Kongsberg partnership delivers robot hull cleaning solution

HullSkater in action on the side of a vessel. Credit: Kongsberg/Jotun

A proactive anti-biofouling hull cleaning robot designed for underwater use has been developed and manufactured by Kongsberg in partnership with Jotun, a paint solutions provider.

The Jotun HullSkater is a remotely operated technical robotic solution operated by onshore operators working in specific Jotun operating hubs, enabling 24/7 support. The Jotun HullSkater is kept onboard in a portable station with a launch and recovery ramp.

The HullSkater uses permanent magnetic wheels to attach to the vessel’s hull and is very versatile. It and can handle extreme curvatures, for example, convex curve of 1,8 meters, and concave curve of 2,5meters.

The system allows for hull cleaning when the vessel is at anchor quayside within 4G coverage, reducing idle and drydock time. Proactive cleaning involves cleaning the hull regularly before hard growth takes hold on the vessel and prior to changing geographical bio-environment. Jotun developed a fouling prediction algorithm to establish when the proactive cleaning and inspection will take place and predict the service to be deployed between 8-12 times per year.

Regular cleaning is less aggressive causing less damage to both the vessel coating and local environment, whilst reducing fuel consumption on passage. The approach also reduces the risk of transporting invasive species from one bio-environment to another, claims Kongsberg.

Traditionally hull cleaning is carried out by teams of divers. However, it is a labour intensive and costly process. If there are insufficient divers available, the time needed can be difficult for ship operators to fit into schedules and may lead to off hire time for chartered ships. Manual cleaning can also lead to coating damage and having to repaint the hull, causing further delays and costs.          

Kongsberg said the solution has the potential to reduce fuel costs by an estimated USD3.6 million and carbon dioxide emissions by 12.5% per year.