Podcast Transcript: AMPP Technical Exchange on Ship Biofouling

This podcast episode features a roundtable discussion with Elisabeth Charmley, Naval Architect for one of the world's largest ship managers; Johnny Eliasson, Hull and Coatings Engineer at Chevron Shipping; and Buddy Reams, Captain USCG (retired), Chief Technical/Maritime Officer of the Association for Materials Protection and Performance (AMPP). All three are members of TEG532x, which is a Technical Exchange Group (TEG) that remains very active in areas related to ship hull fouling, antifouling methods, aquatic invasive species, and other biofouling related interests of the commercial shipping community.

Topics discussed on the podcast include the origins of the open group and motivations to join; success stories from the group over its three-plus years; efforts to synchronize the TEG’s work with other shipping trade organizations; and the ongoing development and structure of AMPP's technical program. See below for a complete transcript.

Source: AMPP, www.ampp.org

[introductory comments]

Ben DuBose: One of things we typically do on this podcast series is explore the ongoing transition from NACE International and SSPC: The Society for Protective Coatings to our new world within AMPP. In doing so, we like to spotlight various teams that are successfully going through that process. One of those areas involves our Technical Exchange Groups (TEGs).

To discuss one of those, specifically TEG532x in greater detail today, we’ve got Buddy Reams, chief technical officer for AMPP; Johnny Eliasson, hull and coatings engineer at Chevron Shipping; and Elisabeth Charmley, a longtime Naval architect for one of the world’s largest ship managers. These folks are all part of TEG532x, which is a Technical Exchange Group that was started about three years ago to look into ship hull fouling, antifouling methods, aquatic invasive species, all of those very hot topics within the shipping community and especially with the International Maritime Organization (IMO).

Before we get into that group and the progress that it’s made, I want to give each of our participants a chance to tell you a little bit more about themselves, their background, and what their area of industry expertise is as it pertains to corrosion, maritime, all the various areas that we’ve been discussing. Buddy, let’s start with you.

Buddy Reams: Good morning, Ben. Thank you. My name is Buddy Reams. I started with NACE five years ago. Prior to that, I was a marine safety engineer for the U.S. Coast Guard. My training is in Naval architecture and marine engineering. My focus for the better part of 24–25 years was on commercial shipping safety.

Elisabeth Charmley: My name is Elisabeth Charmley. I’m a Naval architect, and I’ve been working for over 10 years now for the world’s largest container ship manager, providing technical support for a fleet of 112 container ships. Some of that work is office based. For example, a lot of it is working to optimize the energy efficiency of ships, meaning to reduce the field consumption. We do this through operational support or investigating new technologies and rolling out pilot projects, which, if determined effective, can be scaled to the whole fleet. I also do a lot of work onsite in dry dock for ship structural repairs and also hull surface maintenance and repair.

Johnny Eliasson: My name is Johnny Eliasson. I fell into this industry back in what feels like the Stone Age now. I’m obviously a chemist since I work with [Chevron] Shipping. My passion has been for our ships and our sea foulers, and, like Buddy said, safety and to improve our environmental footprint. That has been with me all my life.

: The way we’re going to conduct this discussion today is through multiple perspectives. Buddy, of course, is a higher-up within AMPP, so we’ll have that perspective as far as the industry organization. As far as Johnny and Elisabeth, they provide expertise from within the industry itself and feedback from seeing how some of these things play out in the field. I think a good place to start would be with Buddy to give a little bit more background as far as the Technical Exchange Group that we’re going to be discussing today, which TEG532x. I mentioned earlier that it has to do with ship hull fouling, antifouling methods, aquatic invasive species. What, specifically, was this group set up to do, Buddy?

BR: It’s interesting. It was shortly after — I would probably say about a year after I had started with then-NACE, and my role was to help tie in the organization with the maritime industry. I remember reading an article on the new remote type of cleaning systems that were going to be looked at using for ships’ hulls. And having a conversation with Johnny, saying, “Is there a possibility that this can have an impact on coating performance?” What that spurred was the creation of TEG532x as a platform for not just our members to participate, but really to bring in stakeholders from across the industry as a platform to talk about things. I’m sure you’ll hear, the diversity of topics that started in that dialogue was really eye opening and surprising.

