The way the superyacht industry meets and merges with the paints and coatings market has come a long way in the last 20 years. Back in the first months of this century it was not uncommon to see the clause; ‘The vessel shall have a Super Yacht Finish’ as being the only specification when it came to exterior coatings. Yet despite yachts of that time being well respected for their quality in finishing the fact was that paint technology did not play as a significant role then as it does now.

Quality Assurance Control Consultant Nico Roper of Atlas Paint Consultants believes that in that period, larger vessels were produced, paint and fairing system application times shortened and products adjusted to comply with ever changing environmental requirements. He says, “This all has had its effect on the paint applications and the need for properly described Application Guidelines, Specifications and Quality Assurance / Quality Control requirements.” He adds, “Today new build and refit paint projects start with set up and production of tailor made Specifications and Inspection Testing Plans, which clearly describe the requirements for each main step in a paint and or fairing application process and how this shall be verified and documented.”

Documents such as these specifying paint standards are constantly being developed and improved. The industry today has access to these professional tools and they provide process control helping all parties involved to achieve the agreed technical and cosmetic result on all painted areas of a superyacht.

It is not just in the world of superyachts that practice is embracing modern expertise. The technology behind the automotive paint supplied to a F1 team gives a significant drop in weight. But the demands placed on above-the-waterline marine coatings are somewhat different to the demands required of a coating on a Formula One race car. Inge De Jonge, Product and Marketing Manager Imron Marine for Axalta in Europe, the Middle East and Africa says, In Formula One, a coating’s speed and weight are key – the speed of the refinish process because of the vast number of components and the tight timeframe, and weight of the coating can not have a detrimental impact on the overall weight of the car. She adds “Marine coatings on the other hand are exposed to extreme weather conditions, in particular the ravages of saltwater, so durability is key. This is compounded by the fact it is not an easy task to dry dock and to refit a yacht, so marine coatings must be built to last longer, with the speed and weight of the paint being of secondary importance.” As a global company Axalta is focused solely on coatings and providing customers with innovative, colourful, beautiful and sustainable solutions. From light OEM vehicles, commercial vehicles and refinish applications to electric motors, buildings and pipelines, their coatings are designed to prevent corrosion, increase productivity and enable the materials they coat to last longer.

Malcolm Kerr one of the owners at Storm a paint specialist company working across the world with new builds and refits thinks the question needs to be more specific. He says, “First thing we need to clarify is what is meant by UV protection, because when we mention UV protection this could be referring to the durability of a coating meaning gloss and or colour retention and that has nothing to do with heat absorption.” Kerr adds, “In terms of durability there is no huge difference between whites, blues, etc – only colours like reds or oranges have poorer gloss or colour retention thus less UV resistance. In terms of heat absorption
– it’s known that darker colours absorb more radiation/heat, meaning light colours like white are better to keep vessels cooler.”

It is an established fact that one leading paint manufacturer limits the absorption of heat and thus makes the use of darker colours more feasible. Kerr says, “These coatings incorporate specialist pigments into the finish paint formulation which are designed to reflect sunlight and thus absorb less heat, keeping areas cooler and at a more constant temperature. Here at Storm we have had positive experiences with these products in the past and would happily use them again.”

Superyachts are increasingly veering away from the traditional white hull as colours become more reliably stable. The 72 metre Axioma is sporting a fresh new blue coloured hull in recent months and is a prime example of that trend. The fact remains however that, white is the most popular colour due to UV and heat protection.

We asked Christopher Rothe at Wrede if the same UV protection and heat deflection could be applied in equal measure to coloured coatings. He responded saying, “Not currently, research is ongoing into creating coatings that appear visibly dark yet also reflect UV radiation. Such products will be a huge boost to the entire coatings sector and not just superyacht coatings.”

At Axalta, Inge De Jonge believes, “It is possible to achieve the same UV protection in coloured coatings as it is for white coatings when a clear over base system is used. In this scenario the UV protection comes from the clear coat. When it comes to heat deflection, however, white will always perform slightly better as heat from solar absorption is linked with the absorption properties of the pigments.”

Better products are the result of research and development and there is evidence that the investment into that field is beginning to pay off. Awlgrip are for example now officially trialling a fully sprayed filler system. Axalta, a global market leader in colour technology. “At our R&D facilities around the world,” says Inge De Jonge, “We are continuously investing to develop new and better performing products that not only meet but also exceed our clients’ needs, while also maintaining a strong focus on our environmental impact. We have a number of developments in the pipeline that are being designed with those key values in mind.

