Since time immemorial, a battle has been raging between humans and creatures of the sea. Besides the most common marine animals, there are a number of mysterious creatures that can be found in the depths of the sea. Many of these creatures settle on rocks, boulders as well as various man-made structures to the detriment of the surface, commonly known as fouling. One such creature is the boneless barnacle.
Barnacles are crustacean arthropods, closely related to animals such as crabs, lobsters and shrimp. However, unlike the other mobile arthropods, barnacles have adopted a sessile existence. Hidden by an external shell, a barnacle has been described as a ‘shrimp-like animal in a limestone house.’
The barnacle attaches itself to a surface by secreting wonder adhesive called cement, which polymerizes and hardens even in the presence of water. Man, with all his intelligence, has been unable to produce anything even closely similar to this adhesive. In case of an injury to this firm adhesive, the barnacle immediately repairs it by secreting fresh cementing fluid. This creature presents wonders beyond comprehension of any modern technologies!
Barnacles are considered to be most prolific fouling agents, because they grow abundantly on ships, thereby disrupting the flow of water over the hull. This growth eventually leads to its corrosion. If left unattended, the growth can increase the roughness of the hull. This decreases the ship’s maneuverability and increases drag. This causes a domino effect leading to an increase in the ship’s fuel consumption by around 30%! Barnacles foul the internal surfaces of sea water systems, resulting in clogged pipes and valves and lower heat exchanger efficiency. These problems substantially increase maintenance costs and interfere with the proper performance of these systems. Economic losses are tremendous, since fuel accounts for up to 50% of marine transportation costs. It also has various environmental consequences, as increased fuel consumption leads to increased output of greenhouse gases.
Parts of a ship other than the hull, such as heat exchangers, water-cooling pipes, propellers, etc. may also be affected by these creatures. Barnacles may also be found in the heating and cooling systems in power stations and factories. Build up of matter inside cooling system pipes decreases performance and causes clogging. This obstruction of piping can lead to the shutdown of plants and economic losses.
Besides its effect on the economy and environment, barnacles can also have an adverse effect on living organisms. Water is the source of life for more than just fishes and other marine critters; it also supports all kinds of microscopic bacteria. One such type of bacteria has the fancy name of Mycobacterium marinum. It is a very slow growing bacterium which may be carried by barnacles within infected waters. This bacterium can be acquired by humans via a scratch or a cut. If the Mycobacterium is able to establish itself within the breached skin of the human, an infection known as the Fish Handler’s disease may develop. The symptoms include stiff or swollen joints, non-healing sores, bumps and rashes on the skin. Ignoring the condition for a long period of time can have very serious and life-threatening consequences.
The following article was recently published in the Orlando Sentinel:
Big, bad barnacles besiege boats
A Pacific variety has invaded Florida waters with a vengeance.Published on: November 28, 2006 Author: Kevin Spear
Every boater knows that barnacles are a big pain.
Mega barnacles have arrived in Florida. Some are large enough to make into a dice cup, a pencil holder or even a bud vase.
An ordinary barnacle in the Sunshine State doesn’t get much bigger than a dime or a nickel, but these foreign giants that hail from the Pacific Ocean are turning up from North Carolina to South Florida.
“Those Pacific barnacles are growing all over the place,” said Tom Clements, a commercial diver from St. Augustine who encountered the whopper variety this summer during dives to clean boat hulls. “They’re the size of an ashtray.”
Florida’s native barnacles cement themselves to boats, pilings, buoys and most anything that dips into seawater for very long. Getting them off requires the maddening task of scraping and cleaning.
Apparently ready to grow in all of the same places, the Megabalanus coccopoma even grows over native barnacles.
The big, aggressive brutes stand ready to render the sleekest boat a real slug and dramatically increase the amount of fuel it burns to power through the water. Not to mention turning an ordinary boat cleaning into a backbreaking affair.
The “mega,” as the invaders are sometimes called, are native to coasts from California to Ecuador.
How they travelled here is anybody’s guess. But they most likely hitchhiked in ballast water, the massive amounts of water pumped into ship holds to maintain stability. When cargo is loaded, perhaps in some distant port, the water goes out taking and any tiny stowaways with it.
Late this summer, Alan Power, a research scientist with the University of Georgia Marine Extension Service in Savannah, got a flurry of reported findings of mega barnacles. They turned up on the bottom of a small boat, clinging to an offshore buoy that washed ashore and elsewhere.
He sounded the alarm in a network of professionals working in coastal and marine sciences in the Southeast.
In a roundabout way, word of the Georgia findings got to Maia McGuire, a marine-extension agent with Florida Sea Grant in St. Augustine.
McGuire got busy investigating from Jacksonville to
south of St. Augustine, which led her to Clements, the commercial diver.
Today, Power, McGuire and Clements aren’t sure they can pinpoint when mega barnacles arrived.
“It’s one of those things that when you see it for the first time you start seeing it everywhere,” Power said.
But there may be some good news.
Clements said barnacle growth appears to have slowed or stopped in recent weeks. He speculated that might be because of cooling water temperatures.
As a response to this widespread damage caused by barnacles, various anti-fouling paints and devices have been developed in an attempt to prevent their growth. In the past, boat owners tried to keep fouling at bay by coating the wooden hull with the chemical tributyltin (TBT). However, this chemical proved so toxic to marine life that it has been banned. Some other paints based on copper have also been used in the past. This method was also found to be hazardous to other creatures.
The problems encountered while using conventional solutions to the barnacle problem has left the industry in need of friendlier anti-fouling coatings.
We, at C Tech Corporation, provide a unique solution to this problem. Combirepel™ is a non-toxic and non-hazardous product manufactured by our company which is also environmentally friendly. Combirepel™ is available in the form of lacquer, masterbatch (in the form of plastic granules) and as liquid solutions with either organic or inorganic base solvent. This product is unique in that it does not kill or harm the animal in any way; it only keeps the animal at bay. Besides barnacles, it works against moss, bacteria and other marine creatures. Combirepel™ in either solution or lacquer form can be coated on surfaces like the hull of a ship or boat to protect them. It can also be incorporated in cables, wires, pipes, etc. Thus, Combirepel™ provides an environmentally safe and feasible solution to keep barnacles at bay.