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Corrosion Protection of Ships

written by: Willie Scott • edited by: Lamar Stonecypher • updated: 6/7/2011

Corrosion protection of our ships in the marine environment has challenged us for years in the areas of their hulls and internal tanks, the use of coaltars being prevalent. Nowadays however there are many innovative types of epoxy coatings and specialized paints available to combat corrosion attack

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    Ships and offshore structures require protection against the marine environment. This protection is required above and below the waterline as well as the splash zone in offshore structures, being exposed to both air and liquid assault.

    Storage tanks such as fresh water and ballast tanks also require special internal anti-corrosive coating as do the oil storage tanks in oil tankers.

    The properties and applications of these coatings are provided by guidelines, rules, and regulations set out by governing bodies such as SOLAS and the IMO.

    Depending on their particular application, corrosive resistant coatings can be supplied in various categories such as paint and epoxies.

    This is an article on the protection of ships against corrosion, here we will examine the potential damage caused by the corrosive marine environment.

    We begin by having a look at the different areas of these vessels, go on to examine the different types of protection available.

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    Susceptible Areas

    These areas are listed below:

    • Hulls

    This includes the area above and below the waterline and can sometimes be combined with an anti friction coatings on the hull below the waterline.

    • Decks

    Decks liable to corrosion due to salt being deposited on the plating and also due to the wearing of the coating due to deck-work

    • Tanks

    Ballast Tanks

    Ballast tanks are very susceptible to corrosion due to their constant wet and dry conditions when the ship is ballasted or carrying a full cargo.

    Ballast tanks have been in the news regarding the spreading of non-indigenous seawater borne marine bacteria, organisms and barnacles. Coatings to eradicate these have been developed and are applied after a coating of anti corrosive material.

    Freshwater Storage Tanks

    These tanks used to be cement washed and then chlorinated to prevent corrosion and protect against E-Coli and Legionnaires disease. More modern methods are available today.

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    Treatment of Susceptible Areas

    • Hulls

    Area Below the Waterline

    This underwater area is protected from corrosion following the hull construction before it is launched. One of the more popular protection used is two part coal-tar epoxy in conjunction with a vinyl tar coat.

    This combination has been found satisfactory and can be repaired at the ships yearly drydock survey.

    • Decks and Hulls Above the Waterline.

    Ships decks are also liable to corrosion due to being immersed in seawater during adverse weather depositing salt on the plating. When I was at sea the sailors were forever chipping away and repainting the deck or hanging over the side in a bosun’s chair, attacking the hull. This was not complimentary to my after lunch snooze before going on the 4-8 watch.

    Anyway, protection of deck and above waterline areas is carried out using a well tested combination of alkyd and chlorinated rubber.

    • Tanks

    Ballast Tanks

    Ballast tanks are very susceptible to corrosion due to constant humidity promoted by their surface wet and dry conditions depending if the ship is ballasted or carrying a full cargo.

    Ballast tanks have been accused of being the importer and spreading of non-indigenous seawater borne marine bacteria, organisms and barnacles. Coatings to eradicate these have been developed and are applied after a coating of anticorrosive material.

    Ballast tanks used to be coated with coal tar epoxy (CTE) but now epoxy products produced in hydrocarbon refining has been developed. This is applied in two coats and is one of the current methods used against corrosion in ballast tanks.

    Freshwater Storage Tanks

    These tanks used to be cement washed and then chlorinated to prevent corrosion and protect against E-Coli and Legionnaires disease. I well remember the taste of the newly bunkered fresh water after the mate had liberally dosed it with chlorine. Yuck! Not nice in afternoon tea, to say nothing about the rum!

    Nowadays an application of pure epoxy, applied under strict guidelines by an experienced contractor is one method. This can be supplemented with a strictly controlled addition of silver nitrate or chlorine to the tank being used to control any bacteria in the water.

    Cargo Tanks

    This is a vast subject due to the various cargoes carried by today’s merchant vessels from crude oil to chemicals, so will cover this fully in a future article on Cargo Tank Protective Coatings.

    However, in the interim we will have a quick look at t

    he protection of oil storage tanks in a crude oil tanker. The corrosion in these areas is caused by the sulphurous and water contained in the crude, combined with other water vapour and the flexing of the ship’s structure. Microbes also compliment corrosion as they ingress into the protective coating. The new high tensile steels used in ships construction and the innovation of double hulled vessels has had a detrimental effect on tanks, being sited to have exacerbated corrosion and pitting instances.

    Crude oil tank internals can be protected by applications of Coal tar and pure epoxy coatings.

    Anyway I will leave it there as I am coming back to this subject in a later article.

    Websites Visited

    1. calthelco: (ICCP) Impressed Current Cathodic Protection

    2. DNV: Corrosion protection of ships.

    3. sintef: Corrosion protection in marine environment.

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