Simon Doran, MD at GAC EnvironHull, Talks Hull Cleaning Services & Techniques, Marine Fouling, Research & Development And Autonomous ROVs
Simon Doran is Managing Director at GAC EnvironHull, a part of the GAC Group, a global provider of integrated shipping, logistics and marine
services. Simon leads the sub-sea division responsible for delivering a cutting-edge service by way of a safe, cost effective and environmentally friendly solution to counter one of the industries oldest problems - keeping vessels clean around the world!
How effective are your hull cleaning services and what is your competitive advantage?
In most cases, HullWiper can clean up to 96% of a vessel’s submerged areas. That makes it one of the most effective hull cleaning solutions available today. Our ROV doesn’t need to get out of the water when night falls, it doesn’t need a cup of coffee when it’s cold or a cold drink when it’s hot. It can operate 24/7 without any restrictions. Cleaning can be done while the vessel is alongside, during cargo operations or at anchorage, so it is a big time saver.
What techniques are used to ensure cleaning is eco-friendly?
HullWiper collects marine fouling removed from hulls, rather than releasing it into the sea which could pollute local waters and spread harmful species. Captured fouling and residues are pumped into a unit on the ROV that filters all of the marine growth removed from the vessel for safe, ecologically-approved disposal on land.
The shipping community continues to be surprised by how little fouling is left once filtered, compressed and all sea water is removed. We need to continue educating people, who are not marine biologists, about the actual mechanism at work that allows us to do what we do.
Onboard hull cleaning ROVs are autonomous and operated by the ship's crew. How complicated are they to use and what training is required?
It’s definitely not rocket science. Driving the ROV is relatively easy - today’s generation liken the experience to that of the Play Station and X-Box games they play or have played - but the maintenance requires a certain amount of technical aptitude.
What are your main market segments?
Presently our main markets are LNGs and any type of vessel calling at locations where traditional hull cleaning is prohibited. We appeal to all market segments but vessels that have the latest silicon coating benefit the most as our cleaning method is less aggressive than brushes, so coatings last longer.
GAC EnvironHull is present in many countries. Do you foresee the HullWiper network expanding further over the short / medium term?
HullWiper has steadily been expanding our footprint at strategic locations globally. We have permission to operate inside port waters in Sweden, Singapore, Spain, Netherlands, Norway, United Arab Emirates and on an ad-hoc basis at other key locations in the Middle East. The Americas and Australasia are our two remaining frontiers where, from our chosen location, we aim to capture at least 65% of the global marine traffic for our type of service.
Please describe the importance of R&D:
After our customers, R&D is everything. We are continually looking at ways to improve, to become more efficient and how we can reduce costs to our principals. Without R&D things do not change, and change is essential in our industry. It improves efficiency and literally saves lives as well as plays a key role in protecting our delicate eco-systems.
What are the challenges ahead?
Our service is always compared to traditional methods of hull cleaning. It is like comparing apples to oranges – they are both fruit but they are fundamentally different. The biggest challenge we face is changing the industry’s perception and encouraging a “bigger, longer-term picture” perspective which looks beyond the dollar number on the quotation. There is so much more than just a number in what we do and value we deliver.
Please tell us about your memorable shipping experience and favourite ship?
As an ex RN Diver, I have many memorable experiences, from happy to sad to extraordinary. But my favourite ship is easy - the QE2. I did my first "commercial" diving job on her in Southampton over 20 years ago. I have been in Dubai nearly 19 years and I see her here almost every day, a now sad and lonely sight since she was retired in 2008 and now sits laid up alongside in Port Rashid, but nonetheless a very memorable ship.
Editor, Marine Strategy
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