What’s New in Superyacht Coatings and Trends

30 January 2023 By Louisa Beckett
M/Y Windrush painted in the single stage Awlgrip HDT
M/Y Windrush painted in the single stage Awlgrip HDT
Courtesy of AkzoNobel
Louisa Beckett

Louisa Beckett is the former editor of Motor Boating, ShowBoats International, and Southern Boating magazines, and a longtime contributor to Dockwalk. Over her career, she has written about a wide variety of vessels ranging from Sea-Doos to superyachts, and has had many adventures on the water, including riding in a U.S. Coast Guard “rollover” boat in heavy surf off Cape Disappointment, Washington.

When a superyacht is painted or repainted, the “holy trinity” that owners and captains typically demand from the finished project is a combination of gloss, depth of image (DOI), and durability.

“It’s the same thing always — they want to have the highest gloss possible, the best depth of image, and the longest-lasting [finish], for the lowest price,” says Jeff Grandgenett, sales and marketing manager, Alexseal.

But today, superyacht coatings manufacturers also have been seeing a trend toward owners asking for a larger palette of colors than in the past, along with special effects such as metallic paints, so they can make their vessels’ exteriors more personalized and unique.

“Nowadays, everything is a little crazier with the color selection. People want to be more individualistic. Everyone either wants, a) to have their own color or, b) grays are really hot right now. It has changed from whites to dark blues to grays,” Grandgenett says.

To support this trend, last fall, Alexseal launched its new Acrylic Topcoat X Series, a next-generation marine acrylic topcoat formulated to deliver a high-gloss finish with a DOI to a level that rivals polyester topcoats. Alexseal’s full range of colors is available for the X Series, as well as custom options, allowing for myriad different hull, deck, and stripe combinations.

M/Y Marlinda, painted in metallic Awlcraft SE Stars and Stripes Blue and clear-coated with Awlgrip HDT Clear
Courtesy of AkzoNobel

AkzoNobel, parent company of Awlgrip, Interlux, and Sea Hawk yacht finishes, also has been getting more requests for nontraditional yacht colors. “Design trends in the yachting industry tend to be slower-paced over other industries — let’s say automotive or consumer electronics — but there is still a continuing trend of customization in that, ‘I’m looking for colors that represent my personality, to really bring out a unique look or feel,’” says Matt Anzardo, AkzoNobel segment manager — yacht.

Despite the fact that AkzoNobel has a database with tens of thousands of colors, Anzardo reports that its marine-coatings brands have been receiving requests for custom colors. “We get customers sending us their favorite sports team’s shirt and asking us to match the color, or to match their high-end car,” Anzardo says. Metallic finishes are popular as well.

AkzoNobel’s Awlgrip coatings Awlcraft SE (Solids and Effects) basecoat and Awlgrip HDT (High-Definition Technology) clearcoat are a proven combination when it comes to creating colorful and unique looks like these for topsides. Paint technicians can access thousands of different color formulations for Awlcraft SE at mixitcloud.com or via AkzoNobel’s MIXIT app, as well as sourcing custom colors via their AWLMIX color-matching system. Special effects like metallics and pearl finishes also are available. Using Awlgrip HDT on top of Awlcraft SE adds high gloss and excellent DOI, as well as providing a finish that’s both durable and repairable.

M/Y Evo 120, which used a full Boero YachtCoatings paint system
Courtesy of Boero YachtCoatings

Another recent trend in yacht coatings is the demand for a matte finish — a real break in tradition for the gloss-obsessed superyacht industry. “There is a growing trend to have a flat finish or a semi-gloss finish because it stands out from everything else,” Anzardo says. Late last year, AkzoNobel launched Awlcraft CS Clearcoat, which can provide a large or small area on board a yacht with a variety of finishes from matte to semi-gloss.

Boero YachtCoatings reports a trend toward nontraditional colors and finishes. Boero Chemical Engineer Simone Garofoli ranks dark blues as the highest request for colors other than white, then metallic finishes for mid-range megayachts, and matte finishes for the explorer yacht segment. “Also gray colors, light and dark,” he adds.

Boero’s Challenger PRO polyacrylic, two-component finish is formulated to provide and protect colors like these. Professionals can access more than 200,000 shades for Challenger PRO through Boero’s Challenger Mix tintometric system, and it is available in gloss and matte. Challenger PRO is designed to provide a long-lasting finish that protects the surface area from ultraviolet rays and harsh weather. “The good thing about this topcoat is not only is it applicable by spray, but you also can apply it by brush in small applications,” Garofoli says. “We can develop training for the crew so they can use it to repair damage.”

Applying a Boero coat
Courtesy of Boero YachtCoatings

Striving for Sustainability

In recent years, a fourth quality has been added to the “holy trinity” that owners and captains demand from superyacht coatings: sustainability. Of course, coatings manufacturers always have had to meet stringent regional and national environmental regulations for their products, but now, the superyacht industry as a whole is taking steps toward reducing its environmental impact.

Since antifouling hull coatings come in constant contact with the water, they’ve been receiving particular attention from manufacturers striving to develop new formulations that will reduce the amount of harmful elements that can leach off the hull into the environment, while maintaining their effectiveness against fouling.

