US-based shipowner Eagle Bulk Shipping has done a deal with coatings group Jotun to use its antifouling HullSkater robot on one of its bulkers.

Eagle Bulk will deploy Jotun's automated hull skating solution on its 63,438-dwt bulk carrier Shanghai Eagle (built 2016) to minimise biofouling that causes hull drag and so increases fuel consumption and emissions.

The Norwegian coatings company's system uses data analytics, robotics and coatings to carry out proactive cleaning to eradicate early-stage fouling to ensure an "always clean hull" over a ship's full sailing interval.

The HullSkater will be stored on the vessel to allow underwater inspections and hull cleaning as required. The device helps to preserve the marine ecosystem by minimising the spread of non-indigenous marine organisms, as well as contributing to lower atmospheric emissions of CO2.

Claus Jensen, Eagle Bulk's director of technical management, said the agreement with Jotun was a step towards decarbonisation for the major supramax and ultramax vessel operator.

"We also hope this inspires others to even more industry partnerships and to engage in the pursuit of reducing global carbon emissions," he said.

Claudio Iurilli, managing director of Jotun Malaysia and Singapore, said it believes the HullSkater is a ground-breaking approach to biofouling management that goes beyond improving operational efficiency to focus on concrete environmental goals.

"This agreement is a step in the right direction, and we are hopeful of its ripple effect to progressively reaffirm how small changes can set the example for what a sustainable shipping industry should look like," he said.