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The fleet leave Auckland for Itajaí, Brazil, following a spectacular start to Leg 7 of the Volvo Ocean Race – Photo by Ainhoa Sanchez/Volvo Ocean Race

AkzoNobel uses Volvo Ocean Race to promote innovation in paints and coatings – By Lynne Richardson

As the boats match-raced their way down the Northland Coast in the gripping final stages of Leg 6 of the Volvo Ocean Race in February, people took to Google to find out the origin of the leading boat’s name, especially when it crossed the finishing line in Auckland in first place – AkzoNobel.

With a winning margin of just two minutes over the second-placed boat after racing 6344 miles (11,000 km) from Hong Kong, it was a tremendous win for the AkzoNobel team – their first leg win of the race – and promoted them to fourth overall on the leaderboard.

But who or what is AkzoNobel, and what does the name have to do with the Volvo Ocean Race? In a nutshell, AkzoNobel is a leading global paints and coatings company, and a major producer of specialty chemicals. While its name isn’t familiar in New Zealand, one of its brands certainly is: International is the world leader in marine, yacht and protective coatings – think paint and antifouling. Used by most Kiwi boaties to protect the hulls of their boats, it’s also the paint that coats every one of the Volvo Ocean Race fleet.
The Volvo Ocean Race fleet in port during the Auckland stopover – Photo by Ainhoa Sanchez/Volvo Ocean Race

“So even though Leg 6 was our first win, AkzoNobel has actually won every leg so far,” laughs Jeff James, the company’s regional commercial director, marine and protective coatings, for South Asia.

A perfect match

Based in Singapore, Jeff is in Auckland to promote the AkzoNobel brand. “The Volvo Ocean Race is a fabulous opportunity to raise awareness of the company and the brands we represent,” he says.

“The race is the ultimate test of performance, which makes it the perfect opportunity to showcase what our market-leading products are capable of under extreme weather and sea conditions: from freezing cold to raging gales and sweltering heat. The raceboat coatings need to be as tough as the sailors themselves!” he says.

“And the event’s dual focus on sustainability is a perfect match for us – AkzoNobel holds dear the concepts of innovation and sustainability, and we pride ourselves on bringing colour into people’s lives.”

Although the name has largely slipped under the radar in New Zealand, a number of Auckland’s iconic landmarks have been coated with AkzoNobel products, including Auckland Airport, The Cloud, ASB North Wharf, Spark Arena, and the Auckland Art Gallery.

You’ll also find AkzoNobel paints and coatings on the Sydney Harbour Bridge, the London Eye, the Bird’s Nest Stadium in Beijing, and the Burj Al Arab in Dubai.

Colour-matching solutions

“Over the last five years, AkzoNobel has invested more than €1.83 billion (over NZ$3 billion) in research and development to bring the best in colour, protection and performance to consumers worldwide,” Jeff says. “We know that colour is much more than just an aesthetic consideration, so we have invested in digital tools for more effective and efficient colour-matching solutions.”
AkzoNobel in the boatyard during the Auckland stopover – AkzoNobel’s MIXIT system has played a key role in developing the customised colour schemes for each of the Volvo Ocean Race yachts – Photo by Jesus Renedo/Volvo Ocean Race

Customers using AkzoNobel’s yacht coatings can now take advantage of a new digital tool called MIXIT™ which offers more than 18,000 colours from a cloud interface.

The system has played a key role in developing the customised colour schemes for each of the Volvo Ocean Race yachts, and a mixing tool is travelling around the world to help shore teams carry out repairs and maintenance at each of the stopovers.

Revolutionising the shipping industry

Another exciting development is a ‘big data’ solution that is set to revolutionise the shipping industry. AkzoNobel’s Intertrac Vision is the very first digital tool specifically designed to give the shipping industry a way to accurately predict the potential fuel and CO2 savings offered by fouling control coatings. Fouling is a normal occurrence on all ships, and heavy fouling can have a serious impact on fuel efficiency and operational costs.

Intertrac Vision can actually project how a coating will perform on a ship’s hull before it is even applied. It works by analysing factors such as hull roughness (the ‘roughness’ associated with bio-fouling) which is measured by an underwater drone, and computational fluid dynamic studies carried out on different hull types. This vessel-specific information is then processed using proprietary algorithms to provide an accurate assessment of the impact of each potential fouling control coating choice, including a full cost-benefit analysis.

With that information, ship operators can make informed decisions about when to apply fouling control coatings and what technology makes the best sense for them.

“It’s an example of how AkzoNobel is exploiting information technologies to deliver more to its coatings customers,” says Jeff. “And by helping shippers increase efficiency and reduce fuel consumption, it’s also an innovation that can be used to reduce the shipping industry’s environmental footprint.”

So can the AkzoNobel team apply their winning formula for another ‘colourful’ victory on Leg 7 to Itajaí in Brazil? The fleet departs Auckland on 18 March, and you can watch their progress on the live tracker on the race website. The race is scheduled to finish in the Netherlands in June.

For further information, visit www.volvooceanrace.com

Lynne Richardson is the editor of New Zealand Construction News and FTD - Supply Chain Management Magazine

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