Christening Thunderbird II: explosion-safe cleaning during loading and unloading

On Friday, 16 July 2021, the Thunderbird 2 (TB2) was christened in the center of Rotterdam by Mirelle Pennings, Director of Commercial Banking at Rabobank. The TB2 is the second working vessel of Fleet Cleaner, a green scale-up from Delft that uses self-developed robots to clean the hulls of seagoing vessels from fouling such as algae and mussels. It is the world’s first ship that can clean tankers explosion-safe during loading and unloading.

After seven months of construction, Friday was finally the day: the second Fleet Cleaner working vessel was christened. What is unique is that both the accompanying cleaning robot as well as the crane and all the equipment on deck is ATEX certified which makes it explosion-safe, explains Alex Noordstrand, CEO of Fleet Cleaner. “We followed the guidelines that tankers themselves use: from sensors that measure gas to the crew accommodation that is set to overpressure.”

As the underwater hull gets fouled, ships start using more fuel in the long run. A major expense, as well as an additional burden on the environment. Fleet Cleaner’s cleaning robot, which is controlled from a working vessel, solves these problems by cleaning the ship’s hull during loading and unloading. With a clean ship, a shipowner saves about ten percent on fuel costs, accounting for about 5,000 tons of CO2 savings per year per ship. For the tank storage company Vopak, this was reason enough to participate in a pilot project with the explosion-safe installation. With success: several tankers have since been cleaned during loading and unloading, and the service is now commercially available.

Because of the corona guidelines, it was a modest christening, with Mirelle Pennings of Rabobank, in the presence of the founders, smashing a bottle of bubbles against the ship. “As Rabobank, we have been very closely associated with the TU Delft Campus and all the initiatives that arise there to help entrepreneurs grow sustainably for decades,” says Mirelle Penning, Director of Commercial Banking Rabobank. “Also with the RoboHouse fieldlab from which Fleet Cleaner operates. In this way, we come into contact early with technology-driven companies, and are we ready for when such companies are going through a growth spurt. Fleet Cleaner is a great example of this.”

Owners Cornelis de Vet and Alex Noordstrand are pleased. “We think it is important that now tankers can also use our services. If you consider that 90 percent of world trade takes place through international shipping, then cleaning all those ships yields great gains for the climate.” Fleet Cleaner expects to add a third work vessel to their fleet by the end of this year, and they are additionally working to set up their services in world ports such as Singapore.

The pictures are made by Wouter Slits and the text is written by Christel Don. More information about Fleet Cleaner can be found at: