The Perfect Paint Job

WITH ADVANCING TECHNOLOGIES AND AN EVER CONSTANT NEED TO KEEP A SUPERYACHT SHINING BRIGHTLY, THE NEED FOR THE CORRECT PROJECT MANAGEMENT, PRODUCTS AND APPLICATION IS PARAMOUNTWhen it comes to protecting something that floats, every object is subject to the same destructive forces. It matters not if it is a floating log, a sophisticated commercial container carrier or asuperyacht, the sea and the sun are set on a unwavering course to destroy that object as quickly as it can. The only way around that, is to apply protective coatings. Under the surface, water is full of algae and other biological elements that literally eat away at the submerged element of the yacht. Seawater is even worse than fresh, given that it is full of plankton and other larger living fundamentals.

Salt is highly aggressive and will help contribute to the destructive process. The chemical processes, a combination of mineral and biological materials in the water interacting with sunlight and other factors, create powerful destructive forces to any structure above and below the surface.

Structures above the surface suffer a different form of degradation. Radiation from the sun’s UV-A and UV-B radiation from the sun is destroying every fabric a craft is constructed from. Flaking varnish on a yachts capping rail is not just the result of strong sun light. Rain with all the other mineral elements that are trapped in every droplet and the sodium chloride from salt water that is in the air, will destroy any maritime vehicle with the same ferocity as the suns radiation.

The destructive process depends on many factors. Under the surface, boats that move less will have greater problems than those that travel more. Water closer to harbour is usually warmer and full of nutrients that feed micro-organisms and bacteria cause bio-fouling to happen more quickly. Yachts at sea, experience less problems with bio-fouling, but have an exposure to other biological elements. Above the water line yachts exposed to tropical sunlight degrade far faster than those in more temperate climes, yet it is a harsh reality of this modern world that the air circulating around tropical islands is far less polluted than that found near European cruising grounds.

When considering what protective coatings are needed it often pays to ask the advice of experts. Paint consultants know about and understand the importance of pre-inspections, establishing quality criteria, standardising methods of measurements. They understand quality control and assurance systems, designing acceptance procedures, managing expectations in respect of time lines and budget. Consultants are only part of the story and the delivery of the perfect paint job additionally calls for quality products and expert application. Protective coatings, topcoat sealant and underwater antifouling products have all improved in recent years. The new buzzwords on the block are ceramics and nanotechnology.

Ceramic coatings consist of non-organic, glass-like compounds. The most dangerous component in them is isopropyl alcohol that completely evaporates as part of the technological process. Because nanoceramic coatings are not toxic, they do not contaminate water or kill sea organisms. The coating is non-organic and creates a super-slick surface, meaning there is simply nothing for algae and other sea organisms to attach to or consume. To keep paint clean at all times QP-ON in Germany manufacture products based on pure Silicium a hard mineral, which can be found in regular sand and quartz and even in meteorites. It creates a special protection that adheres to any surface, thanks to a scientific process. The Silicium molecules will adhere electro-statically to the hull and create an invisible hard and yet flexible surface. Water, salt, dirt all have less chance of sticking to the original paint. The surface becomes water repellent and has anti-static properties. For severe conditions they have also developed QP-ON 3.0 Ceramic Coating a high-end endurance coating for valuable surfaces that need that extra protection.EXPERT OPINION
How does the changing product range and its application benefit the superyacht of today? What are today’s go-to products and why should they be used? Has innovation in paint production, hampered or improved environmental issues? We put these and other questions to paint consultants, manufacturers and experienced applicators and this is what they and to say. Wayne Berry is a Director with Rokoat Protective Coatings. He believes, “The most significant change in marine coatings in the last five years have been dictated by the volatile organic compounds laws that have changed in Europe. This means that health and safety has become an issue for applications. In the removal of the volatile organic compounds vessel coatings have suffered in their durability and longevity of life.”

Whereas before marine coatings would last up to 4 to 5 years, these compound changes in formulation do not give the life that previous coatings would. This has brought about the ceramic coating revolution, which is one of the many solutions Rokoat Protective Solutions provide. Now after a vessel has been re-coated a period must be allowed for curing and hardening, normally 4 to 6 months at this time a ceramic coating can be applied extending the life of the vessels paintwork up to a further 2 to 3 years. Giving vessel and owners greater value to their investment.

Claire Steel at Cerashield another ceramic coatings specialist believes the most significant change in the marine coatings over recent years has been brought about by the 2008 economic crash. She says, “Because yachts are being forced to rethink their repainting budget.” She adds, “After three years paintwork may start to degrade, down glossing will have occurred and surfaces in the high wear areas may of become matt in appearance. This means that vessels need to be far more innovative with their paint maintenance programmes now then ever before. Thankfully we have solutions that will help.

Carlisle Fluid Technologies manufacture specialist spraying equipment for use throughout the superyacht industry. They make products under the brand names of; DeVilbiss, Binks and Ransburg. Speaking from their point of view John Richardson their Marketing Communications and PR Manager says, “The biggest changes to both coatings composition and our applications equipment has been driven by Environmental Legislation and the need to reduce the emissions of VOC’s (Volatile Organic Compounds). From our side, it has driven the developments in spray-gun technology such as our Trans-Tech air-caps, which create less over-spray and thus reduce VOC emissions. It has also lead to the greater adoption of Electrostatic application equipment, such as our Ransburg RansFlex spray guns, in the marine sector.”

Kenneth Coleiro runs the Coleiro Group in Malta. He believes, “Today’s owners’ expectations to the paint finishes is more demanding when compared to the past as owners are now expecting their yacht finish to be more similar to their luxury car finish rather than just a yacht finish. This means that the challenge and responsibility of the painter has increased, not only when delivering a new-build, but also when painting a refit. Another change is that now, owners tend to engage paint quality surveyors, especially on 50+ metre yachts and these surveyors enter into great detail when it comes to the quality of fairing and levelling of the surfaces, especially on new-builds.”

Jan Koudstaal Technical Manager CCS Coating Consultants for Superyachts and has 25 years of experience in the paint business. He takes a different view saying, “Almost nothing has changed in the last five years. What we did see, is that top coatings have changed in ingredients to meet the current and future safety, health and environmental requirements. For example, there are less solvents in the paint than before. This leads to less gloss, orange peel and DOI. The difference in ingredients, does not affect the performance of the paint, but certainly does to the cosmetic properties.”

“Twenty years ago the durability of coatings were far superior to those available in Europe today says Wayne Berry at Rokoat. To compensate for these changes in the formulation of marine coating, he tells us, “Manufacturers have developed acrylic coatings that have a higher film build and can now be polished similar to the automotive industry.” Those at Cerashield agree and tell us, “In our opinion compared to 20 years ago polyurethane marine coatings had more durability and a longer lasting gloss than the present coatings offer.” They explain, “This is why ceramic coatings have now taken a market share in marine coatings particularly in the superyacht sector as we can restore the gloss and seal it with one of our ceramic coatings.”Nobleclean in Germany have patented; Diamonding, a yacht cleaning process that grants long term protection for superyacht coatings and gelcoats. Given such technology was invented by them in 1999, it is fairly obvious they will have noticed change for the good. Ralph Wuttke at Nobelclean suggests it is the chemical composition of paint that has changed. He says, “Nanotechnology gives manufacturers other ways of designing a sealing that lasts longer, but it also has to be applied in a much more professional manner than before.” Likewise Winter Oleg the International Operations Manager at Nanoshine has seen rapid change. He says, “Taking in account the introduction of nanoceramic coatings into marine industry, of course, they are much more advanced than solutions based on the previous generation of technology. Raw material consumption is much lower, they are harmless to nature, extremely hard and provide a number of previously unavailable benefits. Ceramic Pro Marine, for example, is a permanent coating, it provides unprecedented protection against all types of chemicals, can withstand low and high temperatures and, what’s more important, it improves the speed of treated vessels.” He backs up his thoughts quoting recent research conducted in the towing tank of National Cheng Kung University in Taiwan. This has shown that Ceramic Pro Marine nanoceramic coating reduces water drag by 3.3%, which is an amazing result on its own and is far superior to 0.1% provided by most other coatings.”

Kenneth Coleiro is not so sure and suggests that when it comes to paint quality, “Not much has changed as in the past, yacht paint was also durable and the protection of epoxies and zinc products have always given optimal anti-corrosion and anti-rust solutions.” He expands, “What has really changed is in the composition of the paint which is now becoming more environmentally friendly and the choice of finishes has increased drastically. Yacht paint manufacturers are following more the automotive paint technology since after all, the finish and colour choice of the owner for his yacht is becoming more and more similar to what he has on his car. This is also being experienced in the aviation sector as the client also demands that the private jet’s finish is similar to his luxury car. The newer paint technology allows more flexibility for polishing which is important not only for the painter but also for the crew to upkeep the high standard of their yacht finish, not to mention if the yacht needs a paint touch-up or repair as it frequently happens. The newer yacht paint systems allow a much better blend in touch-up. Although usually underestimated, polishing of these paint systems is an art and great skill is required not to permanently ruin a paint job. The performance of a polish intervention is not calibrated when the intervention has been completed but in order to evaluate if it has been done properly, at least two months must elapse.”

