Invaders from the Deep

How much do you think about marine fouling?

Okay, well it may not be edge-of-your-seat stuff exactly; but the consequences of ignoring it can be worthy of a blockbuster thriller. ‘Stranded at Sea’, perhaps; or maybe ‘Invaders from the Deep’. Cue suspense music as the theatre goes dark . . .. 

Even if you haven’t given it much thought lately, anyone who works in the marine industry knows the basics of marine fouling, so we’ll skip the boring build-up (pun intended) and get straight into the juicy stuff. 

Cut to scene setting shot of a beautiful modern cruise ship plying the turquoise waters of a warm and tranquil holiday destination. As festive music plays, the camera zooms gradually in until we are on board the ship, moving amongst the guests as they stroll the deck, enjoy an elegant afternoon tea, take in a relaxing spa treatment, watch with rapt attention a matinee stage show. Meticulously trained crew members float seamlessly through the crowd, taking food orders, delivering beverages, answering questions, ensuring that everyone is having the time of their lives. Every chandelier sparkles, every fitting shines, every aspect of the floating paradise dazzles. 

Then the lights go out. The background hum of the engines is suddenly and conspicuously absent. People begin to look about nervously. They start asking questions. The waiter doesn’t know what has happened. The porter says he will check and report back. Nobody wants to panic, but things aren’t right. Has there been a collision? There’s no sign of another vessel. Has the ship gone aground? There don’t seem to be any rocks or land nearby. A fire? No sign of smoke. There is nothing obvious wrong, but there is no doubt about it: the ship is adrift.  

After a while people begin to relax again; the noise of happiness gradually resumes, though a little more subdued than before. The travelers have full faith that whatever minor glitch has occurred will be speedily dealt with by the competent crew and the huge company that employs them. 

Meanwhile, however, many decks below their feet, a Cruise Director’s nightmare is unfolding. An excessive buildup of mussels in the ship’s piping has blocked the flow of cooling water. Worse still, a chunk has broken free altogether and got sucked into the system. The engines have over-heated and shut down. 

Backup generators kick in but without its propulsion system the ship is at the mercy of ocean currents and it begins drifting off course. The stabilizers are not functioning and the vessel begins to roll a little more than usual. Electrical power is limited, impacting the availability of food and hot beverages, and even bathroom facilities. There is no air conditioning. It’s not long before some people start to feel unwell. Hours pass and the passengers begin to lose their faith in the company and the crew. Evening falls and there is limited lighting on board.  

Between the heat, the rolling of the ship and a bit of fear mixed in, people don’t sleep well. Many are now feeling sick. In the morning there is no coffee and limited hot food. The ship has begun to develop an unpleasant smell. In the span of twenty-four hours, passengers’ memories of the dazzling ship and the good times have been replaced by recollections of this unexpected – and uncomfortable – adventure at sea. People who had spent months looking forward to this once-in-a-lifetime experience are now starting to be glad it will be only that. Next year at holiday time they’ll be dusting off the old RV and thinking how glad they are to have their feet on dry land. 

If we haven’t grabbed your attention yet, maybe the horror genre is more your thing; so stay tuned for the sequel. Set back on land, high in a shiny glass office tower, the scene opens as cruise company senior executives begin to tally the cost of the ship’s misadventure. The stricken ship’s voyage ended up at an unexpected port and most of the passengers had to be flown back to the original destination in order to catch flights home. Everyone had to be compensated for their aborted cruise. They all have the opportunity to take another cruise partially at the company’s expense; but how many of them will ever venture back to sea? If they do, how many will trust the same company again? Then there’s the lost revenue from the next cruise as the ship sat out for repairs in the peak of the season. And the damage to the brand? That’s a harder cost to calculate. 

Anyone thinking about anti-fouling now? 

Tenille Villebrun