Foul release coatings vs. self-polishing antifouling

Foul release coating VS traditional antifouling

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In the wake of increasing ESG pressure within the maritime industry, the trend is clear: self-polishing antifouling is under heavy scrutiny and may soon be phased out, in order to achieve the goal of 0-emission. As a result, proactive boaters are now turning to non-toxic foul release coatings to stay ahead of the regulations.

The question is, what are the key differences between self-polishing antifouling and foul release coatings? That’s exactly what our team at Fjord Tech Solutions is covering in today’s article.

Self-polishing antifouling

As conservation initiatives advance, the heavy metals, toxins and microplastics released by self-polishing antifouling paints have attracted a wave of negative press. Despite the environmental drawbacks, equal consideration should be given to the benefits of these paints, including:

  • Easy accessibility as the most popular antifouling paint
  • Excellent performance for freshly-applied coatings
  • Affordable up-front expenses for boaters

Having quite literally propelled the modern maritime industry for decades, these paints have been essential to maritime transportation, fishing, tourism, and a range of other activities. 

The problem is that these paints release biocides such as copper and zinc, and microplastics, to mitigate fouling, lending way to several disadvantages.

For example, the quantity of biocides in the coating decreases throughout the season, meaning increased fouling, lower top speeds, and increased fuel consumption. As a result, boaters must re-apply a fresh coat each year, lending way to high lifelong maintenance costs. Likewise, the paint removal process releases toxins that pose both a health and environmental risk. 

Therein lies several key advantages of foul release coatings. 

Foul release coatings

As a non-toxic, silicone-based alternative to traditional self-polishing antifouling, foul release coatings create a slick surface area that fouling loosely attaches to. In turn, water jets, hand cleanings, and even movement through the water can easily remove the fouling. 

The key advantages include:

  • Multiple seasons without maintenance
  • Non-toxic for improved oceanic and personal health
  • Increased savings from better fuel economy and less maintenance
  • Faster cleanings through high-pressure water streams like the Fast Track Hull Cleaner

Although foul release coatings save time and money while preserving the environment, there are a few additional factors that boaters must consider.

For example, the softer surface area means that adding foam padding to straps and boat stands may be necessary to prevent abrasions during lifting and hauling. Likewise, you may want to protect hard plastic boat trailer rollers with soft rubber tape or similar. Additionally, foul release coatings generally take longer to apply than traditional self-polishing antifouling. Lastly, switching to in-water winter storage is preferred, as silicone lasts longer in the water. For many this would be considered a cost-saving and hassle free alternative. 

“In the Clean Hull Project, 30 test boats in the Oslo fjord were coated with foul release coating, inspected during the 2022-season and cleaned by hand. We accidentally ended up cleaning a boat covered with traditional antifouling paint, which turned out to be a perfect opportunity to showcase the very difference between the to types of fouling control. Traditional self-polishing antifouling is made to slowly release biocides and polymer binders to the water column. Foul release coatings are a non-toxic alternative to self-polishing antifouling, that creates a slick surface area that fouling loosely attaches to.”

Erlend Nordbak, Founder of Fjord Tech Solutions

Closing remarks

As the maritime industry continues to evolve throughout Norway and beyond, proactive boaters who embrace the changes can improve their vessels’ efficiency and support cleaner oceans. 

While foul release coatings have existed commercially in shipping for years, access for recreational boaters has increased through innovators like AkzoNobel Yacht Coatings and Fjord Tech Solutions. In February 2023, International paint launched their eco-friendly hull protection coating B-Free Explore which now can be found in stores in Sweden, Norway, Finland and the Netherlands.

In the words of Anders Øgaarden, the CEO of Fjord Tech Solutions, “foul release coatings are ushering in a new era of cost-effectiveness, efficiency, and longevity for vessels and boats. Coupled with our in-water hull cleaning solution, these eco-friendly paints will forever change how boaters approach the maintenance process.”

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