Are silicone foul-release coatings a viable and environmentally sustainable alternative to biocidal antifouling coatings in the Baltic Sea region?
To combat unwanted fouling on immersed hulls, biocidal antifouling coatings are commonly applied to vessels trafficking the Baltic Sea. Here, the efficacy, environmental sustainability and market barriers of silicone foul-release coatings (FRCs) was assessed for this region to evaluate their viability as replacements for biocidal coatings. Coated panels were exposed statically over a 1 year period at three locations in the Baltic Sea region to assess the long-term performance of a biocide-free FRC and two copper coatings. The FRC was found to perform equally well or significantly better than the copper coatings. Even though most silicone FRCs on the market are biocide-free, a review of the literature regarding toxic effects and the identity and environmental fate of leachables shows that they may not be completely environmentally benign, simply for the lack of biocides. Nonetheless, FRCs are substantially less toxic compared to biocidal antifouling coatings and their use should be promoted.