: As far as Johnny and Elisabeth, what moved you all to participate with this group, TEG532x? Why was it worthy of your time? Johnny, we can start with you this time.

JE: When I looked at the goals of IMO and the necessary changes that have to happen over the next 10–15 years to make a significant change, I took a look at all the various organizations that all, in good faith, worked hard to find solutions in silos around the world. It came to me that all these people, based on due diligence, using everything they know, would all come up with different solutions. This could cause a delay in the sensible solutions. By creating a forum where these different organizations — all good people — could verbiate and explain what they were working on and at the minimum listen to what other people are talking about, by opening up the conversation and listening between the silence, hopefully out of that great knowledge in every side would precipitate. That could — and that’s still my wish — that it can lead to some more harmony in the solutions finding and better solutions.

EC: I think what Johnny said is really well put, in bringing our industry and community together. I met with Johnny, who approached me to join this group. I was interested because, as a ship owner, when you're working on managing the underwater condition of the vessel, the changes to the biofouling content of the paints on the ships had recently changed, only in 2008, 2009, with the banning of tin. Shipowners are left with this blank hole of what kind of product do I put on my ship? Paint providers are sort of scrambling to produce a solution to make it work.

When I started working on this problem, I was trying to source solutions, and that’s actually how I met Johnny, is comparing notes, and finding out, “Am I alone in doing this? Who’s doing what? How do I manage this better, more effectively?” I ended up doing quite a lot of progressive work for my employer, but I wasn’t sure what others in the industry were doing. In joining this group, I knew that we could share information and compare notes and figure out who is doing what and help to come together to create a baseline, a standard from which everybody could work together and get on the same page. Also, when it comes to biofouling management, what’s really interesting is it’s often ignored or minimized by shipowners and operators because there’s other, more quantifiable ways to measure energy efficiency.

For example, we’re always looking at main engines. We can easily put a main engine in a shop and measure the energy savings by running shop tests on it. Or we could make hydrodynamic changes to a ship, changes to the propeller, changes to the bulbous bow, and measure that via CFD analysis or other means and see how much energy savings we’re going to get. But when it comes to ships operating in the water, biofouling growth is an organic process. It’s influenced by the exposure to sunlight, to air, the route the ships are operating on, if ships are accidentally or maybe purposefully or unknowingly anchored in a place at the mouth of a river where there’s an algae bloom.

It’s really hard to measure and quantify this, and yet proper management of the underwater hull surface of a ship can lead to the largest energy savings that you can get from caring for your ship or implementing new technologies or practices — other than switching that ship to an alternative fuel, which would move it to zero emissions. It’s really something we need to know more about as an industry and help create a standard and a baseline from which everyone can work from. We can shift how we’re managing our ships and how they’re operating in this regard.

: As I understand it, this particular TEG was open to any stakeholder, whether they were a member of then-NACE or not. What was the importance of having that dynamic? Elisabeth, Johnny, either of you can answer this question.

JE: The importance of that was that we did not want NACE to become a silo, where only members could talk. We wanted this group to be open to everybody so that we break down the silo. If we listen to each other, especially if we listen to those that do not agree with you, we learn. If we don’t listen, we don’t learn. And the more we learn, the better product, eventually, we can generate. I think it is essential not to force people to be NACE members. Many have joined afterward, which I’m very pleased. But that was not a requirement for joining the group.

Like I said, breaking the silos, make us listen to each other is the prime objective, not to come to a consensus. We might never agree. But that’s fine as long as we understand each other and understand how the other people think and what their main concerns are. We can consider.

BD: Recognizing that this is still an active group as we transition to AMPP, what’s made this a success so far, from both of your perspectives?

EC: Actually, if you don’t mind, Ben, I would like to answer the previous question.

BD: Okay, go right ahead. Sorry.

EC: I think the importance of our work group being open to many stakeholders other than just NACE members is that, if you want to innovate, you need to source from the broader industry at large, and even sourcing solutions from outside the industry. If we keep asking the same people different questions, we will continually come up with similar answers or the same results.

I think what was really great about opening this group to everybody was that we ended up with so many more opinions, so many more ideas. You might get members who are supportive of joining AMPP, their employer paying the membership or themselves paying the membership. But when you open it to people who just have a general interest in this topic and knowledge, you get a lot more diversity of response. It really helps to innovate and advance and move things forward. I think that was really important for us as a group as a whole.

