logo Large Shipyards in Oregon: Coating Choice Drivers & P2 Opportunities
A Northwest Industry Roundtable Report



The Pacific Northwest Pollution Prevention Resource Center held a roundtable discussion December 11, 1997 in Portland, Oregon, on pollution prevention issues and opportunities for Portland-area shipbuilding and repair facilities. Approximately one dozen people representing commercial shipyards, a military shipyard in Washington, shippers, marine coatings vendors, the Port of Portland, and the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) attended.

The Portland roundtable was the third in a series of three roundtables PPRC has sponsored for the shipyard industries of Oregon and Washington. A roundtable for shipyards in the Puget Sound region was held in May 1997, and the roundtable report, Large Shipyards in Washington: P2 & BMP Opportunities, was published in September 1997. A roundtable for small shipyards and boatyards was held in Coos Bay, Oregon in November 1997, and the roundtable report, Small Shipyards and Boatyards in Oregon: Environmental Issues & P2 Opportunities, was published in March 1998.


Reasons for the Roundtable

Like their counterparts in Washington, Portland-area shipyards are facing economic and environmental issues that pollution prevention can help them resolve. The purposes of the roundtable were for participants to:


Portland Shipyardbuilding and Repair Industry

Portland is a hub for waterborne commerce in the Pacific Northwest. Large-scale shipbuilding and repair facilities provide an important support service for both the Columbia River and seagoing shipping sectors. In 1995, the last year for which U.S. Census data is available, there were 10 shipbuilding and repair facilities in Multnomah County, Oregon, with an annual payroll exceeding $27 million. The shipyards provide a range of services, including construction, hull painting, metal fabrication and machining, electrical equipment maintenance, piping, and propulsion system repairs.

The largest shipyard in Multnomah County—and the largest on the U.S. West Coast—is the Portland Shipyard, which is operated by Cascade General for the Port of Portland. The shipyard’s services include repair and maintenance of freighters, tankers, cruise ships, military vessels, tugs, barges, and fishing boats.

Port authorities are public agencies that provide services and carry out improvements that facilitate shipping of commercial goods into and out of Oregon. The Port of Portland is the largest port authority in the state. The total value of waterborne goods that passed through the port in 1996 exceeded $9 billion.


Discussion Issues

This section includes a summary of topics discussed at the roundtable. The information represents the opinions of roundtable participants, and may not necessarily reflect the views of all Portland-area shipyards.

Pollution Prevention Market Influences and Barriers

Paint and coatings are a significant pollution prevention opportunity in shipyards. Consideration of pollution prevention alternatives for paint and coatings is affected by a number of factors in addition to environmental performance characteristics. Customer specifications, economic disincentives, lack of knowledge, and difficulty obtaining accurate information are among the factors that influence decisions to adopt or reject alternatives. (For a full discussion of shipyard environmental issues and pollution prevention opportunities, refer to Large Shipyards in Washington: P2 & BMP Opportunities or Small Shipyards and Boatyards in Oregon: Environmental Issues & P2 Opportunities.)

Customer Coating Specifications. The preferences of vessel owners weigh heavily in making coating choices. Those preferences often are driven largely by price and by coatings specified by naval architects during vessel design and construction. Often, shipyards will refer to a particular vessel’s maintenance records during the selection process. Selection of an application method also may be influenced by customer specifications.

Economic Disincentives. Products with superior environmental characteristics but higher up-front prices are at a significant competitive disadvantage. Silicone antifouling paint, for example, can cost $200 to $300 per gallon. Equipment that applies coating with less paint waste but is slower than conventional equipment may raise labor cost and production rate issues, and potentially raise concerns about the quality of the surface coating.

Lack of Knowledge. Lack of awareness of coating and coating equipment alternatives by vessel owners was brought out in discussion. To illustrate the issue, one shipyard owner said it has taken some effort to convince fresh water boat owners that they don’t need antifouling bottom paint commonly used for saltwater vessels.

Difficulty Obtaining Accurate Information. In evaluating coatings, cleaning supplies, and other process chemicals for their environmental, health, and safety characteristics, facilities have encountered problems obtaining accurate data necessary for making informed product choices. Participants reported that Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS’s) do not necessarily contain precisely accurate and up-to-date information about products. Among the problem areas brought up in discussion were the following:

Participants felt that more accurate MSDS or product label information would enable purchasing departments to tighten control over products with hazardous constituents.


