20 tonnes of Selektope safeguards 2,500 vessels from barnacles

10 Apr 2024. By Catherine Austin

Sales of our barnacle-repelling biotechnology for marine antifouling coatings, Selektope hit 20 tonnes at the end of March, enough to protect 2,500 ocean-going ships from the negative impact of barnacle biofouling on increased fuel use and GHG emissions. 

The passing of this significant milestone this year comes almost 10 years after the inaugural antifouling coating containing Selektope, SeaFlo Neo CF Premium, was commercialised in 2015.  

Taking the use Selektope (medetomidine) as marine biocide from its humble beginnings in an academic laboratory in Gothenburg, Sweden to the hulls of thousands of ships in the global shipping industry has taken over twenty years, but we’re not done yet. In fact, this is just the start for our unique antifouling technology, demand for which is increasing in line with pressures in the shipping industry to reduce emissions to air and sea and invasive aquatic species transfer. 

Blistering barnacles!  

Barnacles may have a small footprint individually, but their effect on global shipping is large. They secrete a cement that is among the most powerful natural glues known to man – meaning they are incredibly hard to remove.  

If left to colonise on a ship hull, their volcano-shaped shells create hydrodynamic drag when a ship hull sails through water, this drag could account for as much as 110 million tons of excess carbon emissions from the global fleet per year [1]- and an additional US$6 billion spent on fuel per year.  

The Selektope® biotechnology is a vital ingredient in the antifouling mix to eradicate hard fouling, ensuring continually clean hulls, optimal business and environmental performance.

Selektope’s journey from lab to hull (s) 

If we rewind back to the 1990’s, years of academic research and eureka moment in the University of Gothenburg in Sweden that discovered that medetomidine could create a kicking response in barnacle larvae through natural receptor stimulation, sparked a controlled explosion of the substance medetomidine as a marine biocide into the shipping industry.  

This explosion was progressed by the founding of I-Tech AB some twenty years ago and the brand name Selektope was adopted for the use of medetomidine as a marine biocide.  

The Selektope story is a wild ride, full of trials, tricky moments and triumphs. The triumphant phase we are in now, where demand for Selektope is skyrocketing, has been built up over years of determination, millions of dollars of investments and navigating an Olympic hurdles race to obtain necessary regulatory approvals.  

For example, obtaining Biocidal Products Directive (BPR) regulatory approval in the EU, a full approval in Japan (CSCL & JPMA), Korea (NIER) and China (MEP, Order 7) and notifications in other relevant regions for shipping, in addition to maintaining an extensive and expensive patent portfolio has demanded high investment and immense entrepreneurial spirit held by our team and by the passion and investment from early believers and funders who sit behind the success of Selektope.  

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Selektope sails with strong tailwinds generated from macro-trends.  

Today, Selektope’s success, reflected in high sales volumes, is being fuelled by strong macro-trends in the shipping industry that increase the demand for high performing antifouling products and enhanced protection against barnacle fouling.  

By adding Selektope into their coating products, our paint manufacturer customers can minimise barnacle fouling risk faced by vessels, particularly when they are idling for extended periods of time. Some paint manufacturers have even increased the static protection/idling guarantees of their coatings that contain Selektope.  

This has been made possible by the R&D commitments made by both I-Tech and within the paint manufacturers to innovate using Selektope, as a relatively new entrant to the antifouling biocide toolbox. Scaling up a novel technology from the lab to a side of a 200-metre, or sometimes a 400-metre ship hull, is not an easy quest. But it was accomplished with hard work and perseverance the dedication of our customers to the technology.  

In 2015, an antifouling coating product named SeaFlo Neo CF Premium was the breakthrough product, launched by Chugoku Marine paints, that made use of Selektope for its barnacle fouling prevention properties. This copper free, 60-month coating system was first applied to the vertical sides of a 2010-built, 46,067dwt IMO II chemical and products tanker vessel, Calypso. 

This vessel sailed into dry dock for maintenance and repairs completely barnacle free following 5 years of operating and idling predominantly in tropical and sub-tropical regions known as ‘biofouling hotspots’ across global trade routes. 

In the 5 years that this vessel was sailing, and in the 10 years since that first vessel using Selektope was coated, multiple other products were launched onto the market. This includes 60-month systems for ocean going vessels, but also one-coat outfitting products for use by shipyards to protect vessel hulls from barnacle fouling during outfitting.  

Today, over twenty products that contain Selektope are on the market, developed and commercialised by multiple coatings manufacturers including Hempel, Jotun and PPG. 


The Selektope sales boom  

In the past 3 years, sales of Selektope have increased year on year and the number of vessels protected by Selektope has more than doubled. In 2022 sales, for the full year had increased by 58% compared to 2021. Last year, in 2023, sales for the full year increased by 45% compared to 2022.  

This 20 tonnes milestone reached at the end of March tells us that around 2,500 vessels could be coated with a selektope containing coating using the Selektope that has been sold and supplied to-date. This covers Selektope’s use on all types of ships, including larger vessels and smaller cargo and passenger vessels.  

However, for us, this sales boom represents the tipping point for our technology.  The fact that sales of Selektope have grown so strongly over the year shows that the growing number of products that have been established on the market over the past two years have been very well received. 

The future – 55,000 ships protected by Selektope!  

How our technology, Selektope has successfully migrated from humble beginnings in a lab in Gothenburg to the hulls of over two thousand (if you assume some Selektope is sitting in an inventory and not on hulls right now) cargo ships, it truly is a success story that has been powered by entrepreneurial spirit. 

Supporting marine coatings manufacturers to work with Selektope and incorporate it into their antifouling coating formulations is our number one priority. To support this, we continue to invest heavily in R&D, in our patent portfolio and maintaining the regulatory approvals for Selektope.  

We are also investing heavily in continuous improvement work for our supply chain and to increase delivery capacity and efficiency in the Selektope production chain to ensure that we can meet growing demands from the marine industries for our technology and react to scaling up production when required.  

Since ships are spending longer periods of time idle in coastal areas which intensifies the risk of barnacle fouling and the requirement to lower emissions from ships will continue to create increasing demand for Selektope. Next stop 25,000 ships!  

The I-Tech team (Minus 3 people!)
The I-Tech team (Minus 3 people!)
Catherine Austin
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