After 25 years working inside the industry, Jan Koudstaal has been there and seen that, so he is well qualified to say what has and what has not changed over time. His own view is that, “The superyacht industry is still a very traditional industry. Almost the same paint systems are used then as now. Are the products now better? He asks. Answering his own question he says, “No, we are still using epoxy primers and polyurethane finishing coatings.”

There is however one case of clear evidence where the method of coating a yacht has changed and that is when vinyl is used to wrap a yacht’s hull. “Wrapping larger yachts was not a realistic option 20 years ago,” says Greg Hoar at The Wild Group International. He adds, “However, massive advances in film stability/conform-ability and also in the adhesive have made wrapping a viable and attractive alternative to the knee jerk ‘paint it’ approach.”

Looking back over time is easy. Looking into the future is a little more tricky. Future Marine coatings will be water based coating and will need to have a clear varnish applied over the top in much the same way that the automotive industry does now says Wayne Berry at Rokoat. He adds, “They will conform to the volatile organic compounds legislation now in force throughout Europe, hence new technology coatings of which we are developing now here at Rokoat. These new coatings had to be found to give value to the clients. This in turn has evolved ceramic coatings, they are added after the vessel has been renovated in the shipyard. While she agrees with this statement, Claire Steel at Cerashield believes that given the harsh environments the likes of salt, sun and water that superyachts are exposed to, “It may be difficult for the marine industry to make that change to water based exterior coatings.”

If legislation dictates the change from solvent based paints to water based paints then ceramic coatings could be introduced to the paint system as a final clear topcoat. This will protect the water based coating and add to the gloss and durability.

Clearly ceramic coatings will play a major role in the future of Superyacht topcoats. They are a more ‘green’ alternative and do not need a containment system when applying to protect the environment. Ceramic coatings come in at a third of the cost of painting a vessel and the work can be completed in a fraction of the time it takes to paint.

At Nanoshine Winter Oleg suggests, “It’s always hard to say how things will turn out in the end. Especially when speaking of global development processes. Nevertheless, our company is working towards replacement of harmful, ecology damaging and toxic coatings by providing a safe and by all means superior option for the consumers. Judging by the way our products are developing, we are confident to say that the next generations of coatings will be Eco-friendly, multipurpose and universal for all types of surfaces.”INDUSTRY DOMINATION
Companies that manufacture and distribute paint throughout the superyacht sector have come a very long way in the past 20 years. They have grown into conglomerates over time and have developed strict guide one manufacturer develops a new paint lines and painting procedures that must product it will be copied within a few be adhered to by those who ultimately months by other manufacturers and use the coating. Yet if the industry is dominated by so few large companies supplying product one is forced to ask why is there so little to choose between them? Wayne Berry a Director at Rokoat does not need long to answer that question. He very quickly responds, “The reason there is so little to choose between companies that produce marine coatings is due to the fact that they all require the same ingredients to produce a durable products generally it is customers choice as to which brand they prefer, regardless of what is on the can, what is inside the can in general is the same technology only the colours differentiate.” Kenneth Coleiro points out that, “Recently the choice of yacht paint suppliers has increased, having new important players evolving from the automotive paint industry.

These have the upper hand in the metallic and special effects finishes as they have so much experience whilst the seasoned players in the industry understand better the responsibility and implications to paint a yacht rather than a car. The painter has a wide variety of yacht paint suppliers to choose from and need not feel that his choice is limited.”

“The raw materials and the technology for making paint are being offered by only a few vendors,” says Jan Koudstaal. He says, The entire industry uses these same products from the same large chemical concerns who pitch to all the
same paint suppliers.” He adds, “Whenone manufacturer develops a new paint product it will be copied within a few months by other manufacturers and bought to market easily. This is because the same raw materials are available to buy by anyone.”

Because the top companies are generally working under the same application parameters paint surveyors are now becoming an important part of a successful painting contract if they are brought in at the quotation and contract stage, says Claire Steel. She adds, “They can set out a painting specification for which the best painting companies are able to quote on ‘apples for apples’ and whichever company is awarded the contract to paint the vessel then
they simply have to follow what hasbeen set out in the specification, towhich the paint surveyor will monitor andsign off each stage before proceeding to the next.”