Pollution Prevention Alternatives

The following section includes discussionof pollution prevention alternatives and associated issues. The alternatives include:

Antifouling Products

The following subsection includes discussion of issues associated with alternative antifouling products. Cost information provided below is partly based on an article, "Bottom Paints: Year 7 Results," published in the March 1998 edition of Power Boat Reports. A leading environmental concern with conventional antifouling paints are the metal-based compounds used as the active ingredients. The metals in these compounds have harmful effects on marine organisms. (Refer to Large Shipyards in Washington: P2 & BMP Opportunities or Small Shipyards and Boatyards in Oregon: Environmental Issues & P2 Opportunities for more information on environmental issues associated with antifouling paints.)

Roundtable participants discussed technical and operational issues associated with alternative antifouling products. Among the issues are product performance and impacts on other shipyard processes, such as coating removal.

Alternative copper formulations. Conventional antifouling paints legal for use on non-aluminum vessels less than 25 meters in length typically contain cuprous oxide as the active ingredient. The coatings work in several ways to retard marine growth. “Ablative” paints, for example, erode at a regular rate, removing organisms through both mechanical action and pesticide exposure. Matrix paints bind the active ingredient using epoxies or other materials that allow water to penetrate and expose organisms to the pesticide. An alternative formulation is an epoxy that binds metallic copper which retards barnacle growth through chemical repulsion instead of toxicity. Epoxies can maintain their antifouling effectiveness several years with regular scrubbing. Little or no solvent is necessary for formulation, which reduces air emissions. Costs can be a barrier to adoption, however. The retail price of copper epoxy coatings is approximately $225 to $250 per gallon. The price of competing coatings range from $50 per gallon at the low end to $200 per gallon for ablatives.

Silicone: Silicone antifouling paints work by providing a surface that is too slick for marine life to permanently adhere to. These paints are self-cleaning at cruising speeds greater than 15 knots, and are easily cleaned with a sponge or high-pressure water while the vessel is in port. Dedicated spray lines are recommended for application, in order to prevent contamination of the coating. Silicone bottom paints last 1.5 to 2 times longer than conventional antifouling paints, but costs of $200 to $350 per gallon can be a barrier to adoption.

Chile pepper: Antifouling paints containing an active ingredient extracted from chile peppers is commercially available. The active ingredient is based on capsaicin, the natural oil which gives chile peppers their heat. Capsaicin creates an unpleasant environment that deters attaching organisms. The product contains cuprous oxide (up to 33 percent), but in smaller quantities than is found in conventional antifouling paints. The cost is approximately $100 per gallon, but scant case study information is a potential barrier to adoption.

Zinc oxide. This type of antifoulant relies on a photochemical reaction to produce hydrogen peroxide, an unstable pesticide which breaks down quickly and does not accumulate in the water column or in bottom sediments, as do copper or tin-based antifoulants. Concerns about the effectiveness of this approach were raised in discussions. The cost, approximately $125 per gallon, was more competitive than other alternatives.

Acoustical. By creating vibrations that simulate hull movement through water, acoustical antifouling systems produce an unfavorable environment for attaching organisms. The systems consist of a microprocessor-operated controller, and equipment that transmits low frequency signals to the hull. Acoustical systems complement, but do not replace, antifouling paints containing pesticides. Acoustical systems are used mainly on small fishing vessels and pleasure yachts. Estimated costs for an acoustical antifouling system installed on a 35-foot, aluminum hull work boat range from $7,500 to $12,500.


Low-VOC Coatings

In 1995, EPA promulgated a National Emissions Standard for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAP) for shipbuilding and repair facilities. Shipyards that emit or have the potential to emit 10 tons of any one hazardous air pollutant or 25 tons of any combination of hazardous air pollutants are required to limit the emissions. Among the products available that reduce emissions of volatile constituents are high-solids coatings, waterborne coatings, and electrostatic spray coatings. Trident Refit Facility (TRF), a military shipyard in Washington, is experimenting with high-pressure application of high-solids coatings. Thinning of high-solids coatings with heat may be necessary for application. High-solids coatings take longer to dry than low-solids coatings, which may raise production rate concerns.

