Hull of a job

A COCKBURN firm is set to revolutionise worldwide shipping with a new hull cleaning technology that can be used while a vessel is in port.

Since the late 1990s, Australia and successive international ports have banned scraping off marine life stuck to a ship’s hull in port, stopping toxic anti-fouling paint and invasive marine species entering delicate eco-systems.

Roger Dyhrberg, managing director of GRD-Franmarine (soon to be rebadged CleanSubSea), says it took them six years to come up with Envirocart, which can clean a ship’s hull in harbour without damaging the environment.

“At a tenth of the cost of dry docking…Which is a 90 per cent saving on a comparable vessel going to Singapore because we don’t have enough facilities,” the North Fremantle local
says.

A cross between a vacuum cleaner and a swimming pool creepy crawly, the 2×1.1 metre machine employs powerful magnets to adhere to the ship, scraping off detritus without damaging the hull, and sucking the contaminated water through a series of filters.

• Divers with the revolutionary envirocart.

Trials are underway to turn the material removed into fertiliser.

Australian standards for copper parts per billion is 8.

“We are down to less than five,” says Mr Dyhrberg.

“The water going back into the sea is cleaner than when it came out.”

Too many barnacles means ships use more fuel to cut through the water, but dry docking to remove “foul” is expensive and time-consuming, adding significantly to shipping costs.

“Just a one per cent saving on fuel saves billions, which is massive for the shipping industry,” says Andrew Taylor, GRD-F business director.

Some operators are happy to have vessels cleaned in countries where regulations are lax, or non-existent, contributing to world wide environmental problems, he adds.

A dry-docked ship is out of operation for a week or more, while the envirocart takes a mere seven hours to clean the average large ship.

The locally designed and built machine has the potential to generate scores of new jobs and attract hundreds of millions of dollars to the WA economy, CEO Rory Anderson says.

“Hull cleaning is a constant problem for all vessels, and globally the industry is estimated to be worth US$10.2 billion.

• A diver guides the envirocart along the bottom of a ship’s hull.

“Envirocart is game changing…technology that will create local jobs for Western Australia’s maritime industry and has the potential to be exported globally under licence.”

Backed by the federal and WA governments, trials have been undertaken at Fremantle Port and the system is set to go into service at Dampier Port.

The company’s first commercial licence to operate the envirocart got under way last Tuesday, at the Australian Marine Complex in Henderson, to keep its dry-dock Yagan free of barnacles.

Mr Dyhrberg travelled to the UK last week, ahead of operations going in to some ports next year, and one of the world’s biggest ports, Rotterdam in Holland, is interested in the technology.

Retired US Seventh Fleet admiral Robert Natter heads up GRD-F’s US advisory committee, and trials are set to take place in California next year.

The envirocart also has the gas and oil industry eyeing off its potential as well as maritime insurers Lloyds, especially when the machine can be operated by remote control next year.

by JENNY D’ANGER

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