In-water cleaning is the current approach used to remedy biofouling accumulation during in-service periods and typically involves diver or remotely operated cleaning or cart systems that remove biofouling from hull surfaces.
While proactive approaches to in-water cleaning are also emerging, typically the initiation of in-water cleaning is triggered by a change in operational performance metrics, such as loss of speed or increased fuel usage.
Importantly, while in-water cleaning is performed to reset hull surfaces to a more hydrodynamically smooth state, it can also result in several unintended consequences, including:
(a) increased discharge of coating biocides to ambient waters;
(b) increased biosecurity risk through the active release of live biofouling species to local habitats; and
(c) diminished coating condition that reduces antifouling performance in subsequent months and years.
Until recently, approaches to in-water cleaning did not adequately address these water quality and biosecurity risks, but the development of capture technology in conjunction with in-water cleaning systems provides a possible solution that aims to mitigate these shortcomings.
A transition from simple in-water cleaning to safe and effective in-water cleaning and capture would retain a key tool for global fleet hull husbandry while ensuring the cleaning events themselves do not exacerbate local water quality and biosecurity concerns, which are increasingly subject to regulation.
Despite the frequent use of in-water cleaning to remove macrofouling, quantitative and independent assessments of biofouling removal efficacy or environmental safety are largely unavailable.