After years of development, two graduates and a contribution from STW, the Fleet Cleaner is complete. The remote-controlled robot runs over the hulls of ships, both under and above water, in order to remove deposits. A clean hull can improve fuel efficiency by 5%. For 250m long container ships, this amounts to savings of €300,000 per year.
This scrubbing robot has turned out to be an impressive device. With a diameter of 1.80m and a sturdy steel frame, it can stand up to the heavy work for which it was designed. The star-shaped frame supports three domes with rotating water jets, which spray the deposits away from the underside, while powerful magnets hold the machine against the hull. An operator controls the robot from the shore or from another ship, which also collects and purifies the dirty water.
The TU Delft start-up Fleet Cleaner will lease the robot to a service company in the port (probably starting in the Eemshaven), which will offer cleaning services to incoming ships. Although shipowners are interested in this type of cleaning service, they often decide not to use it, due to certain limitations. The Fleet Cleaner can clean ships in the port while floating at the wharf for loading or unloading. Because the dirty water is suctioned away and not released into the surrounding water, this is the only
cleaning method that is allowed to be carried out in the port.
This summer, Dr Cornelis de Vet, Dr Alex Noordstrand and their colleagues at Fleet Cleaner will launch the first full-sized
cleaning robot in the seaport of Groningen. Further technical developments in the areas of localisation, process automation and hull inspection are expected to increase the benefits of cleaning ships with the robot. The start-up is planning to expand to Hamburg, Antwerp and especially to Asia, where the standard method of cleaning submerged parts of ships still involves divers off the coast. The young entrepreneurs are proud to give credit to their academic supervisors, Dr Martijn Wisse and Prof. Robert Babuska (3mE, Delft Robotics Institute), without whom the Fleet Cleaner would never have been developed.