Biofilms on structures and vessels
Biofouling grows on ships, buoys, sonar devices, pontoons, offshore structures, oil installations, platforms, underwater cables, underwater acoustic instruments, seawater cooling systems and marinas. Issues include increased costs, reduced speed, environmental concerns, corrosion and safety hazards.
Biofilms and biofouling cause big problems for ships – they can damage surfaces and in large numbers they can even slow a ship down! They can do this on their own, but over time other larger creatures, such as mussels, barnacles and tubeworms join them on the ship’s surface making the problem worse. When ships are slowed down in this way it leads to increased fuel consumption, fuel costs and greenhouse gas emissions, which is bad news economically and environmentally.
Marine biofilms cause several problems in the shipping industry. Not only can they physically slow a ship down, the initiation of biofouling by larger organisms, such as mussels, causes bio-corrosion and reduces the ship’s life. There are ways to tackle biofouling and today they typically include application of antifouling coatings and cleaning of the hull.
The presence of biofouling on a ship’s hull can significantly increase ‘ship shaft power’; estimated increases of 16 – 21% have been recorded for biofilms (Schultz et al., 2007) and up to 86% for heavy calcareous fouling (barnacles etc.). As a consequence, there are a number of negative economic and environmental implications. For example, estimates suggest that biofouling on the hulls of 30 % of the US naval fleet could cost up to $56 million per year (Schultz et al., 2011).
Further Reading on biofilms, structures and vessels
Schultz et al., 2007. Effects of coating roughness and biofouling on ship resistance and powering. DOI: 10.1080/08927010701461974
Schultz et al., 2011. Economic impact of biofouling on a naval surface ship. DOI: 10.1080/08927014.2010.542809