is a serious problem for the global maritime industry. Antifouling paint works to prevent biofouling, protecting your vessel and your pocket.

In this article we outline the specific benefits of antifouling paint, describe the variety of antifouling coatings available, and take a look at the ever-changing regulations regarding biocides. We also look at the companies that provide antifouling paint products, and where to find an antifouling coating supplier in Ireland.

How antifouling paint benefits your vessel and the environment

Biofouling is the growth of microorganisms, plants, algae, or animals that build up on the underwater sections of vessels. This build up decreases the durability and efficiency of a vessel. The sheer volume of trade and travel that uses our nation’s seas and rivers shows how important it is that your vessel is properly protected from threats both seen and unseen. With historic mistakes in the realm of antifoul paint (such as the now-banned organotins), it is also important that these coatings are low impact for the marine environment.

Antifouling coating:

  • Eliminates the drag caused by biofouling – This lowers fuel consumption and increases the maximum speed of a vessel
  • Increases a ship’s durability – Protecting from the damage caused by organisms and the extra forces caused by their buildup
  • Decreases the risk of transferring harmful organisms into foreign waters – A serious problem for native fisheries
  • Protects against damaging marine growth – Preventing the need for serious maintenance and repair every season

The different types of antifouling paint for your boat or ship

Traditionally, antifouling paints work through the action of a biocide – a chemical substance intended to destroy, deter, or render harmless, or exert a controlling effect on any harmful organism by chemical or biological means. The main antifouling biocide used in antifoul paint today is copper; 90% of modern antifoul paints use copper or its oxide as their active ingredient. However, there is a trend away from biocides and new products are emerging on the market which use different properties to fight biofouling. For a look at all marine coating products, visit our overview page.

Biocidal antifouling paint

The mechanism by which biocidal antifouling paints leach biocides into the surrounding water varies depending on the coating type. Pairing the right delivery system with the substrate, environment, and use of the vessel is vitally important for the correct functioning of the coating. The two main categories of traditional biocidal antifouling paint are:

  1. Hard film antifouling coating/hard antifouling paint
    The delivery mechanism for these types of antifouling paint is called ‘contact leaching’. Contact with water causes the biocide contained within the coating to leach out, providing a constant aura of protection. As a result, the level of antifouling protection is not constant – it starts out high, then wanes as the biocides leach away and all that remains is the hard paint film. These coatings also lose their antifouling ability if kept out of the water, so they cannot be hauled and relaunched without repainting. They also require stripping and recoating. Hard antifouling paint is used for speed boats and fast vessels that need that extra durability.
  2. Eroding antifouling paint/self polishing antifouling
    As the name suggests, this coating uses erosion to deliver biocides (hence the name self-polishing antifouling). This can be caused by the friction of the water passing over the hull, or by a chemical reaction which is localized at the surface of the coating. The biocides are released in a controlled manner, which provides longer and more consistent biofoul protection. Unlike hard film antifouling, boats painted with eroding antifoul can be hauled and relaunched without repainting, since the biocides are chemically bound to the paint and are only active in water. These are also copper antifouling solutions.

Foul release coating and other alternatives

Recent developments and the global trend towards sustainability and “green” coatings is driving the study of alternative, biocide-free antifouling methods. These include experimental surfaces such as Teflon- or silicone-coated, hydrophobic, and textured hulls which may prevent the biofouling from growing.

Silicone elastomers, Teflon-based coating and fluoropolymer coatings, ceramic coatings, and wax coatings are all foul release coatings. These coatings are also known as ‘foul release’ coatings because the rather than destroying the biofouling before it settles, foul release coatings are too slippery for the organisms to attach to a hull. The action of the vessel moving through the water is enough to detach biofouling from its tenuous hold.

Another type of antifouling measure is biomimetic coatings. The name comes from the Greek for “life imitating”, and these coatings look to the natural world for inspiration. Biomimetic coatings include those that imitate the closely scaled skin of a shark, flocked surfaces that resemble plants, or hydrophobic coatings based on the water-repelling surfaces of the lily pad.

The questions your need to answer before you choose an antifoul paint

Ultimately, the choice of antifouling paint comes down to the best option for the vessel’s substrate, the environment, and the intended use of the vessel. All factors need to be considered to ensure a successful coating. In order to determine which coating is best for your vessel, these are some of the questions you should be asking:

