WE AT Aquio believe this article is timely after the COP26 conference in Glasgow, when our leaders of government and industry came together to discuss strategies to stabilize the 1.5 degree warming of our planet by 2050. Within this, the international shipping industry came together with a flagship event, Shaping the Future of Shipping, in Glasgow on Saturday 6th November. The conference was designed to address key strategic issues in shipping’s rapidly evolving decarbonisation journey and showcase its efforts to decarbonise and deliver a sustainable and equitable future for the industry.

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The event presented a major opportunity to meet and discuss with government representatives, regulators, and policymakers, and sought high-level political support needed to ensure progress of the industry’s decarbonisation activities. The focus was very much on alternative fuels, to reduce the industry’s usage of 4 million barrels of oil each day (4% of our global oil production). This is the big prize for the shipping industry, however there is a plethora of indirect and additional direct carbon-based elements to the industry, and Aquio provides the opportunity for an immediate start to reducing carbon footprints. No matter how big or small the impact, Aquio believes every aspect of the industry needs the same fervour and scrutiny, as it will take all opportunities available to achieve this target.

The shipping container was first introduced to international trade in 1956. Since then, the nature and construct of the shipping containers hasn’t really changed. What has changed is our need for them to be more efficient, more sustainable and more cost effective. The value of internationally traded volume is some US$14 trillion and up to 90% of it, moves in containers on ships.

With the growth of international shipping, the packing and unpacking of shipping containers has presented hazards to both employees and employers. These include Manual Handling, Falling Objects, and Hazardous Fumes, the perspective for this article. These refer to fumigants, off-gassing from products shipped in the containers, and the presence of residual chemicals, some of which include the solvents used in coatings used in repairs and maintenance. This is counter to the establishment of an international mandate that all new built containers from April 2017 must be coated with waterborne coatings.

The use of solvent-based coatings in the refurbishment and maintenance of containers is, counterproductive to the mitigation of extending the carbon footprint created in the construction of the newbuilt container in the first place. The carbon already trapped in the container construct, is consequently added to, through this practice. The advantages of solvent-based coatings have been singular in context. Until now, the use of solvent-based paints for coating containers has been the cheapest option, as water-based technology and innovation has escaped the realities of efficiency and coatings efficacy.

The downside of using solvent based coatings was explored in a Safe Work Australia research study in 2011, when it found of 76 containers examined and tested, 74 were found to have air borne hazardous chemical residues including Toluene and Xylene, both constituents of solvent-based paints. The study determined the listed source of these includes the off gassing from packaging materials, consumer products or cargo carried in the containers, and the alternative source of these and other chemical residues included the coatings used on the container itself. The advantages of this came into question when the study included interviews with workers working in and around shipping containers. Responses found it was more likely that symptoms of memory loss, Asthma, eye irritation, dry mouth and throat were reported by those exposed to air borne hazardous chemicals.

In addition to these health concerns, solvent based paints are flammable, thus increasing the risk of fire and the measures required to mitigate the risk. The combined nature of the fire risk and the health concerns, manifests in greater risks and costs associated with sick days, staff turnover, Workcover claims, increased insurance costs, and increased risks around safety training and standards, litigation, all adding to the indirect costs associated with solvent-based coatings application and use. It is fair to argue, that the initial cost savings sought in the use of solvent-based coatings, are mitigated by the associated impact of higher operating costs. Whilst the quantification of this needs to be tested on a case-by-case basis, it does raise the question as to the true value being achieved. Furthermore, the move to water-based technologies in coatings application, narrows the incidence of residual hazardous chemicals in containers towards the use of fumigants, which in themselves, have been subject to innovations reducing the presence of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), a major step towards reducing carbon footprints and improving safety.

