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The ‘Spectral imaging powered, ship hull biofouling detection and cleaning’ project, SLEEKSHIP, brings together expertise in high-tech hyperspectral imaging, manufacture of underwater robots, image-based underwater inspection technologies, ship cleaning and inspection services, and container shipping.

Marine biofouling has a huge economic and environmental impact, and can lead to more than €1m in lost revenue per ship per year in fuel overconsumption alone.  The only way to mitigate biofouling is to detect it at an early stage while it can still be cleaned with soft methods that do not damage hull paint or coatings.  With current approaches this is impossible, particularly within port waters as they are heavily turbid and inhibit visibility.  Outside port waters inspections are avoided by ship operators because they incur charter-off time that costs over €20k per day.

SLEEKSHIP will comprise a semi-autonomous underwater vehicle (SAUV) carrying a hyperspectral camera, that captures light wavelength bands where light backscattering is less and slime is easier to distinguish despite contamination.  Inspection will be able to take place in port waters while the ship is docked for other operations, so no additional charter-off time is incurred.  An integrated, cavitation-based cleaning tool allows for 100% paint-safe cleaning.  By detecting biofouling early, ship owners will be able to achieve over €1.3m savings per vessel annually by reducing fuel overconsumption and paint/coating damage caused by hard-brush cleaning.

Post system launch, the long term goals of SLEEKSHIP are to help the shipping industry save over €3 billion per year, reduce CO2 emissions by 115m tonnes over a 5 year period and create over 100 jobs.

Partners: QCELL TECHNOLOGIES LLC, Subsea Tech, M.Danchor Ltd, Danaos Shipping Co. Ltd and TWI

SLEEKSHIP was co-funded by the Horizon 2020 of the European Union under Fast Track to Innovation (FTI).