Every shipping manager wages an endless battle against fouling—the bacteria, seaweed, barnacles and other marine life that take up residence on the hull of ships within days of it entering the water.
This biofouling is thought to add more than 20 per cent to the fuel costs of commercial shipping, not to mention the added journey time for a ship weighed down with barnacles. That’s a big cost for the maritime trading nations of Australia and Indonesia, potentially adding up to billions of dollars per year.
Using lasers and a window in a ship’s hull, researchers will assess how quickly the efficiency of the ship declines, and then how to balance fuel efficiency and the cost of putting a ship in dry dock to clean it.
“Essentially we’ve built a laboratory worth thousands of dollars inside the hull of the ship. Once we clearly know how things are growing on the bottom, and the effect this has on fuel efficiency, we can suggest more informed anti-fouling strategies, saving time and money for boat operators and passengers,” says Professor I Ketut Aria Pria Utama of the Institut Teknologi Sepuluh Nopember (ITS).
The team combines the maritime experience of engineers from ITS in Surabaya with fluid mechanics led by Dr Nicholas Hutchins at the University of Melbourne, in partnership with the University of Southampton in the UK and protective coating group, Hempel.