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Cleaning and Polishing Propellers – It Doesn’t Cost – It Pays!

The bad news for ship operators is that the cost of fuel has doubled in a very short time – and it hasn’t topped out yet. The good news, however, is that you can still do something about it!

An inefficient propeller – or a fouled hull – will cause a vessel to use 40% – or more – additional fuel.


A fouled propeller has been proven by the U.S. Navy to be 50% of the cause of an increase in a vessel’s fuel consumption while the vessel is in service.

This is a fact that many ship owners do not appreciate. And removing the fouling from the forward one-third of the length of the vessel down to 2.5 to 3M will take care of most of the other 50%.

Further good news: Scubahire Limited is recognized as one of the top underwater propeller polishing and hull cleaning stations in the South Pacific.

The company has specialized in propeller cleaning and polishing and the underwater removal of fouling from vessel’s hulls for over 30 years.

The Ocean Concept’s “Seascrubber” hydraulically-powered, rotary head, diver-operated equipment is utilized by Scubahire for cleaning hulls and – fitted with the universally-recognized 3M Marine Discs – for cleaning and polishing propellers.

A.D.F. used for bunkering many of today’s vessels is now (July, 2008) over $F2,000 a ton duty free – and over $2,300 per ton after duty is paid.

It is also recognized by the U.S. Navy that Fiji’s area of the Pacific supports one of the world’s most rapid rates of marine fouling growth.

For maximum fuel economy, the U.S. Navy experts recommend cleaning and polishing propellers once every two months in the Pacific area!

A propeller certainly attracts rapid fouling.

A propeller – particularly one operated in this area of the Pacific – certainly attracts rapid fouling.

Just light grass fouling (resulting from three or four months’ service) can cause propeller slip of three to four percent.

The moderate grass and very light coral or shell fouling resulting from 10/12 months’ service can result in more than 10% propeller slip.

This means that either the vessel’s service speed will be reduced by 10% or more, or the fuel consumption will increase by a like amount as the throttle settings are increased to maintain the service speed.

You do not need a calculator to figure out that a vessel consuming $30,000 worth of fuel a month will use an extra $3,000 worth of fuel each month the cause of the problem is not removed.

Often, the cost of cleaning and polishing a propeller can be recovered in one or two weeks’ operations.

The gain made following that time is extra money in the ship owner’s pocket.

3M Marine Discs

The 3M Marine Discs in Medium and Fine Grades utilized by Scubahire’s experienced divers are recognized as the world’s best method of cleaning and polishing a propeller.

The Medium Grade Disc removes the fouling and raises the initial polish.

The Fine Grade Disc provides the best possible finish. It has also been proven that clean but rough working areas of propeller blades can also cost up to 4% or more in extra fuel consumption.

Gains in these rough blade areas are also made during propeller cleaning and polishing with the 3M Marine Discs. The ship operator gains every time!

Most propellers can be cleaned and polished in one working day

While the vessel is unloading and/or loading at its berth the propeller can be serviced to a state where the vessel will leave port with a much-reduced fuel consumption.

Cleaning and polishing propellers underwater with the 3M Marine Discs is now also a recognized pre-drydocking service.

A propeller in good condition can be polished to a one to two microns finish with the 3M Discs. Even the best grinder operator can obtain a finish of only 15 microns at drydock.

The grinder scores the blade surfaces and the rougher finish resulting from grinder use causes greater fuel consumption immediately after the vessel is re-launched.

The grinder-scored blades also provide an excellent surface for the rapid re-establishment of marine fouling. The high-quality, fine finish obtained with the 3M Marine Discs prevents both these problems.

In February, 2018, the CP Propeller on the M.V. “Capitaine Wallis” was cleaned and polished at King’s Wharf, Suva prior to the vessel being drydocked in Auckland at the end of that current voyage.

Not only was a far superior finish obtained on the propeller underwater, but both the time and cost in drydock were reduced.

Higher savings by ship operators

In today’s super-competitive and costly marine operations, in-water propeller cleaning and polishing, together with underwater hull cleaning, can result in increasingly higher savings by ship operators as the price of fuel continues to rise at an unprecedented rate.

To find out the low costs involved in servicing your vessel’s propeller and hull underwater, contact Scubahire’s Director Lorraine Evans.

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