Paint consultants often get to chose both the product and the company that applies it but which is more important, a good coating product or the skill of the applicator? Both are equally important. A good applicator will be able to customise his application as he proceeds throughout the project in many cases the mixing of the paint and at what temperature the paint is applied is down to the applicator to achieve the best result a product can provide. A good product needs a good applicator to get the best from the product. A good product in inexperienced hands will not yield the expected performance of the coating.

Kenneth Coleiro believes that “Most paint products provided by major players in the industry all supply good quality products and the applicator must be wise enough to choose the right product for the right project. If a yacht travels from cold to hot countries, then one must find a fairing compound which is flexible, especially when painting a new-build and the thicknesses of these products are relatively high. A particular paint manufacturer can have better metallic finishes whilst another paint manufacturer can have better solid colours or fairing compounds. Paint suppliers must not be judged only by the quality of their paint but also the technical back-up they give to the painter and the owner. This also can relate to the rapid supply of paints and their logistics. The painting of a yacht still relies on on-board skilful workmanship unlike prefabricated components painted in a factory and therefore the fulcrum of a paint job remains the painter.”

Winter Oleg says, “It depends.” He expands on that statement suggesting, “If we are talking about usage of coatings in machine manufacturing process, then the quality of product is of utmost importance. But in case of manual application, the skill of an applicator is just as crucial. It’s a shoe and shoelace situation: one is meaningless without the other. What good will a perfect coating do if applied improperly? That is why we pay so much attention to both improving our coatings and training our network of applicators.”Carlisle Fluid Technologies work closely with the paint manufacturers in testing new equipment with all new products. The paint is important for the finish it gives once applied and the applicator is important for spraying the paint with the correct atomisation and transfer efficiency so as to give the best finish. However, of greater importance to both of these is the skill and ability of the paint sprayer. John Richardson says, “You can have the best paint and equipment in the world, but it is the skill of the sprayer which is paramount for the finest finish.”

Nanotechnology is a chemical product, which is used not only in polishing or protection of paint systems, but it could be a term also used for other chemical uses such as biocides in anti-fouling. So what part will Nanotechnology play in the future of superyacht topcoats? Kenneth Coleiro is convinced that, “Focussing in the polishing and TLC of the paint system, nanotechnology is a very common terminology in the protection of paint systems, however it seems that recently every paint treatment needs to have nanotechnology for it to sell!”

“There are so many forms and ways of a nanotechnology protection products that can if applied correctly, give very good results and extend a paint application intervention. There are nanotechnology products used by commercial vessels where one would need to be extremely careful if using them on a yacht. This is because lacquer tends to yellow on white finishes and generally it is not acceptable by superyachts.”

Claire Steel at Cerashield says, “The superyacht painting sector is looking for longevity and durability from the coatings. Ceramic coatings opposed to nanotechnology have that longevity and durability in this sector. This is why we can comfortably issue a two year warranty with the 10 micron coating which we apply to superyachts.”

Ralph Wuttke at Nobelclean says, “In the future, this will certainly play a major role, since the topcoats are more durable and e.g. become more UV-resistant.” The future role Nanotechnology is not yet known or fully understood. It is not yet used in the coatings of superyachts. “But,” says, Jan Koudstaal, “It can be very helpful. For example, with nanotechnology you can add specific properties to a coating like pigments and self-cleaning properties.”

Coatings deteriorate every time they are cleaned and polished. During the process the paint surface opens up, looses pigments, then it will be cleaned again, and will again loose pigments. “It is a vicious circle, says Koudstaal.“By adding nanotechnology, coating layers can be self-protected, making the polymers and ceramics redundant.” Back at Nobelclean says, “In general it is important that the coatings are applied by professional workers and the cleaning management makes the necessary changes.

With a professional cleaning system based on sponges today’s high-quality paints last longer even without sealing. Nobelclean has developed a professional washing system to keep the gloss scratch free.”

Winter Oleg believes it is fundamental to the future of the superyacht coatings industry. “Nanotechnology, he says, “Will redefine the very meaning and purpose of topcoats. Ceramic Pro already can offer products that not only provide protection, but also improve cosmetic effect and boost performance by increasing speed and lowering fuel consumption. And it’s just a small portion of what can be achieved with nanotechnology in the field of protective multi-functional coatings.QUALITY MATTERS
Superyachts are mostly beautifully designed and boast the most technically advanced engineering but the most visual element will always be paintwork and woodwork. The demand from Captains for high quality coatings has never been higher and with owners demanding everything from pearlescent to metallic silver finishes, the standards are continually being raised. Captain Wes Cooper, used Absolute Boat Care in Palma for all of the exterior wood coatings during the five year refit of the sailing yacht Marie.

