Nippon Paint Marine in the course of R&D applied its Aquaterras hull coating to the AIDAcara, a Carnival cruise line ship. Photo: Cruise Industry News

Nippon Paint has launched a long-term R&D project aimed at developing a new antifouling paint that would eliminate the release of microplastics from ocean-going ships while increasing fuel efficiency by more than 8%.

Antifouling paint prevents barnacles and other marine life from growing on the bottom of ships below the water line, reducing their speed and damaging the hull. Products currently in use gradually dissolve into the water, releasing resins categorized as micro-plastics.

Nippon Paint hopes to start testing the new paint on ships in 2028 and introduce it to the market in 2030.

Aquaterras, according to the press release,

is the world’s first biocide free self-polishing antifouling paint with a marine-environment-friendly formulation, free of heavy biocidal pigments, active ingredients and silicone. In addition, this product can reduce the total resistance on the hull by up to 10%, thereby contributing to ship’s fuel efficiency improvement and CO2 emissions reduction. This innovative technology has been rated highly worldwide for its ability to realize both efficient and environmentally responsible vessel operations.

It also eliminates concerns generated by the Biocidal Product Directive of the European Union. The directive – as noted by Jim Brown, marketing development manager at International Paint, in an interview with Coatings World – requires the evaluation and approval of biocides used in antifouling paints before they can be legally sold.

The development of Aquaterras was part of a next-generation marine environment technology project led by Japan’s Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism. Running from 2013 to 2016, the project also included Imabari Shipbuilding, Japan’s largest shipbuilder.

In addition, the project received support from ClassNK (Nippon Kaiji Kyokai), a Japanese ship classification society that defines itself as “a non-profitable non-governmental organization dedicated to ensure the safety of life and property at sea, and the prevention of pollution of the marine environment.”

In January 2021, Nippon Paint Marine Coatings introduced FASTAR, “a self-polishing antifouling coating that incorporates for the first time a hydrophilic and hydrophobic nanodomain structure using a unique nanotechnology.”

According to the press release,

By controlling the resin structure of the conventional hydrolysis antifouling technology and using nano-domain technology, Nippon Paint Marine Coatings succeeded in adding a new antifouling function that can diffuse and maintain antifouling ingredients in the resin structure on the surface of the coating film. As a result, elution of antifouling agents is over 50% lower than in conventional products. In addition, FASTAR incorporates Nippon Paint Marine Coatings’ unique water trap technology, which was inspired by the skin of tuna, to reduce water flow resistance. This technology reduces the fuel consumption of vessels by approximately 8%.

Ship paint was the original product of Nippon Paint, the precursor of which was founded in 1881. It is a small part of the company’s business now, but of increasing importance in the fight against ocean pollution and global warming.

Nippon Paint Marine Coatings faces competition from Chugoku Marine Paints and Kansai Paint Marine of Japan, Jotun of Norway, International Paint (the UK subsidiary of AkzoNobel of the Netherlands), Hempel of Denmark, PPG of the UnitedStates, China National Chemical Marine and others.

Chugoku Marine Paints, the market leader in Japan, ranks second worldwide with a market share of about 20% in its own estimation. Jotun ranks first, International Paint ranks third.

Nippon Paint Marine ranks second in Japan, but despite its highly regarded technology, its global market share is single-digit. The company’s new R&D project is aimed at raising that number.

Microplastics became a focus of attention in Japan in June, 2019, when the G20 Ministerial Meeting on Energy Transitions and Global Environment for Sustainable Growth was held in the Japan mountain resort Karuizawa. The G20 leaders than adopted the Osaka Blue Ocean Vision at their Osaka summit meeting later in the month.

Before that, in July 2017, the Hamburg summit meeting adopted the G20 Action Plan on Marine Litter. The United Nations Environment Assembly has also adopted resolutions to deal with the problem of marine plastic litter and microplastics.

The Osaka Blue Ocean Vision: G20 Implementation Framework for Actions on Marine Plastic Litter aims to cut new ocean pollution to zero by 2050.

Japan’s own National Action Plan for Marine Plastic Litter seeks to reach this goal through the prevention of unintentional leakage of waste into the oceans, the development and introduction of alternative materials, and other measures.

Nippon Paint has been working on more environmentally friendly paints for many years. Its subsidiary, Nippon Paint Marine Coatings, introduced a fuel-saving antifouling paint in 2008. An improved version followed in 2013. In 2017, it launched Aquaterras, a biocide-free antifouling paint.

On Earth Day, April 22, 2021, it was announced that, due to the success of Aquaterras, Nippon Paint Marine Coatings had won the GREEN4SEA Technology Award for “Making a Major Contribution to Environmental Protection Through the Provision of World’s First Biocide Free Hull Paint Technology.”

GREEN4SEA awards are hosted by SAFETY4SEA, a European non-profit organization that promotes marine environmental awareness.

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