Pacific Towing, the region’s dominant marine services provider, has introduced an in-water Hull Cleaning service. A first for PNG and indeed Melanesia, this crucial service will save shipping companies potentially hundreds of thousands of kina.
Hull cleaning is necessary when there is a build-up of marine fouling such as barnacles or tubeworm. It is a vital service that can result in considerable improvements in a vessel’s hydrodynamic performance and therefore its fuel consumption.
Pacific Towing (PacTow) launched its long awaited hull cleaning service in December. The service is performed near its headquarters in the sheltered inner anchorage of Port Moresby’s Fairfax Harbour.
General Manager Neil Papenfus says that “PacTow’s investment in hull cleaning technology will be highly valued by our existing shipping company clients and will undoubtedly generate new clients as well.” Papenfus reports that most shipping companies in the region currently have the service performed thousands of kilometres away in Australia or New Zealand.
A PNG-based hull cleaning service means that clients will save tens of thousands of dollars in fuel and downtime associated with having vessels out of service. It also means that additional and much needed revenue will be brought in to PNG. Furthermore, the 100 percent nationalised PacTow commercial dive team who perform the service have all received valuable and highly specialised training, further building their skill sets.
Papenfus adds that shipping companies will save additional money by having hull cleaning performed by PacTow because the service is done underwater as opposed to vessels being dry docked. “Dry dock cleaning performed by international providers takes longer and costs more” he says.
A diversity of vessels including container ships and cruise liners up to 250m in length can be serviced by the PacTow hull cleaning team. The servicing of larger vessels is planned for 2021. The time taken to clean a hull varies, ranging from one to four days. Service duration depends on such factors as hull size and shape, as well as the extent of marine fouling build-up (i.e., relatively minor through to 100 percent coverage) and type of fouling (e.g., barnacles, tube worming, calcium scale, weeds, slime). Whether the vessel is heavily loaded or already discharged also impacts how quickly the service can be performed because ‘load status’ impacts how high or low a vessel sits in the water. PacTow hull cleaning is performed underwater.
Commercial Dive Manager, Ricky Leka stresses that “hull cleaning is a high risk, technically challenging and physically demanding service to perform.” PacTow’s entire eight-member dive team participates in any single hull clean. Leka explains how his divers work in pairs on a two-hourly rotation to literally drag, manoeuvre and correctly position the hull cleaning machinery (i.e., a series of high-precision, rotating brushes and suction mechanisms) around the surface of the hull. “The divers are in constant motion, their legs are always moving and their applying continuous force with their upper bodies” notes Leka “this is why the 2-hourly rotations are so necessary.” A dive supervisor and technical assistant, as well as standby divers and machine operators are in close proximity on PacTow’s ‘Wanilla’ a bespoke dive support vessel recently upgraded specifically to enable the new hull cleaning service.
PacTow imported environmentally responsible hull cleaning technology from Denmark. The Dive, Technical and Engineering teams worked collaboratively to improve the effectiveness of the technology as well as refine its environmental credentials. Leka explains how the original technology was hydro driven but proved ineffective on barnacles, leading the PacTow engineers and technicians to convert it to hydraulics. The new improved technology was pilot tested and further refined on PacTow’s fleet of tugs with resounding success.
All necessary environmental testing and accreditation was finalised in 2019 and regulatory authorities, including the National Maritime Safety Authority, have approved PacTow’s Hull Cleaning system.
More on PacTow
Pacific Towing is a marine services business headquartered in PNG with additional businesses in Fiji and Solomon Islands. The company services Oceania as well as South East Asia and is a full member of the International Salvage Union. Towage, mooring, salvage, commercial diving, and liferafts have long been Pacific Towing’s ‘core’ services. However, the company is increasingly sought out to provide customised solutions in diverse project settings. To learn more about Pacific Towing: www.pacifictowingmarineservices.com.