Wed, 02 March, 2022
Now entering its completion phase, SleekShip, a project that has received funding from the EU’s Horizon 2020 programme, aims to help the shipping industry to achieve compliance with updated emission regulations, thereby contributing towards a more sustainable future.
The project consortium comprises partners that bring to the table expertise in different areas: SubseaTech is a leading manufacturer of underwater, remotely operated vehicle (ROV) systems; TWI Hellas has deep expertise in underwater robotics control algorithms; QCell specialises in hyperspectral camera design and manufacturing; M.Danchor provides inspection and cleaning services to ship owners in the Mediterranean; and Danaos prides itself on being one of the leading, independent vessel fleet owners worldwide. This unique combination of partner skills and experience effectively targets the severe problem of marine biofouling and will enable shipping companies to update their existing practices. More specifically, marine biofouling, defined as the concentration of plants, microorganisms, algae and animals on the surface of ship hulls, has serious implications for the economy and the environment, as well as causing greater hull resistance leading to fuel over-consumption, and therefore increased carbon emissions.
The SleekShip team has been developing a system that can inspect, detect and clean off biofouling on ship hulls. Thanks to hyperspectral imaging technology and new biofouling recognition algorithms, the system will allow clear, uninterrupted, underwater views and detect even the earliest levels of biofouling much more easily than is currently possible. After a ship hull has been inspected and biofouling detected, the cavitation-based cleaning tool mounted on the system’s semi-autonomous underwater vehicle (SAUV) will thoroughly clean the hull, releasing a liquid stream of vapour and gas-filled bubbles that generate the necessary pressure to enable the removal of the biofouling without causing harm to the hull’s paint coatings. Additionally, any debris formed during the cleaning process will be collected by the SleekShip debris collection mechanism to prevent port contamination.
For TWI Hellas, project SleekShip has been an excellent opportunity to apply its machine learning experience by developing algorithms that can read and interpret the data from the ship hull inspection system, and thus distinguish organic and inorganic matter. Additionally, the team has developed the autonomous localisation and controls for the SAUV.
Regarding the experience of participating in the project, Konstantinos Vasios, a Principal Technology Investigator at TWI Hellas, commented "TWI Hellas has utilised its knowledge of cutting-edge technologies in automated control and computer vision to develop the Sleekship platform, an instrumental solution for the maritime and shipping industries that successfully contributes to the mitigation of CO2 emissions through effective biofouling cleaning."