He said, “I have been very impressed with the level of workmanship on board. As a Captain when you take on a project of this magnitude stripping 20 coats of varnish back to bare wood and a full system build up your need to be confident in your contractor selection process.

Implementing a quality control and an assurance system that incorporates good administrative records as well as experience and expertise ensures work is detailed and can be easily tracked and evaluated. Part of the Global Yachting Group, formed Pinmar and Rolling Stock merged, ACA Marine in La Rochelle has a portfolio of over 150 successfully delivered projects. They record air temperature, surface temperature, humidity and dew point levels for each application on all projects. Adrien Posner says, “We strictly adhere to the paint manufacturer’s technical specifications, and record all product batch numbers for traceability. It is this commitment to develop an excellent method and reporting systems that allows us to offer a fully insured third party guarantee on the work we do.”

Nico Röper heads up a team of 5 paint consultants that work on yacht and commercial projects worldwide. Working from offices in Schiedam The Netherlands he believes it’s all in the detail. He says, “The yard and paint contractor have the obligation to prove all requirements will be fulfilled processes controlled and agreed targets achieved. At Paint Manuals, we produce include a detailed description of the surface preparation, products, number of coats, application, specific conditions and parameters to be met.”

“What matters more than anything we have talked about so far,” adds Kenneth Coleiro “Are the most important aspects that a captain or a yacht owner’s representative should know before accepting any paint job.” He goes on to explain, “It is imperative that the surveyor and the painter are on the same wavelength when it comes to what to recommend. When it comes to the paint choice, it is of utmost importance that when a paint system is recommended, the client is made aware of the advantages and disadvantages of such a paint system. For example, if a pearlescent or a xirallic paint system is chosen, then the client must be aware that touching-up of such a paint system can be more costly.”

Yacht coatings are complex assignments whether on a new build or on a refit. And satisfying the owner should always be the primary concern. This can only be achieved by putting precision and quality first, says Wrede Consulting CEO Kay Wrede. She says, “Depending on the size of the yacht, six- or seven-digit figures are nothing out of the ordinary when it comes to applying the coating system. On a new yacht, this is the crowning phase of the build – and may turn out to be a major obstacle for the handover. A project that seemed set up for success may drag on over weeks, months or even years as disputes over the surface finish continue. When a coating system is due for complete overhaul after four to six years, a refit can turn into a nightmare for all involved parties as downtime in the yard increases and profit margins dwindle.”

Last but not least, she says, “A consultant must be able to say no and decline a contract if the quality expectations turn out to be incompatible with the time frame and the budget in spite of diligent management. Some things just are not feasible. Trying to force the impossible is a risky game at the very least, and failure will not only leave the Owner displeased, but is detrimental to the whole industry.”WREDE CONSULTING
Founded in 1999, Wrede Consulting has been involved in most of the top 200 superyacht projects and several Wrede innovations are today recognised as international standard procedures. These innovations include, among others, a 3D scan procedure for surveying complete hulls and the Wrede 10 Point Program (W10PP) for the assessment of coated surfaces.
coated surfaces.As Paint Consultants, they focus on stepping up the quality of the work, to keep application of the coating system on schedule and reduce downtime to a minimum. Paint is far more complex than it sounds. The coating system on a megayacht involves a considerable number of small, even tiny, steps. All these steps have to be executed in the correct order and with meticulous care, while keeping the Owner up to date with progress.
From the planning phase onward, it must always be made clear to all sides what can be achieved within the limits of the agreed budget and time frame. The first step should therefore always be a comprehensive pre-inspection to assess the current state of the yacht, to provide a reliable basis for further planning.

From the planning phase onward, it must always be made clear to all sides what can be achieved within the limits of the agreed budget and time frame. The first step should therefore always be a comprehensive pre-inspection to assess the current state of the yacht, to provide a reliable basis for further planning.

In addition, Wrede Consulting, together with highly specialised partners, use ultrasound to check the existing coating system for defects or review the dimensional accuracy and strake of the yacht with a 3D scan. Managing expectation is key to a happy owner and a successful project and the number one priority is to keep the owner satisfied by striving for the highest quality and a reliable process from start to finish.

For his current job, Kay-Joahannes Wrede can draw on his experience as a master craftsman of shipbuilding and his years as a CEO in the family shipyard. He is also a sworn yacht surveyor, a certified paint consultant and a member of, among others, the IIMS and the ISO/WG 5° Committee (Large Yachts – Coatings).
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