Achieving your boat's maximum hull performance and protecting it from fouling settlements used to come at a cost to marine life. Antifouling paints are known to use an ablative coating, which slowly exposes multiple layers of toxins over time. This includes things like biocides and cuprous oxide, which kills wildlife and more importantly, can significantly harm eco-systems over the long-term.
For those who want to protect our oceans for the future, then foul release paints are a good solution. Unlike anti foul they do not use biocide poisons or dangerous contaminants, which means we can keep the oceans cleaner now and in the future.
The leaching of toxic biocides is very harmful to marine life and therefore the proposal for a potential ban, as was the case for the very popular TBT based paints, is a whisper in the marine industry. TBT was particularly harmful to shellfish communities, more specifically dog whelk populations in which it caused sex changes and deformations. Now the main biocide incorporated into almost 95% of antifouling paints is copper based.
Although copper biocides are not considered to be the complete fiend that TBT is, and copper is a trace element essential for metabolic processes, in high enough concentrations it can be toxic. In a study commissioned by the Environment Agency, WRc estimated the amount of copper used on coastal leisure craft in the UK in one year was between 75,173 and 311,769 kg. This study found the majority of copper in antifouling enters the marine environment through leaching, and that only a small proportion enters during the removal of antifouling paint, which occurs mostly by water blasting. However, the concentrated nature of the biocide in scrapings and cleaning residues may cause more of a localised environmental problem.
It has recently been found that Cu-ions (copper) interfere with olfactory sense organs in crustaceans and fish at very low concentrations giving rise to sub-lethal effects. And therefore, it has been proposed that copper may seriously affect behaviours in a range of organisms.
Conversely, foul release coatings being biocide free pose little to no threat to marine life. Since the system relies on weak adhesion there are no harmful substances being leached out into the water. An additional factor to consider when we talk about environmental impact is the fuel consumption and subsequent CO2 emissions. The ultra-smooth surface that can be achieved using foul release coatings and the effective prevention of fouling settlements means that reduced drag can be achieved for the boat and also increased speed. As a result, journeys can be shorter whilst requiring less fuel consumption and in turn lower CO2 emissions. A rather alarming report from the shipping industry reported that hull fouling costs an extra $30 billion per year based on a fuel price of $500/tonne. Additionally, the U.S. Naval Academy estimates that biofouling creates enough hull-drag to increase the Navy's petroleum bill by about $250 million every year.
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