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Getting Started with Intumescent Paint Specifications

General paint specifications vs. intumescent fireproofing specifications

Following a call with an insurance firm or a company auditor, many owners simply don’t know where to turn to put a fireproofing plan in motion. As with writing any type of paint specifications, they tend to turn to one of three sources: an engineering firm, a trusted contractor or a supplier of fireproofing coatings.

Unlike with general paint specifications, fireproofing projects are highly specialized and it’s important that an owner fall back on an individual or firm with extensive experience with similar projects. If engineering firms have an in-house fireproofing expert, they can be a valuable resource in devising a plan. If not, a customer may wind up paying an engineer to outsource a job, a step that could undoubtedly be skipped to reduce costs. The same holds true for applicators. If they are unfamiliar with the products on the market, or even how they’re best applied, they will likely need to seek outside advice themselves.

In the end, a industrial coatings supplier will likely have the best understanding of the fireproofing products they supply. For US Coatings, that means having an in-depth understanding of Albi fireproofing paint specifications, the fireproofing product we carry. Experience should once again be a factor. If a supplier only recently began carrying a fireproofing product, and has little idea of how they behave, best practices for application and no suggestions for preferred contractors, it may be best to continue shopping for an expert with more experience that still remains within the project’s budget.

Regardless of which path is pursued, owners should expect a few things from an initial facility audit. It should come with detailed notes and photographs explaining the fireproofing measures to be undertaken in each section of the facility and why. It should include budgetary projections so that owners know what they’re paying for at each stage of the project. It’s also helpful if the expert is able to offer recommendations on applicators that have performed good work in the past and have experience with fireproofing facilities; this is where a strong working knowledge of intumescent paint specifications is essential.

The best reports following an initial audit will provide an owner with the peace of mind that comes from knowing how to proceed. Though a steel fireproofing project may have been mandated from an outside source, this document should alleviate any panic that comes from not knowing how to move forward. 

Intumescent paint specification experts

US Coatings is a supplier of a full line of Albi fireproofing products. Easy application of these single-component products makes them less expensive to apply, typically closing any gap in cost between an intumescent solution and a lightweight cementitious one.

We also have the in-house fireproofing expertise. Full facility audits provide owners with all the knowledge they need to move forward with a fireproofing project with confidence. It’s part of our promise to be more than just a paint and coatings supplier.

So whether industrial fireproofing is an unexpected project that needs to be dealt with immediately, or a facility safety measure that’s been put off for far too long, we’d be happy to be your first step. Follow this link and get in touch with US Coatings today.

Want to learn more about fireproofing?  Download the guide below for our full guide to fireproofing your assets.

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Intumescent Coating vs. Cementitious Coating

Passive fire protection tends to fall into one of the following three categories: dense concrete, lightweight cementitious and intumescent coating. They are not all created equal.  Recently, cementitious coatings have become less relevant to fireproofing a facility. As technology has progressed, intumescent coatings have superseded earlier methods of passive industrial fire protection as the most successful and cost-effective. Some of the reasons for that are discussed below.

Cementitious Coating or Intumescent for facilities

Dense concrete

The potential of concrete as a fire-resistant material was recognized long ago. Many refinement facilities constructed prior to World War II made extensive use of dense concrete as a means of protecting against fires. The material is inexpensive and was known to withstand even extremely high temperatures. Problems quickly emerged, though.

Concrete is heavy, which led to the need to over-specify structural steel. It also meant high labor costs, since forming concrete around steel is a laborious, multi-step process. It was also found that rapid cooling following a fire event leads to cracking in concrete and in some severe cases compromises the structural integrity of the material. This damage is sometimes difficult to detect and could become a danger to those working in the facility.

Dense concrete as a means of fireproofing has largely been abandoned in favor of more recent techniques, which offer superior performance and fewer drawbacks.

Lightweight cementitious

Lightweight cementitious fireproofing retains the benefit of being based on inexpensive raw materials and without the problems associated with extreme weight. As its name suggests, the material is significantly lighter than dense concrete and so doesn’t require the over-specification of structural steel. But lightweight cementitious fireproofing retains the high costs of labor associated with dense concrete. It must be applied in several successive coats, again driving up labor costs. These products also share their predecessor’s tendency to crack.

Perhaps the biggest liability with a cementitious coating, though, is the inevitable creation of space between the coating and the substrate. This space has a tendency to collect moisture, which in turn fosters corrosion of the substrate. In the long run, this unfortunate flaw can actually cause a lightweight cementitious coating to work against the integrity of the asset it was meant to protect.

Intumescent coatings

Intumescent coatings work by charring and expanding in the presence of extreme heat. The increase in volume and subsequent decrease in density slows the heating of the substrate, increasing the time before the steel itself begins to melt. Intumescents typically swell to 25 times their original thickness when engulfed in flames. This expansion allows them to provide a barrier between the flames and the steel that is exponentially larger than a coating that does not swell.

