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The Lloyd’s List Podcast: Taking a deep dive into sustainability

William Winters, managing director, Wärtsilä Underwater Services joins Lloyd’s List chief correspondent Richard Clayton to look below the surface at vessel maintenance and monitoring, and says divers’ own expertise is an integral part of the sustainability journey in this special edition of the Lloyd’s List Podcast


WHAT HAPPENS below the surface rarely grabs the headlines.

This is an oversight in the decarbonisation discussion because it’s well known that hull fouling and damaged propellers make a material difference to vessel performance, and therefore to fuel consumption and emissions.

Commercial diving companies used to focus on repair work, which is irregular and demands access to a broad range of technical and human resources. Not unreasonably, there was a shift into maintenance tasks. That’s a crowded space, so the next shift — into vessel monitoring — is likely to be the more fruitful.

Underwater monitoring involves professional divers working alongside the latest technology to assess the need for hull cleaning and propeller polishing, as well as looking for damage that might affect vessel performance.

This professional assessment and the deeper level of discussion with shipowners regarding the steps to be taken have lifted underwater services from a tickbox exercise to a key stage in the decarbonisation pathway.

Mr Winters explains how divers’ knowledge can make the difference between operating an efficient ship and running a green ship.

“The quality of the divers performing these operations is critical,” he says. “You need to have an advanced knowledge of ship design, propulsion, coating systems, and other equipment in order to identify what’s occurring in order to advise an owner properly.”

Just taking a photo of fouling doesn’t cut it any more.

This podcast hears that underwater services has moved far beyond hull cleaning and propeller polishing into the realms of operational assessments.

With maritime digital solutions analysing steady flows of data from all over the ship, it no longer makes sense even for proactive ship owners to assess the condition of a hull at 6- or 12-month intervals. Ships running for two or three months with significant fouling can see efficiency indicators drop and fuel consumption increase very quickly.

Don’t underestimate what’s happening beneath the surface, William Winters advises. It matters to what happens above the waterline.

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