TRF has begun using electrostatic spray coating. The coating is durable, but is difficult to remove with conventional paint removal methods. TRF also is investigating flame-thrown plastic coating. A controlled environment is necessary for applying the latter.


Coating Equipment

Different types of paint application equipment have varying “transfer efficiencies,” which refers to the percentage of sprayed paint that actually adheres to the work surface. HVLP, airless and air-assisted airless spray guns are coating equipment alternatives that have higher paint transfer efficiencies than conventional air spray systems. Operator skill is a significant variable in comparing the transfer efficiency of application systems.


Paint Preparation

Paint waste can be greatly reduced through careful preparation. For example, inadequate training can result in improperly mixed paint, which must then be discarded. TRF has established a paint blending and distribution center to ensure that paint is blended properly and correct quantities are issued for coating applications.


Paint Removal

The technology of choice for removing hull coatings is dry, abrasive grit blasting. The technology is well understood, and grit is widely available and economical. The technology, however, can result in discharge of antifoulants into waterways and airborne dust emissions. All spent blasting grit containing antifouling materials must be managed to prevent water quality impacts. Grit that "fails" the Toxicity Characteristic Leaching Procedure (TCLP) or aquatic toxicity tests must be disposed of in hazardous waste landfills. Puget Sound area shipyards have the option of sending spent grit to cement manufacturing plants, where it can be used as a raw material. (Refer to Small Shipyards and Boatyards in Oregon: Environmental Issues & P2 Opportunities for a full discussion of grit disposal issues.)

A number of alternatives that avoid the problems described above have been investigated and/or adopted by Northwest shipyards. Among them are high-pressure water blasting, wetted grit blasting, and blasting alternative media, such as steel shot and plastic particles.

Steel shot. Cascade General is exploring the use of a steel shot system for vertical hull structures. The system would recycle the shot and collect dust created by blasting. Avoidance of dust emissions and elimination of spent blasting media disposal are two advantages. The medium produces a satisfactory “surface profile” necessary for ensuring paint adhesion. In comparison to open air grit blasting, the production rate is not as high, but the cleanup time is significantly shorter. Careful training of crane and machine operators is necessary to ensure optimum performance.

Trident Refit Facility reported operational problems with a steel shot system that was tried several years ago. The electronic controls were too sensitive for the harsh environment common in shipyards, so the system was down 50 percent of the time for repairs. The shot had a tendency to rust. In one incident, the shot burst from the machine. There were no injuries, but the shot found its way into the drydock dewatering pumps.

Wetted grit blasting. Trident Refit Facility is employing a wetted grit blasting system that avoids hazardous waste generation and dust emissions. (Refer to Large Shipyards in Washington: P2 & BMP Opportunities for details on TRF’s wetted grit blasting projects.) One of the economic and environmental advantages of the system is that grit is mixed with Blastox, a product which chemically binds lead and possibly cuprous oxide into a non-leaching silicate crystalline structure, allowing disposal of the blasting medium and paint chips as ordinary solid waste. If binding is successful, disposal costs are reduced nearly 90 percent. Wetting the grit before blasting reduces dust emissions, which lessens dust containment costs. The production rate is only 60 percent that of dry grit blasting, but the costs of dust containment and hazardous waste disposal may be avoided. Blastox also can be used in dry blasting operations to avoid hazardous waste generation.


Best Management Practices

The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) northwest region typically includes Best Management Practices as enforceable elements in water quality permits. The goal is to ensure that the most efficient and effective means are used to prevent pollution of public waterways. (For a list of Best Management Practices prepared by the Washington Department of Ecology, refer to Appendix C of Large Shipyards in Washington: P2 & BMP Opportunities.)



As part of all industry roundtable, PPRC identifies projects and other activities to address information needs or waste management issues dicussed at the roundtables. Followup projects and activities that could assist Portland-area shipyards with ollution prevention efforts include the following:


Continue to Appendix A: Shipyard Roundtable Attendees.

Back to the Table of Contents.
Back to the Ship Building and Repair Industry Resources page.


This report was developed with grant funding from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and was a joint project of the Business Assistance Programs in Alaska, Idaho, Oregon and Washington.

© 1999, Pacific Northwest Pollution Prevention Resource Center
phone: 206-352-2050, e-mail: office@pprc.org, web: www.pprc.org