: Okay, now we’ll move forward to the next question. Sorry for jumping ahead too much in my notes. As far as this still being an active group, now that we’re transitioning to AMPP, what’s made this a success, and what continues to make it a success?

EC: I can answer that first and go ahead. I think it’s been the collaboration between all the stakeholders involved in the process. Coming from a shipowner perspective, usually we’re talking with the paint manufacturers and we’re asking them, “Why didn’t your paint perform? Or why aren’t you performing more cleanings? What’s happening with this on our ship?” Coming together as part of this group enabled us to put down that typical business relationship and say, “Let’s try and solve a common problem together.” For me, that’s been really important and a key part of what’s made this a success.

I think what’s also made this great is to focus on and address areas that were really important. I’ve been involved in the subgroup or the task group that’s writing the standard for underwater hull surface maintenance and repair — let me correct that. I’ve been involved with the group that is doing the dry dock standard for hull surface maintenance and repair. That’s been a really innovative standard because nothing exists right now when people go into dry dock. They usually have their own standard they may bring in and say to the shipyard, “Here’s what we want done.” Or they’re just subject to whatever the shipyard does. I want those who are in dry dock to have a baseline to say to the shipyard, “Here’s a general standard. Here’s a bare minimum of work that we would like done on our vessel.” It becomes a consistent, transparent standard that’s available to everybody to use.

Hopefully, this will result in a huge amount of fuel savings for the ships operating around the world. I think that’s really important in terms of what Johnny referred to, and what we’re all aware of, is these IMO standards and our govts and non-NGOs putting forward regulations that — either they’re voluntary or compulsory — where we need to start hitting emissions targets. They’re coming upon us very quickly. 2030 was the first date for a lot of those targets, with 2020 being our sulfur cap date. But 2030 is coming quickly, and we need to hit that solution very fast and start rolling out things to solve that problem. This could be a very low-hanging fruit to address that.

JE: In addition to what Elisabeth said, I think the whole process of us not being forced to deliver or agree upon anything brought down the dissention centered around all the silos. It opened up a little bit more for discussion. Because we don’t have to agree. The only obligation we have is to listen to each other. I think that’s the main benefit of this group.

: I think that’s a very interesting perspective, certainly. As far as what’s happening moving forward, tell us a little bit more about how you need to synchronize the technical work that you're doing at now-AMPP, this particular group, with the similar but, I know, sometimes a little bit broader work that’s being focused on by some of the other trade groups in shipping. How do you synchronize what this AMPP committee — although, again, I know the membership is broader — how do you synchronize the work that you're doing with some of the broader initiatives in the industry?

JE: I can take that. I think during the discussions, we identified gaps — in standardization, for instance. Probably in the future in white papers on various issues. Groups are spun off to take on those tasks within the NACE organization. I think it’s a good way of finding gaps and then addressing them.

BD: Elisabeth, is there anything you wanted to add on that?

EC: I’m trying to think. I don’t believe so for that one.

BD: Okay, that’s fine.

BR: Ben, I’d like to give a brief comment on that. From a perspective of being a former regulator, I always thought that in industry solution was always going to be best. To me, one of the huge values, and one of the things I’m the most proud of, is the fact that the work that not only the TEG group is putting together, but the work, as Johnny and Elisabeth said, the spin-off work that is done is actually being developed in harmony with some other trade groups, so that it becomes a solution that works for the industry across the board. It’s harmonized rather than something that’s kind of — it becomes compulsory after waiting for an issue. That’s one of the things I think is a huge value.

: Is there anything that — and I suppose this goes for any of the three of you all — is there any specific initiative that you can point to that’s particularly worked? Something that’s simultaneously been a fit for what you're doing within this particular technical exchange group and then as far as the broader work from trade associations in shipping as a whole? Are there some specific success stories that you can point to?

JE: I can pick that up. BIMCO started to develop a hull cleaning standard. In the typical way that an organization does, sitting in one silo and talking between themselves. Through the TEG 532x, in which the leader of the BIMCO Group was listening into, it opened up for conversations between us. Buddy was deeply involved with this. As we spun off, a standard developed — it was actually two of them — the one that Elisabeth was referring to, the most recent standard, and to the diver template, standardized. The most huge interaction between BIMCO and joint reviewing of the documents between members of both working groups, I think this is the template. This is how things should be done. I think everybody benefited from it.

