Friday, July 21, 2017

Sharks and Whales Could Help Save Freight Industry Millions by Combating Hull Fouling

Research into Organic Cleaning Methods Could be Revolutionary
Shipping News Feature
WORLDWIDE – Whales, sharks, butterflies and lotus leaves are some of the creatures that might hold the secret to saving the shipping industry millions of dollars and help protect the planet, according to a marine biologist at the University of Portsmouth. Environmental microbiologist Dr. Maria Salta is examining how animal's ability to self-clean might give scientists solutions which could provide the next generation of anti-fouling technology.

Dr Salta, a Senior Lecturer in Environmental Microbiology at Portsmouth’s School of Biological Sciences who specialises in environmentally friendly anti-fouling coatings which mimic natural systems to stop marine growth on ship hulls, will be presenting her work at three events across the globe this summer.

On Sunday the 30th July she will speaking at the Winchester Science Festival in the UK, followed by an appearance at a marine biotechnology conference in Brazil. She has also been invited to talk with her collaborator in Oman, Dr Sergey Dobretsov of Sultan Qaboos University, on how and why biofilms attach on artificial surfaces in the Gulf of Oman in comparison to UK waters.

She will discuss how scientists have studied in microscopic detail what makes the skin of whales, sharks and some other marine creatures capable of sloughing off the slime (biofilms) and barnacles, mussels and algae which attach to manmade structures left in the sea for long period.

It might seem like something out of science fiction but the benefits for developing cleaning technology that mimics organic processes without harmful and toxic by-products are of such potential that many organisations with vessels in the water are watching this sort of research very closely. Reduced performance due to hull fouling costs the US Navy alone $56m a year and anti-fouling coatings are currently estimated to be saving greenhouse emissions of 384 million tonnes of carbon dioxide and 3.6 million tonnes of sulphur dioxide per year.

Though there have been great efforts made by freight shipping lines to reduce their emissions in recent years the continuing concerns of environmental damage from increasing carbon levels in particular means that new breakthroughs in keeping hulls clean are an absolute imperative. With biological contamination by invasive species also of increasing concern, and fears over the safety of certain anti fouling agents, no doubt Dr Salta’s work will be of keen interest to many in the industry.