Trends active in the paint industry such as the banning of solvent-base enamel paints for architectural coatings in Europe since the 1990’s, is leading attitudes towards their use, although Australia has yet to follow. By 2000, low VOC architectural coatings became mainstream, and by 2010, the benefits of this were being recognised. These benefits are applicable to water-based industrial coatings like those used in shipping container coatings, however, the transition remains slow and has not been enacted to any great degree in Australia. An underlying issue of the past has been the focus on fast turnaround of containers, driven largely by the faster evaporation rate of solvents. Water-based coatings have been unable to match this drying pace (traditionally in cooler climatic conditions), however, when a holistic approach is taken to include the benefits of improved worker health and safety, reduction is supply chain risk in the handling of dangerous goods, fewer sick days, reduced insurance costs, low transition cost and improved environmental footprint, the question of upfront cost is extensively muted.

Since 2012, Aquio has invested heavily in numerous trial and error innovation processes to match the efficacy of water-based coatings to solvent-based coatings and creating a product that matches the upfront costs of the coating itself. Through this process, we have had numerous attempts, focusing heavily on the drying time of water versus solvents. Let’s face it, solvents dry faster due to their chemical nature, so closing this gap has been a huge challenge. Our new formula is the closest we’ve ever been and in moderate temperatures and humidity, meets this challenge.

For so long, the lower cost of solvent-based chemicals in the construct of coatings formulations has been hard to beat. Solvents have been cost effective for years, although through the course of 2020 and 2021, this has changed dramatically, with solvent base components growing 35 to 40 per cent in wholesale price, making water-based options the cheaper alternative. This switch in affordability brings with it, all the benefits of water, eliminating the cost versus benefit debate.

Aquio proudly announces the availability of a locally developed, world class solution to reducing carbon footprints, improved safety, environmental outcomes, and lowering the cost of container coatings.

We have been able to achieve this with a product that offers a 15% cost reduction versus traditional solvent-based coatings. The traditional price advantage of solvents versus a water-based solution, has now reversed, allowing us to supply the same amount of coatings product at a 15% price advantage over traditional solvent-based products.

Not only that, the spread rate of our water-based coatings is up to 1.3 times that of solvent-based products (based on substrate profiling), so not only do you save money in the cost of the coating, but you can also make it go 30% further and dry it at the same time as your traditional solvent-based product, at normal temperate operating temperatures.

We know it works and we are now supplying it to several major customers who are realising the benefits of using it. Its efficacy is equal to existing solvent-based coatings previously used, and its drying rate has been brought much closer to that of solvent centric formulations, particularly in moderate temperatures, humidity, and application environments.

To summarise, the numbers are simple, with opportunities for further savings depending on your business.

DIRECT COST SAVINGS

  • 15% saving per litre in product cost,
  • 30% increase in coverage

These cost savings translate into a minimum 15% saving, and a maximum of 35% with optimum application rate of 1.3 versus solvent based at 1.0. This translates into significant savings based on a range of container volumes, using the following exemplar.

No. of containers PA

Potential Savings

(Materials only)

10,000

$78,800

20,000

$157,600

30,000

$236,400

40,000

$315,000

50,000

$394,000

No. of containers PA /

Potential Savings

10,000

$78,800

20,000

$157,600

30,000

$236,400

40,000

$315,000

50,000

$394,000

(Materials only)

No. of containers PA /

Potential Savings

10,000

$78,800

20,000

$157,600

30,000

$236,400

40,000

$315,000

50,000

$394,000

(Materials only)

INDIRECT COST SAVINGS

  1. Reduced costs for storage and handling of DG (Dangerous Goods),
  2. Waste management savings (non-solvent waste),
  3. Major reduction in Protective Equipment requirements (flameproof tooling, hoists, lighting),
  4. Improved health and safety costs and environment for applicators with reductions in PPE,
  5. Improved worker health, reducing propensity for sick days, respiratory concerns,
  6. Low investment costs for ongoing application and environmental footprint,
  7. Reduced supply chain risks and storage adjacencies,
  8. Reduced worksite insurance costs (reduction in DG handling & storage, application),
  9. Ultra-low VOC (Volatile Organic Compound) applicable to the architectural sector, translating into industrial preferences,
  10. Supports the sustainability goals of the shipping and container industries.

So, your journey towards a safer environment, safer workplace for employees, and your contribution to our global climate for the future, can start now. Great journeys don’t have to be giant leaps, small steps help you test your ability to take big ones.