Antifouling - have you thought about what you'll do when they ban it?

September 07, 2016

Antifouling & foul release paint

With a potential ban for antifoul on the horizon, have you considered the alternatives?

It may seem like a sensationalist statement - the notion of antifouling being banned, but with Government legislation around the world starting to look at the negative impact of antifouling on boats, it's actually an important question to consider. Very soon, it's highly likely that we will see it banned, forcing boat owners to look at better alternatives.

In reality, more and more regions around the world are starting to look at the negative effects of antifoul, based on the damage it has done to eco-systems, marine life and of course water pollution. There are places in the USA for example that have an outright ban on pleasure boats using antifoul, while plenty of other countries are suggesting they may well ban the use of copper in antifouling by about 2020. And as if this isn't enough to suggest a change is needed, some EU authorities have raised their own issues with copper compounds in antifouling paint. This has directly led to bans in Sweden and the Netherlands.

So what are you going to do if it gets banned?

Luckily for boat owners, there has been an increase in alternatives to antifouling paint in the form of silicone based boat coatings. They have actually been around for a number of years but only now are they starting to emerge as the future of biofouling control.

So what's so special about them?

Most significantly, silicone based coatings like AquaMarine are easy to apply, last a lot longer than traditional antifouling paints but they are also eco-friendly. They do not leach chemicals into water, offering boat owners a much safer and environmentally friendly way to manage bio-fouling.

Breaking down the facts of Antifouling Paints

Hard antifouling paint

Many people term this type of paint as 'contact leaching' antifoul paint. It is a copper biocide product that paint makers 'suspend' in a solid coating. It works by leaching out the biocides when they come into contact with seawater. However, despite this, it is actually fairly durable.

This type of antifouling paint is often found on racing yachts, particularly for serious racers who need a super-smooth coating for a race. It's also used on small cruisers that are kept on a semi-dry / dry mooring.

The issues with hard antifoul

Once there are no biocides remaining, the hard paint film is still intact. So you end up with a boat that's painted that won't actually work as an 'antifoul' at all. Some boat owners do overpaint the hull for protection. However, despite this process it is always essential for the entire hull to be stripped and cleaned off fully, to remove dead paint layers. This is a messy job and often requires scraping or sand blasting, which can be problematic when other boats are near.

There are even more extreme types of hard antifoul paints that include high-copper, resin suspended products. However, one has to question the chemical content and the hazards it poses to applicators and of course marine life.

Eroding Antifouling Paint (Soft)

This type of antifouling is ablative and a self-polishing type of paint. It is soluble which means it will erode quite quickly, so a layer of biocides will always be on the surface of the hull, in contact with the seawater.

This kind of antifoul releases biocides at a pretty constant rate and works by a chemical reaction between the seawater and the paint itself.

The main issue of this kind of paint is that the active biocides will be used up quickly (unlike harder antifouling), so you end up needing at least two coats or more if you want it to last the entire season.

The Copper Based Paint Ban

There is a lot of concern over the use of copper compounds in antifoul paints. This has already resulted in restrictions and partial bans in The Netherlands and Sweden, so the problem is not going away.

Whatever the reason for the sentiment surrounding antifouling paints, it is something that is likely to become more important as time goes on.
Perhaps the biggest problem for boat owners is the increasing regulation regarding DIY application of antifouling paints. The EU Health and Safety Exec is looking at things closely, including how the products are handled, what kind of protection is needed in the event of a spillage and of course how old coatings can be disposed of safely.
If it's decided that more regulation is required then you can be certain that you will be forced to get the job done by a professional, which will incur significant costs.
AquaMarine for the DIY market is ideal because it is a lot safer and as well as being easy to apply, you can be certain that any 'restrictions' on applying traditional antifouling won't be a problem if you're using less hazardous, less expensive alternatives.

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