Hapag-Lloyd tests ship painting robots

Hapag-Lloyd has been testing ship painting by robots on nine of its ships.

In shipyards in Hamburg, Marseilles and most recently Singapore, Hapag-Lloyd tested the so-called Hull Treatment Carrier (HTC) coating. The system from the Austrian manufacturer Palfinger is made up of several automated units that travel along the side of the ship’s hull while it is in dry dock. Its job is to remove the old layers of paint from the hull with extremely high water pressure and then to evenly apply new paint.

The machining heads of the HTC system can reach up to 77% of the approximately 9,300 sq m of surface area per ship. The shipyard staff work by hand on the bulbous bow, below the bilge keels, at the propeller apertures, and on the flat bottom. The HTCs can each apply around 600 to 800 sq m of paint per hour, which means it only takes a few hours for one coat of paint.

Thanks to robots, overspray is no longer an issue. The thickness of the applied layer of paint is also much more uniform. And it might also be possible to lower the amount of paint that is used.

“We can ensure a certain level of quality with automated application systems, and the system is less harmful to the environment,” commented Jan-Evan Lütje, a shipbuilding engineer in Hapag-Lloyd’s Technical Fleet Management, addding: “The performance indicators show that the smoother surface results in both lower fuel consumption at the start and a greater resilience to fouling over the entire 60 months.”

Sam Chambers

Starting out with the Informa Group in 2000 in Hong Kong, Sam Chambers became editor of Maritime Asia magazine as well as East Asia Editor for the world’s oldest newspaper, Lloyd’s List. In 2005 he pursued a freelance career and wrote for a variety of titles including taking on the role of Asia Editor at Seatrade magazine and China correspondent for Supply Chain Asia. His work has also appeared in The Economist, The New York Times, The Sunday Times and The International Herald Tribune.
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