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Ocean-Friendly Bottom Paint

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Bottom paint on boat hull Illustration by Steve Karp

New technologies protect your hull and the environment.

We get it. You consider yourself a good guy who wants to use environmentally friendly products on your boat. But you also want results and when it comes to bottom paint, the most effective ingredient against barnacles and slime is the biocide copper. Or is it?

Now you can ease your conscience thanks to a non-metallic antifouling agent called Econea, which was developed a few years ago by Janssen Preservation & Material Protection, a division of Janssen Pharmaceuticals. When used in paint, Econea protects boat bottoms without accumulating in the marine environment, and is therefore considered biodegradable. It’s also registered with the Environmental Protection Agency.

Interlux’s Pacifica Plus is one of the first ablative bottom paints to combine Econea, which fights barnacles and zebra mussels, with the company’s Biolux slime-fighting biocide. Interlux’s marketing manager, Elenor Ekman, said Interlux has been pleased with the results. “We’re pleasantly surprised,” says Ekman. “It’s going on three years now. [Marinas and boatyards] are getting the performance and customers are happy with the clean bottoms of their boats and the reduced amount of copper.” It retails for around $200. 

Kop-Coat Marine Coatings, maker of Pettit paints, also has an Econea product: Ultima Eco. “When we went to make an Econea-based paint, we wanted one that works well,” said Don Zabransky, vice president of sales and marketing at Kop-Coat. “Ours is a true multi-season ablative.”

Ultima Eco from Pettit Paint

Ultima Eco has six percent Econea to ensure that it works against hard-shell growth. It creates a barrier that barnacles and zebra mussels don’t like so they don’t try to attach to it. Zabransky said that in the past one aspect of Econea that made the ingredient unattractive was its price. But as copper prices continue to climb, Econea makes more sense.

Sea Hawk Paints, a division of New Nautical Coatings, Inc., introduced Smart Solution antifouling coating late last year. Smart Solution utilizes proprietary metal-free biocides and was approved for use in California.

For those boaters who are concerned about the environment but still prefer a copper-based paint, Interlux offers its Micron series of paints. The company has formulated a way to control copper’s leach rate so the paint doesn’t need to contain as much of the metal to still be effective. A specified amount of copper leaches out after the boat is launched instead of a huge initial assault on the environment. A good analogy is using an antibiotic medicine to fight an infection. In the old days you took five horse-size pills the first day and then reduced the dose. Now you take five days of controlled-release medication.

If you’re on a budget, Interlux’s Fiberglass Bottom Coat NT is a harder paint that uses a slow polishing effect, self-cleaning the bottom as the boat is underway. It retails for $99 per gallon.

Pettit has gotten smart about reducing copper content with its Clean Core and Composite Copper technology. Clean Core uses more environmentally friendly compounds to help bring the copper to the boat’s surface, taking 50 percent of the zinc, cadmium, copper, and other heavy metals out of the paint. To understand Composite Copper Technology, picture a molecule of paint as a peanut M&M. At the center is the peanut, in this case a grain of silica sand. The chocolate coating and candy shell of the M&M are copper, so the surface area of exposed copper is the same, but the overall amount of copper used is reduced. Pettit’s Hydrocoat SR uses this technology. So owners that use it can protect their boats and sleep well at night. And dream of peanut M&Ms. 

Keep an eye out for more on environmentally friendly paint in the coming months here and in the magazine.  

(908) 686-1300.

Pettit Paint
(800) 221-4466.

Sea Hawk Paints
(800) 528-0997.

This article originally appeared in the May 2012 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.