– by Karin Almlöf
The Gothenburg-based company I-Tech just won a prestigious prize for its antifouling-agent Selektope® at the European Marine Engineering Awards in Amsterdam. The company’s mission is to bring new dimensions to the global antifouling industry. The project is co-founded by the ECO-innovation Initiative of the European Union.
Biofouling is far more than just the attachment of barnacles and seaweed to a hull, I-Tech estimates that over 1700 species comprising over 4000 organisms are responsible for biofouling. It occurs in all oceans all over the globe. And it consists of micro- and macro fouling, where mico fouling is biofilm formation and bacterial adhesion, and macro fouling is attachment of larger organisms.
Reducing biofouling on a ship’s hull saves both money for the ship operators and the environment through decreased fuel consumptions and reduced risk of spreading invasive species.
The new anti-fouling agent Selektope® is not poisonous to the marine environment – a new phenomenon for an anti-fouling agent, the traditional forms of which contain copper and are toxic to life undersea. This new antifouling disturbs barnacles, or more precisely, it causes the legs of the barnacle larvae to start kicking by stimulating an organic chemical functioning as a neurotransmitter, their octopamine receptor, and the larvae leaves the hull.
Today the paint-agent is available in Japan, South Korea, China and in Europe. Only 0.1 percent concentration in the paint is needed, that is hundreds of times less than the amount of copper added in traditional paint. This leaves possibilities for paint makers to make their own variations.
A case study described in the ECO-Innovation report 2015 was conducted on a ship in tropical waters. Test-patches were painted with Selektope® and the rest of the hull with a traditional medium range copper-based antifouling. After 12 months the main hull was heavily fouled with both macro and micro fouling, in contrast, the test patch was clean from fouling.
The first ocean-going vessel to be painted whit Selektope® is the Laurin tanker M/T Calypso, she will be painted in November 2016 and the paint will stay on for five years.
This new approach opens for more ideas, research and flexibility for the paint makers. By pinpointing certain species, in this case barnacles we all hope the marine environment will be less affected by antifouling. The products Safety Data Sheet says: “Fatal if inhaled. Fatal if swallowed. Very toxic to aquatic life with long lasting effects.” Maybe in the future the paint will be more easy to handle and available for smaller boats and shipyards.
/ Karin Almlöf
ECO-Innovation report 2015: http://selektope.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/Laymansreport15.pdf
Photos by: I-Tech and Laurin Maritime