Malcolm Kerr at Storm highlights the move towards electrostatic painting as another major step forward. He says, “This still needs a lot of work and expectations on the resultant ‘finish’ need to be managed as they are different to the standard ‘conventional’ finish. In our experience, environmental control and replication of atmospheric conditions is fundamental with electrostatic painting.”

Kerr adds, “We are currently working on two innovative projects ourselves when it comes to R&D. One being a custom app for management and quality control, thanks to a successful European funding grant. The second being an environmental control system which can also monitor emissions ¬the objective being to subsequently reduce emissions.”

Like both the aviation and motor industries, weight is a factor and in this regard R&D in this field is important. Christopher Rothe says, “On some high speed light weight projects it can be very important. If we can fair and paint yachts using fewer and lighter products, then this has considerable benefits both environmentally and in terms of reduced running costs.” Generally the fillers used by Storm are lightweight so the weight of the filler is negligible considering the other products on a yacht,” says Malcolm Kerr. “A pallet of filler could weigh less than a marble worktop so I would say that weight isn’t particularly an issue in regard to coatings.” Ewan Clark from Aquarius Marine Coatings says, “It is easy to be side-tracked with the notion of ‘weight’. Of greater importance is the efficacy of the anti-foul itself and the amount of drag it creates.” Conventional anti-foul paints absorb water when launched, so swell, increase in weight and roughen at the surface, which causes an increase in drag (leading to reduced fuel efficiency and hull performance). Coppercoat-Superyacht, on the other hand, is a non-absorbent epoxy resin. When launched it does not swell, increase in weight or roughen, and instead provides a smooth and lasting resinous surface, ideal for maintaining both boat speed and efficiency.

Because of ever stringent environmental regulations and concerns, for those manufacturing paint products the reduction of VOCs carbon-based chemicals which evaporate easily at room temperature is an absolute priority. But as Christopher Rothe at Wrede points out these are less of a priority for the yachts and owners who are primarily concerned with the appearance and longevity.

The reduction of VOCs in our products is a huge priority for Axalta says Inge De Jonge. “However, reducing VOCs while still maintaining the outstanding performance of coatings is a challenge, and this is particularly true of marine coatings, which are exposed to extreme conditions. This is why we continue to invest in our research and development of lower VOC coatings that still offer a virtually unlimited choice of brilliant colours and that last a lifetime.”

Malcolm Kerr at Storm, points out, “We live in a world that is no longer willing to accept pollution to the levels we have been producing in recent times. We believe that the coatings’ manufacturers have a massive role to play here in developing greener products … and the industry as a whole needs to perhaps accept the subsequent ‘finish’.”

Ewan Clark at Aquarius Marine Coatings who make Coppercoat the anti fouling bottom paint used by a great many superyachts believes, “The reduction of VOCs in coatings is vital. Indeed, all our anti-fouls are completely VOC-free, and this was a key part of their original development. So while we have fully ticked the VOC-free box, many other coatings manufacturers have room for improvement!” Coppercoat-Superyacht provides very long lasting protection against bio-fouling, with a treatment typically remaining effective for at least 10 years. This saves the time, expense and logistical problems associated with repeated applications of conventional anti-foul paints. It is also a more environmentally sound choice, being both VOC-free and water-based, with no end-of-life problems. And it does all this while providing a smooth, low-drag surface that allows the vessel to sail quickly and efficiently.

Yacht detailing products and yacht cleaning supplies from the US based Sea-Shield have been developed over the years by experienced professionals working within the superyacht industry. Their Francisco Linares understands better than most, the task involved in yacht detailing and the importance of adding a protective barrier against the damaging effects of the sun and the sea. He says, “We developed products to make the crew’s life easier. When our products are applied, maintenance time is substantially reduced. Future wash downs get easier every time Sea Shield is used and so ensures the yacht has the best protection available.”

The application of ceramic protective coatings will seal the pores on paint, glass and stainless, preventing them from being damaged and creating an uneven surface that will never shine no matter how many wash downs are done. From the crew’s point of view, washing down a surface sealed with a smooth ceramic coating is quick and easy and results in the perfect shine. These specialist polymer and ceramic coatings enhance and protect the exterior paint surfaces against ultra violet, salt, dirt, exhaust fumes, oil and a host of other contaminates. Using a good polish can delay a paint cycle and if applied from new or whilst still in good condition can extend the life of the paint for years.