Boero is one of several coatings companies that has partnered with the Water Revolution Foundation in its mission to drive sustainability throughout the superyacht industry. “The purpose of this partnership is to measure the life-cycle assessment of our antifoulings. Thanks to this project, we will know the impact of our antifoulings starting from the production to the end phase after the boat ends navigation and the removal of the paint. We can adjust our products to have a more sustainable [impact] if possible,” says Garofoli.

Alexseal Acrylic Topcoat X at sea
Courtesy of Alexseal

The long-range goal is a completely biocide-free antifouling. However, “The quality regarding superyacht products must be very, very high. So, to have a competitive biocide-free product for a superyacht is very, very difficult because normally the service life, the durability of an antifouling paint for a superyacht must be a minimum of 24 months. It’s very difficult to find a proper technology to achieve 24 months without biocide.”

In fact, Garofoli reports, many captains and owners today demand up to 36 months of protection from an antifouling application. Boero’s Magellan 630 Extra, an antifouling coating that features SPC (Self-Polishing Copolymer) technology, was designed to fulfill that demand. “The good thing about this product…is that it doesn’t contain copper oxide, which creates bio-accumulation,” Garofoli says. Instead, it contains a different copper compound that’s more sustainable and is free of tin.

“Reducing environmental impact with bottom paint has really been a focus for the last two to three years,” says Thomas Maellaro, marketing vice president, Pettit Marine Paint. Pettit recently developed two antifouling coatings that feature a combination of three biocides in low concentrations. Cuprous Thiocyanate and ECONEA (Tralopyril) protect the hull against hard fouling like barnacles, mussels, oysters, while Zinc Pyrithione guards it against soft organisms. “What we’ve found out through years of testing is that if we use three biocides at a lower level, it works better than products with high levels of copper,” he says.

The hull of a 134-foot superyacht painted with Pettit Trinidad XSR
Courtesy of Pettit Paint

The first of these triple-biocide products, Odyssey Triton, which launched in 2020, features an ablative technology that self-polishes as the yacht runs through the water. But in early 2022, Pettit introduced Trinidad XSR, which works equally well when the yacht is moving or stationary.

Hempel is another superyacht coatings company working to move the needle on bottom-paint technology. “There is a massive trend in superyachts and larger yachts for more sustainable coatings and sustainability in general,” says Chris Tool, Hempel product manager, yacht. “That’s why our Hempaguard X7 coating is such a popular choice with our customers.”

“Reducing environmental impact with bottom paint has really been a focus for the last two to three years...”

Hempaguard X7 helps to lower a yacht’s footprint by improving its performance and thereby lowering fossil fuel use and harmful emissions. It uses ActiGuard technology, a combination of silicone hydrogel and biocide diffusion, to create a slick fouling defense on the hull’s surface. In addition to repelling organisms from attaching to the hull, Hempaguard X7 also lowers frictional resistance, aiding the vessel’s movement through the water. Since its launch, Tool reported that Hempaguard X7 has been applied to more than 2,000 vessels, including more than 20 superyachts, and the company has found it provides an average of six percent fuel savings.

AkzoNobel has launched a variety of antifouling coatings in recent years, each of which utilizes different technologies to achieve greater sustainability while also improving performance. A good example is Colorkote from its Sea Hawk brand, a self-polishing, low-leaching antifouling coating that uses the triple-biocide combination of ECONEA, Zinc Omadine, and Copper Thiocyanate for full protection. Colorkote also allows customization with its vibrant color palette — it’s six basic colors can be mixed to make thousands of custom colors that can match the hull to the yacht’s topcoat or paint a tender to match its mothership.

S/Y Missy with Hempel’s Hempaguard X7 fouling defence coating
Photo: Carlo Borlenghi

AkzoNobel has a “cradle-to-grave” philosophy in developing its coatings formulations that studies the eco impact, not only of the final product but also of its individual ingredients, such as solvents that are prone to producing VOCs. AkzoNobel brand Interlux recently launched two antifoulings that are lower in VOC — Micron Navigator is a water-based formulation and Micron Extra SPC is a traditional VOC-compliant solvent. Both are formulated to be copper-free, low-VOC, and to provide multi-season protection. Micron Extra SPC also uses an innovative resin technology to give yachts antifouling protection even when the yacht sits stationary for long periods.

Beyond antifoulings, AkzoNobel’s commitment to sustainability has led it to introduce other products aimed at lowering a superyacht’s footprint in incremental ways. Awlcraft LSA (Low Solar Absorption), typically used to paint superstructures, blocks UV rays so the boat won’t heat up as much inside. “That means you could run your AC to be a little bit more efficient,” Anzardo says. “It all helps add up to overall sustainability.”

Ceramic coatings manufacturer Glidecoat introduced a product in January to help crew avoid introducing harsh cleaning products to the environment. Glidecoat RPL is a final finishing topcoat for yachts that have persistent problems with exhaust soot or other carbon-based pollutants discoloring their hulls. The new coating provides a Repellent Protective Layer (RPL) that’s highly oleophobic. RPL is designed to enhance the surface’s self-cleaning capability — any stains that appear are much easier to clean using only soapy water and a light washcloth.

Glidecoat Managing Director Paul Westhorpe recalls one 175-foot yacht with diesel generators that had black exhaust streaks on its hull. “The crew were taking chemicals containing acid to clean it that went off into the water,” he says. “One of our detailers used RPL along the waterline. Then [the crew] could use a green soap, water, and a brush to clean it.” When it comes to superyacht sustainability, every bit helps.

This feature originally ran in the October 2022 issue of Dockwalk.


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