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To celebrate Nippon Paint coming first in this year’s annual Top 30 Coatings Companies in Asia Pacific, PPCJ spoke to Gladys Goh, Deputy President at Nippon Paint Marine, about the company’s recent expansion into Vietnam and the challenges involved in the marine paint industry.
Q. Congratulations on the expansion into Vietnam. Why was Vietnam chosen and what products will you be manufacturing there?
A. Vietnam’s shipbuilding and ship repair market has rapidly grown in the last few years and is expected to continue to do so. The drydock capacity has doubled in response to demand shifting from China, plus there has been an expansion of the country’s own domestic fleet. In fact, our research indicates that there are approximately 4000 vessels that will require coatings, including new-builds and existing tonnage, so there’s a lot of opportunity for us to grow our marine coatings business in the region.
As one of the business segments of the Nippon Paint Group, Nippon Paint Marine’s expansion into Vietnam is able to tap into the existing strength of our parent company’s strong, established brand recognition in Asia and its network in the Vietnam region. Nippon Paint’s existing facilities in industrial zones in the north, south and central regions of Vietnam will be used to produce Nippon Paint Marine’s range of marine anticorrosion and protective coatings imminently, with hull and antifouling products set to be added to production lines in the 2024/5 period.
Where else does Nippon Paint Marine operate in Asia?
We have offices in Singapore, Malaysia, China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Korea and India. In some locations, we have the full breadth of a factory, sales office, stock point and technical service and in others we have smaller scale operations. Outside of Asia, we have European offices in Germany and Greece, locations in Turkey and the United Arab Emirates.
Q. What trends are you noticing most in the industry at the moment? What are your customers most focused on?
A. The shipping industry is rapidly transforming in line with its need to meet its decarbonisation targets. Being able to reduce emissions quickly and dramatically is the major concern of our customers. Our advanced clean technologies play a significant role in helping them to achieve more sustainable operations.
From a trends perspective, we’re of course seeing an increasing amount of regulations aimed at making shipping greener. Shipowners are optimising vessel design, implementing energy-saving clean technologies, and exploring alternative fuels to reduce emissions, improve energy efficiency and comply with environmental regulations.
Q. Regulations and legislation are often cited as a headache for paint manufacturers. How does Nippon Paint Marine deal with that challenge?
A. We are committed to sustainable product stewardship, ensuring that all health, safety and environmental aspects of a new product or solution are considered throughout design, from conception to its launch to market. Nippon Paint Marine also considers global regulations in our R&D process, ensuring that the raw materials and processes used in our coatings are, as a minimum, compliant with rules including VOC reduction, which is especially prevalent in Asia, biocide product regulation, biofouling management and the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants.
Q. What impact did the COVID-19 disruption have for NPM and has it returned to ‘normal’ now?
A. The pandemic had a significant impact on the dry dock segment of our business, with less vessels drydocking in APAC for a new coating. To provide context, in 2019, a total of 516 vessels drydocked at Singapore shipyards for paint jobs, but numbers dwindled to 296 ships in 2020 and grew slightly to 316 in 2021. Last year was much better for the maritime industry, with backlogs from 2021 and advance dry docking from 2023 having a positive impact and signalling a return to business as usual.
From a Nippon Paint Marine perspective, in some cases the pandemic inadvertently became a case study for the efficacy and legacy of our products. For example, last year, we carried out a monitoring test on two cruise ships that had been coated with our biocide-free self-polishing coating AQUATERRAS in early 2019 and 2020. Despite an enforced 18-months anchorage due to COVID-19 pandemic and travel restrictions, the inspection confirmed that the hulls remained in excellent condition.
Q. What, in your opinion, is the most challenging part of creating a marine paint?
A. The maritime industry is constantly evolving. As pressure mounts for shipping to decarbonise, there is a constant stream of new regulations and trends that concern our customers. It’s important that we align the development of our marine coatings with their priorities, which can be challenging as these change often.
Creating a marine paint involves several challenges, given the harsh and dynamic conditions that marine environments present. Ships’ hulls are prone to fouling by marine organisms like algae, barnacles and molluscs and preventing this requires effective anti-fouling agents or technologies to be added into the paint formulation. Marine environments are also highly corrosive, so developing a paint that can effectively protect the vessel from this is a significant challenge. The paint must form a strong barrier that prevents water and chemicals from reaching the metal surface and causing corrosion. Lastly, there are also environmental considerations of developing a paint that maximises performance whilst minimising the release of harmful substances into the water.
To overcome these challenges, extensive research and development, including testing under simulated marine conditions, are necessary. Collaboration with experts in materials science, corrosion engineering and marine biology can also be crucial in creating an effective and environmentally friendly marine paint.
"Decarbonisation is set to have the biggest impact on the shipping industry in the next 10 years. In the next decade or so, we’re working as an industry to ensure future fuels will become viable, helping shipping drastically reduce its emissions on the road to meeting its decarbonisation targets."Gladys Goh, Deputy President of Nippon Paint Marine
Nippon Paint Marine provides ship owners with a complete range of coatings for the entire vessel and for all vessel types – from the latest antifouling and anticorrosion solutions to non-slip, heat resistance and durable top coatings. We also use learnings from pharmaceutical R&D to provide higher performing, preventative products. AQUATERRAS uses medical science and materials to combine hydrophilic and hydrophobic micro-domain structures and naturally repel any biological adhesion onto a hull’s surface. Similarly, FASTAR is the industry’s first nanodomain structured hydrolysis antifouling coating, designed to minimise the effect that seawater temperatures, vessel speeds and other external factors have on coating performance.
We build partnerships with our customers that are based on a deep understanding of their businesses. This includes making the challenges they face our own and committing to providing solutions that improve operations, reduce speed loss, provide fouling protection, increase efficiencies and uptime, reduce costs and emissions, maximise fuel savings and protect ship owners’ most valuable assets.
Customer focus and innovation are two of Nippon Paint’s core priorities. As part of the wider Nippon Group, Nippon Paint Marine holds those same values and is focused on delivering progressive solutions that break new ground and support our customers in meeting the shipping industry’s greatest challenges.
Q. Are there any current R&D projects that Nippon is working on, that you can tell us about?
A. We’re currently working on a low VOC range of products that complies with new shipyard and regulations requirements.
Q. In the next 10 years, what do you think will be the most important industry trends? Do you think it will change much from how the landscape is now?
A. Decarbonisation is set to have the biggest impact on the shipping industry in the next 10 years. In the next decade or so, we’re working as an industry to ensure future fuels will become viable, helping shipping drastically reduce its emissions on the road to meeting its decarbonisation targets. However, the cost implications are likely to completely shift the industry landscape and may prove commercially difficult and cost-prohibitive for many industry players.
Marine coatings can play a vital role in laying the groundwork for the fuels transition, by helping ship owners and operators improve operational performance today to mitigate the increased costs of more expensive future fuels. It will also make their assets more competitive in the eyes of charterers who often pay for the cost of fuel. Implementing a proven and effective low friction antifouling marine coating for example, can reduce fuel costs and emissions by up to 10% alone, making it an attractive option for companies looking to decarbonise.
Gladys Goh is Deputy President of Nippon Paint Marine