SEA Currents: Corwith Cramer
September 09, 2015
Periodically, it is necessary to haul steel ships out of the water in order to paint their bottoms with anti-fouling paint. Because many creatures of the ocean are relentless in seeking out places to call home, modern ships fight a constant battle against their growth on the hull.
Why does it matter? First, growth on the hull slows the ship down…significantly. You would be surprised at how quickly a ship loses a knot or solely due to organic matter on the hull. Second, vessels like the SSV Corwith Cramer voyage across large stretches of ocean, and transplanting organisms from one ocean basin to another is generally not a good idea for preserving biodiversity.
A few hundred years ago, the best technology for anti-fouling was sheets of copper…shipyards would nail these sheets to the bottoms of ships to help fight the battle against the denizens of the deep. While the sheets of copper have generally disappeared, copper is still a key element in most anti-fouling paints.
As you can imagine, it is fairly toxic to marine life, by design. Therefore, regulatory agencies walk a fine line between introducing contaminants into the ocean while at the same time balancing the needs of the global shipping industry, and mariners rely on technological improvements to help preserve marine organisms (just not on the bottom of their ships).
One way to help prevent contaminants from entering the ocean is by careful removal of old bottom paint. At the shipyard here in Palma de Mallorca, scaffolding and netting systems prevent the majority of old paint from entering the ecosystem, which we think is a great thing!