  • What are the costs related to the coating?
    What is the range of antifouling paint prices – and application costs? Does the coating lead to greater fuel efficiency? What surface preparation is required? How often will it require repainting, and what cleaning procedures will be required? Euros per litre is not an adequate representation of price when it comes to antifouling, there are many cost factors at work. An inadequately coated hull will lead to a coating failure – insufficient film build is a leading cause.
  • What is the lifespan of the coating?
    Not all coatings have the same lifespan, especially under differing conditions. Some will protect for 3-5 years, others for the vessel’s lifetime.
  • How abrasion resistant is the coating?
    The abrasion resistance is relevant for racing vessels, vessels on trade routes that might encounter ice, bumps, or scrapes, as well as ships that require polishing. Highly abrasion resistant paints include the hard film coatings, Teflon, and ceramic coatings.
  • Is the coating suitable for the intended lay-up times, time in port, and water conditions?
    Hard antifouling paints do not maintain their antifouling properties while hauled, where eroding coatings do. Foul release coatings require the ship to move at a certain pace (about 25-30 knots) for the best results, so long times in port or lay-up periods would prevent it from functioning effectively. Mooring conditions in warm coastal waters where marine organisms are densest poses an additional biofouling threat, however many ports are now banning copper biocide to combat rising contamination levels.
  • Where, and how frequently, will the coating and hull need cleaning?
    Can the coating be cleaned without damaging it? Will underwater cleaning risk environmental damage? Downtime from dry-docking and regulations in certain ports preventing underwater cleaning may be factors you need to consider.
  • Are there any regulation changes which may affect the suitability of the coating?
    After the banning of TBT, marine authorities have been wary of biocides in general. Though copper is currently the most common antifouling active ingredient, and it is not likely to go anywhere anytime soon, the antifouling industry is broadening. Biocide-free options are becoming more common and better-performing as companies within the industry move away from biocides.

Inform yourself about antifouling paint regulations in Ireland

The European regulations regarding antifouling are outlined in the Sea Pollution (Control of Anti-Fouling Systems on ships) Regulations 2008, which banned organotins and put in place far stricter legislation for antifouling coatings. All ships of 400 gross tonnage and over are also required to to hold an International Anti-Fouling System Certificate, issued in order to attest that the antifouling system employed on that ship complies with all the regulations. This certificate is required before the ship is first put into service then will need a reissue when the antifouling paint is reapplied or changed. Ships over 24m, though less than 400 tonnes, must carry a “Declaration of Compliance with the EU Regulation or with the AFS Convention”.

As far as copper antifouling paint and the possible negative effect of the copper biocide, the jury is currently out for the European Union. Studies have shown that a high concentration of biocides in an environment can have a serious effect on the growth, development, and reproduction of mussels, oysters, scallops, sea urchins, and crustaceans. In America, individual states are bringing in legislation to ban copper-based antifouling paint of higher copper percentages, as well as underwater cleaning. Antifouling manufacturers have been working to create copper-free antifouling coatings to be ready if or when the legislation changes.

Antifouling paint prices and products in Ireland

The best choice of paint is the one appropriate for your boat material (fiberglass, metal or wood) as well as the environment in which you keep your boat (salt water or fresh). If you take your boat in both salt and fresh waters, use the antifouling paint for the environment in which your boat spends the most time. Brands available include Flag, Interlux (AkzoNobel) and Copper Coat. Price varies across products, but with the range available it is possible to find exactly what you are looking for. Many products are not available for retail markets, and need to be applied by professionals and shipyards. It is always best to consult with professionals when choosing an antifouling coating.  Below is a table outlining some of the products available.

Antifouling coating productAntifouling typeCost/theoretical coverage
Coppercoat AntifoulingHard film antifouling (copper-based)€125 per L at 4m²/L
Flag Cruising Antifouling PaintSelf eroding antifouling (biocidal)€50 per 2.5L at 10m²/L
Hempel Tiger Xtra AntifoulingEroding/self-polishing antifouling€80 per 2.5L at 13m²/L
International Interspeed Ultra 2Hard film antifouling (biocidal)€150-160 per 2.5L at 10.5m²/L
Jotun Nonstop AntifoulHard film antifouling (biocidal)€130 per 2.5L at 10m²/L

Antifouling/foul release coatings manufacturers and suppliers in Ireland

With such a large maritime industry it is no surprise that there is also a large range of manufacturers and suppliers of antifouling paint. Ireland relies on its billion-euro fishing industry, and that industry needs to be protected from the bottom up. You can probably find a local antifouling coating supplier at the nearest marina, where antifouling applicators provide their services. Whether you need a self polishing antifouling supplier or are looking for a biocide-free foul release, we are here to help. Below is a short list of some of the companies operating in Ireland.

If you would like more information, our experts are here to help. Just get in touch and we will connect you with one of our coating partners to secure a quote for your project. You can do this  through our contact form by clicking the “Request a Quote” button at the bottom of this article. We will help you find the right antifouling coating solution for your needs.

Antifouling Paint CompanyLocationServices
HempelIreland-wideAntifouling and foul release paint manufacturer
Mooney BoatsShore Road, Killybegs, Co. DonegalSpecialist chandlery and antifouling paint supplier
O’Sullivans MarineOSM Park, Monavalley Business Park, Tralee, Co.KerrySpecialist chandlery and antifouling paint supplier
Viking MarineThe Pavilion, Dun Laoghaire, Co DublinSpecialist chandlery and antifouling paint supplier

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