Malcolm Kerr of Storm believes that when it comes to working conditions, planning and management the key word is ‘consistency’. We work in a world of custom yachts in a job that has no real recognised schooling or training. This is a massive challenge. The more we can create a uniform work process, the better the chance we have of consistent and acceptable results.
Ewan Clark, Aquarius Marine Coatings says, “For our Coppercoat antifoul to adhere for the long term, and provide its standard 10 years of protection, the substrate must be clean, dry, stable and matt. As Coppercoat-Superyacht anti-foul is a modern water-based epoxy resin, it must be applied in dry, mild conditions. If a vessel is to be treated in the open (as opposed to in a shed or covered dock), a tent or kirt should be attached to the topsides to protect the below water-line sections from any precipitation. When it comes to job planning, the most important elements during application, are atmospheric, clean air, and temperature control.”

Wrede Consulting GmbH, with its headquarters in Hamburg and locations in Bremen, Barcelona, La Ciotat, Rotterdam and Palma de Mallorca, provides independent consulting for coatings from new builds to refits with specialisation in superyachts. Founded in 1999, the company owes its success to the many years of experience of its independent paint consultants and surveyors, as well as to state-of-the-art, innovative technology. Speaking on behalf of the company Christopher Rothe says, “For the finest results, conditions have to be provided so that the applicators have no excuses for not delivering an excellent result. This means, time, space, lighting, cleanliness, stable environmental conditions, planning, scheduling.” At Storm, Malcolm Kerr says, “It is vital to replicate, as much as possible, the ambient conditions. Reducing the variables is key to a successful paint job.”

When painting, it is always best to avoid extreme air quality or temperature conditions. Low temperatures will for example increase drying times while high temperatures will reduce drying times and can make application more difficult, as product flow and levelling is compromised. Optimal painting conditions are when the ambient temperature is between 10 – 26° Centigrade and relative humidity is below 65%.

It is always best to avoid painting in direct sunlight, or when the substrate itself is excessively warm. One good way to check this is to check the surface temperature using a specialised surface thermometer.
With over 20 years experience crewing superyachts, Duncan Sykes the Managing Director at Absolute Boat Care, understands absolutely the requirements and demands of captains and owners alike. Based in Mallorca, they have a large, highly professional team who have the capabilities to undertake absolutely any job, whatever the size. Captain Jason Lambourne, of the motor yacht Angara has enjoyed working with Absolute Boat Care and done so for the past four years. He says, “The products and the knowledge they employ when polishing Angara have always given her an incredible shine and made sure she is looking fantastic for her owners every season.”

Captains like Jason Lambourne want more than just a good looking yacht. They want her to stay looking good and they look for answers if that is not the case. That’s where warranties come into play. Christopher Rothe says, “The variables in which a yacht is used and maintained once a project is completed mean that is it impossible to truly warranty the result beyond what might be considered a major failure. These are rare, but lesser issues remain a constant discussion point.”

“Warranties need to be adequately managed,” says Malcolm Kerr of Storm. The point being that in order to manage warranty, you first need a definitive list of what is covered / not covered. Fundamental is a detailed mapping of all problematic areas (e.g. corrosion points on refit) found during the complete work process.”

“It is important to manage client expectations. We do this,” says Christopher Rothe, “by demonstrating the achievable and being fair and consistent in one’s appraisal of results and communication with the client.”
“Transparency is the key,” says Malcolm Kerr. “It’s very simple, starting with a kick off meeting is imperative and constant detailed reporting and dialogue is an absolute necessity. No secrets, no short cuts, everyone stays on the same page.” Coppercoat concur that clear lines of communication are paramount. Ewan Clark says, “By listening carefully to the requirements of the client we will provide them with an accurate and honest report of what they should expect from our products.”

Whatever the size of the project there are benefits of employing a yacht consultancy. Christopher Rothe at Wrede says, “Yacht crew and management generally do not see very many paint projects and are not suitably qualified to make some of the decisions that maybe asked of them. A good coatings consultant will provide expert advice and insight into a project to help it progress effectively to completion and also relieve some of the pressure from the crew and management.

Malcolm Kerr at Storm says, “Our experience of yacht consultancy is limited to the coatings aspect. We regularly have coatings surveyors checking and controlling our works. There can be a tangible benefit if said surveyor is qualified and has the same objectives as the rest of the project i.e. getting the job done to an acceptable standard in the given timeframe. Unfortunately, the truth and reality of the matter is that some surveyors are only in the game to invoice and create as many site visits as possible, whilst having very little responsibility.” Back at Aquarius Marine Coatings, Ewan Clark says, “When relevant, we like to personally oversee applications, alongside any existing surveyors, managers and consultants. By being on-site we can immediately react to any situation and thereby ensure the smooth running of the project.”
Smooth running projects and a smooth finish are clearly the end results for those who, in the industry, are painting a better future for the superyacht coatings fraternity.