: Buddy, I think this question is going to be primarily for you. With AMPP becoming official on January 6, we’re about six weeks into this. I know the technical program, the purpose and structure of it, all of that is still in the works. How is that process going, the transition, if you will?

BR: It’s never as fast as you’d like it to be, of course, but there are a lot of great minds that are looking at AMPP’s technical program. The formal overseeing body, which is called the Technical Program Committee — and there’s also a corresponding Research Program Committee — they’ve been established, and they’re ready to go. There’s a technical and research integration team that is tasked with getting both of the program committees pointed out in the right direction. But essentially, that integration team is looking at what aspects of both NACE and SSPC’s former programs align with the desired purpose of AMPP’s program, and then filling in any blanks. Their work is expected to be completed in April, and then the two program committees will be putting function to the form.

There are two recommendations right now that the integration team has had approved by the AMPP board. Those are (1) to develop streamlined technical exchanges and workshops for members and stakeholders and (2) to establish a disciplined structure to regularly report new information to and throughout AMPP. The best of what you’ve heard from Elisabeth and Johnny is getting engineered into the AMPP technical program. As you’ve heard, robust technical exchange is the critical foundation, so any stakeholder can engage with peers and other subject matter experts both in and outside of AMPP. Technical exchange can run the gamut between routine dialogue and purposeful discussion, particularly where there are specific needs identified. That’s where the second part of that recommendation comes into play. Getting those needs and information distributed throughout the organization so that AMPP will continue to meet industry stakeholder needs in a timely fashion.

Right now, we’re keeping the existing programs going. There might be some title changes coming down the pike. But the full AMPP technical program will undoubtedly grow and expedite the ability of folks to interaction on technical needs across the globe. I encourage you to stay tuned because I’m excited about what I’m seeing, and I hope you are.

: Absolutely. There’s a lot of exciting things going on. Buddy, Johnny, Elisabeth, as we wrap up this podcast, final question. Are there any other thoughts that you all have as far as feedback, how this process is going over the last few weeks? I know we spent a lot of the podcast talking about that, but if there’s anything else that you want to add, now is the time. Also, if there’s someone listening that wants to learn more or perhaps wants to get more involved, how can they do that?

JE: I’ll pick up real quickly on that. Things are moving extremely quickly, as Elisabeth said. The world is changing faster than we like, realize. We need to listen to each other. We have to share our opinion, and we have to disagree honestly and respectfully. Only then can we find the best solutions going forward.

EC: I just always love hearing Johnny say that, where he talks about coming together and agreeing to disagree respectfully and sharing opinions. I always think of the idea that it’s easy to find people who will fan the flames of your own fire. Going door to door to your neighbors and shopping your worries and concerns, and they sympathize with you. But it’s much harder to go far afield and shop those same concerns and find support.

I think what’s been really great about this group is that we’ve been borderless. We have people joining us from all around the world. We coordinate through different time zones. We talk about different issues. We get people from different corners of the industry who have a real genuine passion, talking about this topic and addressing these problems and helping to find and source solutions. As a global committee, deep-sea shippers are operating around the world. We need to find a solution that applies from corner to corner and really works for us all. This workgroup has been an absolute pleasure to be a part of, and it’s been great forming new relationships and making new connections through the workgroup and hearing different opinions and ideas. I hope that if anybody’s interested, they will reach out and join us because it’s a great platform to be involved with. As Johnny said, we’re moving quickly, but we’re always happy to have more on board.

BR: I’m going to echo that. I’ve had the honor of being able to observe and participate where I could. But just the diversity and the scope of the topics and the dialogue — it really helps expand your horizons. For somebody who thinks they might know everything that they need to know about a particular topic, getting involved and just listening and observing the e-mail exchanges or phone calls, observing the type of dialogue and the topics that go across these many experts can really help you understand where maybe there are things you need to know, and possibly grow a passion in a new aspect of the industry. I think the more participation, the better. I encourage anybody who’s interested to reach out.

BD: Well said. Folks, that’s where we will leave things on today’s episode.

[closing statements]