Why Your Hull Needs Regular Cleaning

why your hull needs regular cleaning

A crucial aspect of being a barge owner is keeping it in excellent condition so you don’t have to spend additional money on unneeded repairs and maintenance. While cleaning your vessel’s interior and the easily accessible external surfaces is reasonably straightforward, hull cleaning requires an entirely different level of effort. 

Because it’s a more challenging process than other forms of barge cleaning, you may be wondering how long you can go between hull cleanings. Refrain from being tempted, as barge hull cleaning can make or break your vessel’s performance. There are several aspects to consider here — and we’re diving in! 

Why Is It Important to Clean Your Barge Hull?

Once submerged in water, barges of all varieties become vulnerable to aquatic life growth. Biofouling or fouling is the buildup of plants, algae, microorganisms, and small marine creatures on moist surfaces. If not regularly cleaned or maintained, this fouling may wreak havoc on your barge’s hull — its bottom section. Barges are all designed to be hydrodynamic, which means they can travel fast across large bodies of water. The drag caused by the biofouling will impact the ease with which your barge can move. 

This is where barge hull cleaning comes into play. Hull cleaning is the process of defouling, or anti-fouling, and removing the accumulation of aquatic life from the hull without harming the paint. Cleaning your vessel’s bottom and running gear regularly can maintain it clear of drag-causing fouling. It increases your vessel’s performance and allows your boat to travel through the water smoothly and optimally.

You can clean your vessel in or out of water. Your vessel’s hull isn’t the only thing that requires regular cleaning — its running gear, shafts, propellers, and intakes also need cleaning and maintenance. 

Have your barge’s hull cleaned regularly because it: 

  • Reduces fuel consumption which saves you money. 
  • Reduces the amount of vibration in the turning gear. 
  • Prevents engine overheating from blocked intakes. 
  • Prevents biofouling and the growth of invasive organisms. 
  • Reduces the expense of re-defouling. 
  • Increases the speed of the barge. 
  • Aids in early detection of any problems. 
how often should you clean your hull

How Often Should You Clean Your Hull?

Most barge owners clean their hulls monthly or every two months. Some vessel owners might wait to clean their hulls every three months or longer — but this time frame may be too long to avoid biofouling to clinging to the hull’s surface. As a result, you might require more abrasive tools and products to clean the accumulated fouling. 

However, using more abrasive tools makes it more likely the hull’s paint — or anti-fouling coating — will be scraped off. Considering how much money you put into your hull’s maintenance, it makes sense to regularly clean it to increase its longevity.

Using less abrasive cleaning tools and monitoring biofouling accumulation is critical to the barge’s longevity. Scrubbing away the hull’s surface reduces its longevity and ability to keep fouling from accumulating. Therefore, frequent cleaning with the correct cleaning techniques and products will help your anti-fouling coating survive longer than it would otherwise. Additionally, when determining how frequently you need to clean your barge’s hull, there are a few factors to consider: 

  • Climate: If the weather’s warm, aquatic creatures will attach themselves to your boat and grow faster than they would in cooler weather. 
  • Water type: If you use your boat mainly in the ocean, then the salt alone can damage the hull — and that’s before algae, barnacles, and other marine creatures attach to the hall. 
  • Parking location: If you have a slip with a boat lift, you won’t have to worry about cleaning a boat hull as frequently as you would with a submerged hull. If you live in a salty climate near the ocean, you must get it cleaned at least once a month. 

How Are Boat Hulls Cleaned?

One unavoidable reality about owning a barge is that you’ll have to get your hands dirty to keep it in good condition. Use your vessel’s highest-quality and most effective cleaning products to protect it. So what does hull cleaning entail? It depends on a couple of factors: 

  • Environment: Substantial biofouling accumulation will occur if your vessel sits in saltwater all season or year. Hire a professional unless you are an experienced scuba diver who is well-versed in your state’s environmental regulations. If you regularly remove your barge from the water, you can get away with a decent scrub and appropriate cleaning chemicals. If you are unable or unwilling to hoist the boat entirely out of the water, another specialist is required. 
  • Regulations: If you insist on doing your own regular hull cleaning, research the state and federal rules in your location. Clean water regulation is a serious topic — you might face a hefty punishment if you’re not cautious. 

Regarding the actual process of how to clean the hull of a boat, there are many methods you can use: 

  • Manual cleaning: As the name indicates, this method involves divers removing biofouling manually. The primary tools for this method are chippers, scrapers, and nylon-bristled brushes. While time-consuming and laborious, this strategy is effective. 
  • High-pressure water: A high-pressure water jet can clear algae and hard growths from the bottom of a barge. It’s critical to exercise caution while using this tool because if done wrong, the high-pressure water may peel away the antifouling paint, exposing the bare metal. 
  • Underwater brush kart: This method includes using a customized machine driven in the same manner as an underwater go-kart. Its spinning brushes generate suction and keep the tool firmly attached to the vessel’s hull. It swiftly and efficiently eliminates enormous swaths of fouling off the hull as it goes up and down the vessel’s length. The brushes are replaceable with softer or more aggressive versions to accommodate various fouling kinds. 

Is Cleaning a Barge Hull Dangerous?

In-water hull cleaning can be dangerous for anybody due to crowded marinas, snagged safety lines, or electric shock drowning (ESD). When cleaning your barge’s hull on your own, you must take several precautions. It’s generally preferable to pay for a professional service to do it for you, as many are experienced and licensed. 

However, hull cleaning and maintenance methods, including scraping, pressure washing, sanding, and painting, can release hazardous chemicals into the marine environment if not effectively regulated. You should be aware of all the marina standards set by the Clean Water Act (CWA) before attempting to clean your barge’s hull. There are commercial vessel discharge standards if you require more information on complying with these regulations and standards. 

keep your hull clean with vls

Keep Your Hull Clean With VLS Environmental Solutions

Regular cleaning and maintenance is the key to keeping your barge’s operating and maintenance costs low while maintaining it in peak condition. VLS offers comprehensive marine services and ongoing support from our experienced team — from hazardous chemical removal to environmental remediation. For more information, contact us online or call us at 877-861-8588.

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