Expert advice

How do AkzoNobel Yacht antifoulings present the lowest risk to the environment?

Producing an antifouling paint offers the typical paint chemist a puzzle when it comes to providing an effective product for our customers while complying with the clear aims of our Environmental Policy. Our customers have never been more aware of green issues; from minimizing their carbon foot print to reducing their pollution emissions, there are countless environmental concerns to be aware of.

This is where the paradox of antifouling paints comes into play. On the one hand the benefits of using an effective antifouling paint are well understood; minimizing hull fouling reduces drag (and thus fuel consumption and subsequent emissions) and it helps to reduce the translocation of invasive species whilst ensuring the safe manoeuvrability of sailing and racing yachts. However, in order to do this antifoulings have traditionally relied upon the use of one or more biocides, which prevent the microscopic young fouling organisms from settling and attaching to the bottom of the boat. Classically these biocides are released gradually over time into the environment and therein lies the puzzle; how do you prevent fouling species growing on the boat without harming the environment as a result of their release? 

The antifouling industry is acutely aware of the deleterious effects that antifouling biocides can have on the environment if they are not used responsibly; the lessons learned from TBT still hold true now. Product stewardship issues such as these are considered early in our antifouling product development. The inherent risks of using a biocidal compound in an antifouling paint have to be defined and understood in order to ensure that we do not produce products which harm the environment. All of the antifouling products in the International range pass through a strict risk assessment process to ensure that the amount and type of biocides that we use do not have an unacceptable effect on the environment. This is done as part of our internal development process and we have established clear guidelines about which biocides we will use. For example, in our development projects we are only using biocides that rapidly degrade or de-toxify in the environment and we will not use a biocide where there are concerns that it could bio-accumulate in aquatic organisms.

By considering these issues at an early stage we ensure that our future products are compliant with existing environmental regulations and future legislation. Good cooperation with our suppliers and a proactive approach to working with regulatory authorities to understand the assessment of potential risks are crucial in this process. AkzoNobel's Yachts long history with antifouling paints and experience with regulatory issues means that we can ensure that the risk assessments we carry out during our new product development process make certain that we only market sustainable antifoulings and are always one step ahead of the regulations. 

While biocidal antifouling paints form the back bone of our underwater hull coatings range, AkzoNobel Yacht is constantly developing new technologies that provide a more environmentally friendly solution to controlling fouling. Considerable investment is made in the development of our own proprietary technologies, with a view to providing effective fouling control while minimizing the release of potentially harmful compounds to the environment. With more stringent regulations coming into force and the increased focus on sustainable products it is clear that, in future, underwater hull coatings suppliers – and potentially boatyards and marinas - will need to provide a variety of options to the boat owner; from biocide free technologies requiring intensive hull husbandry practices (e.g. cleaning/scrubbing) to foul release coatings and biocidal products. Irrespective of the technology used, what is clear is that future products will not pose an unacceptable risk to the environment.

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