What is the best antifouling for boats?

May 19, 2021 | Antifouling Tips

What is the best antifouling for boats?

Every yacht or boat owner knows that regular maintenance is essential for keeping their vessels running smoothly, looking their best, and ultimately offering protection to this rather sizeable investment. Hence why we service our yachts engines, tension our riggings and, as we’ll be discussing here, apply antifouling paint to our hulls.

After all, the smoothest running engine in the world isn’t going to help you, or even function that way at sea for very long, if a coral reef, barnacles or other types of fouling take root under the waterline on the hull. This is precisely what antifouling aims to prevent and to help you enjoy those benefits in full, we’re going to consider what antifouling does, and what is the best antifouling for boats on the market right now.


What does antifouling paint do?

Before you can understand the best antifouling for boats, it’s fundamental to understand its function. Effectively, antifouling bottom paint works to dissuade marine lifeforms and plant growth (like barnacles and algae) from adhering on your boat, ship or yacht, particularly with a focus on the protection of the hull and gel coat. Generally applied every one to two years, this preventative method aims to increase boat efficiency with benefits such as –

  • Improved water flow
  • Reduced fuel costs and save money
  • Better performance
  • Higher speeds
  • Longer lifespan
  • A generally clean hull (reduced fouling and marine growth)
  • And more

Taking a look at traditional antifouling paint

Regular antifouling or bottom paints applied to the hull contain water-soluble biocides that are released into the environment and sea to prevent marine growth, and are thus largely regulated in the same ways as pesticides, with most regulatory boards taking a range of key issues into account, such as –

  • The impact on the food chain
  • The effect on non-targeted organisms
  • Safety during application

The vast majority of traditional hull antifouling paints are copper-based and available in two primary types, which are –

  • Self Eroding: Often referred to as a ‘soft antifouling’ system, eroding antifouling paints works by slowly eroding throughout a sailing season, ensuring that a fresh film of biocide is always present to prevent marine growth. Generally, this is recommended for boats with speeds of less than 25 knots.
  • Hard: Typically suitable for higher-speed vessels (30 knots+), hard antifouling paints constantly release biocides, and don’t wear away in the same ways.

Why a traditional antifouling system might not be for you

Traditional antifouling paints certainly have their place, but many boat owners are finding that they also come with a few costly setbacks, many of which more eco-conscious sailors are no longer willing to accept. Notably, the disadvantages of the traditional application of these paints on your hull include –

  • Damage to marine environments
  • Varying regulations across territories
  • Incomplete fouling protection
  • The need for regular reapplication
  • Expensive haul out and yard fee’s
  • Generally very inconvenient

The lack of environmentally friendly processes is an especially increasing concern among marine biologists, with studies, like this research conducted at Plymouth University in 2020, which revealed that biocidal treatment led to a 100% mortality rate among cockles, as well as decreasing the weight of exposed ragworms by around 15.7%.

The potential for damage is so extreme that the European Union, in particular, have already banned ingredients previously used with antifouling paints, such as organotin tributyltin (banned in 2008,) and ongoing research suggests that further limitations are inevitable. Specifically, research is continuing to reveal that regular exposure to antifouling paints leads to lower oxygen levels, increased stress for marine life, and ultimate increases in vulnerability to disease.


Ultrasonic antifouling systems are the answer

For many sailors and boat users negotiating the issues above, a newer contender on the boating market has opened up the benefits of an antifouling system like never before. While it has existed in some form since the 1950’s (traditionally to clean dental equipment,) ultrasonic antifouling has only been used within the marine industry, specifically to halt marine fouling growth on the hull, for around the last decade, but its benefits are already making themselves known and uptake of this environmental technology has increased significantly in the last 5-6 years.

Through the use of digital electronics and ultrasonic transducer technologies that are attached in the bilge (no through hull drilling required), an ultrasonic antifouling system emits ultrasonic sound waves in a range of frequencies, ultimately creating positive and negative pressure. This, in turn, deters microorganisms from attaching and removes the food source for large marine lifeforms in the process.

You could say, then, that, while antifouling paints provide armour for your hull, ultrasonic antifouling systems are a shield, and one that leaves far less of a mark on marine environments overall. Even with its relatively recent entry on the marine market, ultrasonic antifouling has proven its worth by directly addressing the antifouling pain points touched on above. Consider, for instance, studies that have already been conducted into the benefits of ultrasonic antifouling. These have revealed a wide range of benefits, including the very notable fact that ultrasonic antifouling is an environmentally friendly solution that causes no notable detriment to humans, animals, fish, or marine life. What’s more, further benefits are still making themselves known, including –

  • An efficient cost-effective money-saving solution, with up to 30% savings on fuel bills
  • Improved hull performance
  • Reduced maintenance
  • Easy installation
  • Reliable performance
  • Adaptability
  • And more

What is the best antifouling paint?

Ultimately, as with all things, the ideal antifouling solution is going to depend a great deal on your needs, and settling on the ideal solution here means considering different priorities, such as –

  • The use of your vessel
  • The type of boat you have
  • The amount of time you can commit
  • The locations you intend to sail

For traditional antifouling paint and hull protection solutions, especially, each of these variations is going to point you towards something different, so getting a real grip on your requirements is key.

When it comes to ultrasonic antifouling technology, you should find that you’re a little freer to enjoy the benefits regardless of the variations listed above, with these antifouling paints working well for protection on the hull of near enough any yacht or boat. This, on top of the benefits mentioned above, certainly puts ultrasonic antifouling in the limelight.

Specifically, it’s worth noting that a lack of environmental damage relating to ultrasonic antifouling altogether eliminates you from having to consider geographic restrictions or accidental breaches as you sail. What’s more, ultrasonic antifouling technology is the most adaptable antifouling solution on the market and is suitable for use with a wide range of vessels and commercial applications. With a system to suit any size of vessel.

With this in mind, the answer to the question ‘what is the best antifouling for boats?’ is most likely to be ultrasonic antifouling by quite some margin and not just because it reduces costs.

If you’re interested in learning more about this cost-effective eco technology, don’t hesitate to check out our brochure here, or contact your EFC dealer to find out exactly what ultrasonic antifouling stands to do for you today.