Commercial vs Leisure antifouling
Until recently manufactures produced antifoulings for commercial use and ones for leisure use and both were available relatively easily through online retailers such as SML Marine Paints. The fact that the commercial products were not available in chandlers was probably due to the fact that they only came in large plain tins and that leisure users rarely needed products that could last for up to five years especially if they were lifting out every year.
Of course, in their quest for the best available, leisure users sought out the commercial products, happy to forgo the pretty tins for a stronger product that was often significantly cheaper because it was sold at trade prices and did not have the mark up of being in a convenient location right there in the marina.
However, as is often the case, the impact of using products outside of their intended use started to cause problems. Firstly was the problem of safely applying the product. The very strong biocides that made these product so effective were safe when applied by professionals in controlled environments with expensive application equipment and regulations that protected the workers. The leisure market is much less controllable and you can’t be fired for ignoring procedures when you are your own boss. The manufactures were understandably getting nervous that in a ‘litigation society’ with no controls or regulations of leisure users safety that use of these products should be discouraged.
Secondly the strong biocides were considered ‘acceptable’ for the environment when used on large ships that were in almost constant motion in the open oceans. For leisure craft almost exclusively used in coastal waters and often just left in marinas for whole seasons the environmental impact was much greater. Tests were carried out in coastal waters and marinas around the world and traces of the biocides used in antifoulings were appearing in higher concentrations than previous years. The powers that be were making noises that maybe antifoulings should be banned altogether and that certain strong biocides should be withdrawn from use.
The manufacturers had to act fast. Not having an effective antifouling on large ships would cost millions in wasted fuel and seriously affect the speed of ocean voyages. Because of this the manufacturers make and would lose a lot of revenue if antifoulings were banned or restricted. As the significant environmental impact was in coastal waters, in which commercial vessels only spend a small proportion of their time, the obvious move was to restrict the use of these strong antifoulings to leisure users. This was inevitably seen by leisure users as an attempt to extract more money from them forcing them to buy the more expensive leisure antifouling products. In some sense this is true, the market of leisure boat owners needing to antifoul every year is a good one, giving them access to a product that could last five years for less money was not economically beneficial. However we believe that leisure users should perhaps look at the bigger picture.
The very real threat was that leisure antifouling could be banned altogether. The big shipping companies could claim that they are not really causing the problem and worried about increased fuel costs from an antifouling ban point their large and influential finger at small boat owners. ‘If a sacrifice had to be made let the small boat owner have to scrub their hulls more often - they are only leisure craft after all’. The manufacturers, in an not entirely selfless act, wanted to protect the leisure antifouling market and made a concerted effort to restrict the strength of antifouling that they were responsible for supplying to the small boat owner and thus reduce the amount of biocide in marinas and coastal waters.
The manufacturers can now supply the strong antifoulings to the large ships and control the strength of leisure antifoulings so that when the powers that be come knocking with proposals of banning leisure antifoul they can honestly say they have reduced the problem. Of course another way of looking at it is that the manufacturers were simply told what to do or else. Either way, buy making a small sacrifice in not being able to buy commercial antifouling the small boat owner has saved themselves from no antifouling at all – at least for now!
What about CU-PRO, a commercial antifouling available to leisure users?
We took the view that some manufacturers were leaning more towards increasing profits on their leisure antifouling range than providing them with a product that would last. Why make a leisure antifoul last several seasons when you can make the owner pay every year? We felt that there was a requirement for an antifouling especially formulated for leisure use but that contained enough biocides of sufficient quality that an owner could choose to leave their boat in for up to three seasons if the wanted to. Environmentally there is no greater impact as the concentration of biocide is similar in one application that lasts up to three seasons as three separate applications, one each season. But the customer saves money and time. We do however stress that when using CU-PRO a consideration should be made that it is stronger than normal antifoulings and that boats should be left in as long as possible and not still taken out and washed unnecessarily where the wash off could add to the environmental impact if not collected and disposed of correctly.