Adding thickness to an intumescent coating application increases the amount of swelling that will occur in the case of a fire incident. For example, if a 350 mil coating of a given intumescent has been determined to have a fire rating of 1.5 hours, 700 mils would theoretically be necessary to achieve a fire rating of 3 hours. In reality, though, added thickness is sometimes specified in certain areas such as curves and crevices, so something like a thickness of 750 mils may be required in order to achieve a 3-hour rating.

When intumescent coatings come in single-component formulas, they are much simpler to apply than dense concrete and lightweight cementitious coatings and are therefore accompanied by far lower labor costs.

Additionally, since they are applied directly to steel, no gap is created in which moisture can sit and incite corrosion. Intumescent coatings fight corrosion in much the same way as traditional protective coatings, the difference being their ability to swell and the much greater thicknesses at which they are initially applied. With all of the benefits of intumescent coatings combined, it’s our recommended method of fireproofing steel.

Still have questions about fireproofing? Download our fireproofing guide below or talk to a NACE-certified professional today by clicking here.

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Industrial fire protection starts with a protective coating

For some industrial facilities, fireproofing is a prerequisite for holding on to the facility’s insurance, at least at rates resembling anything close to affordable. Many owners of refineries, petrochemical and oil and gas facilities that contact us have just received a call from their insurance companies. They’ve been told that in order to keep their current plan, measures would need to be taken to ensure the facility has adequate industrial fire protection.

Active fire protection for your facility

Throughout the refinement process, regardless of the desired final product, various flammable liquids and byproducts move along a network of pipes supported by structural steel. Pipe racks, refinement vessels, steel supporting structures, any construction which could potentially be exposed to a fire, and which could collapse before the fire is brought under control, will likely be designated for fireproofing. In the event of a fire, the flammable liquids at the heart of a business can quickly become the fuel helping to burn it down. Active industrial fire protection like foaming and sprinkler systems should kick in to battle the fire, but these measures are often meant only to slow a serious blaze.

While industrial fire protection via fireproofing is certainly a good idea—it can be the difference between a damaged facility and one that has suffered a total collapse—fireproofing steel mandates are usually followed up by very little in the way of specific direction.

If the insurance company is pushing for a plan to be in place immediately, fireproofing can be a stressful experience. Some areas that now need to be fireproofed may never have been fireproofed before. For other areas, it may have been years since fireproofing was last performed. Perhaps the facility has changed ownership by then, or the previous facility manager has moved on, leaving no personnel with fireproofing experience. Even auditors touring your facility, though they may have strong opinions on what sort of fireproofing work needs to be performed, will offer no clues as to how the work should be performed.

Industrial fire protection for refineries

Passive fire protection for your facility

As firefighters and active industrial fire protection systems battle the blaze, passive fire protection can buy valuable time for structural steel that would otherwise become distorted under such extreme heat. The purpose of passive fire protection is to protect this structural steel only for a given amount of time until the fire can be extinguished. Refinery fires sometimes reach temperatures upwards of 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit; hot enough to melt most structural steel alloys.

Passive fire protection methods such as intumescent coatings are measured according to the time they have been proven to withstand these heats with the laboratory. Independent safety science companies, such as the Underwriters Laboratories (UL), provide third party testing of fireproofing coatings and then rate the products according to how long they are able to withstand the heat of the flames.

Insurance auditors will specify a necessary minimum time rating for an asset-based on its use, susceptibility to fire and the anticipated difficulty of extinguishing an outbreak. The most common rating is 1.5 hours. Higher ratings can be achieved by adding mil thickness during application of the coating. UL 1709 is the standard most commonly applied to heavy industrial fireproofing products.

Still have questions about industrial fire protection? Download our guide to industrial fireproofing below or click here to speak to a NACE-certified professional today.

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An Open Letter From Mike Reed to Independent Sales Reps

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Independent coatings sales reps are becoming something of a dying breed in industrial coatings these days. As a few companies rise to global standing, they are becoming increasingly obsessed with preserving margins on the sales side in order to compensate for the astronomical overheads required to maintain a shiny, global brand. Meanwhile, talented independent salespeople– each with their own stuffed Rolodexes (or a modern equivalent), industry expertise and entrepreneurial spirit– are being pushed to the side or absorbed into low-paying positions with almost non-existent sales incentives.

The Current Model

In place of the independent sales model, a few different strategies are emerging. National and international coatings giants are making efforts to formally bring independent salespeople into their employ, choosing to not provide commissions that make a salesperson a living commensurate with their talents.

Still other coatings manufacturers are, and have been for some time, erecting brick and mortar locations in their operational areas and having dealers work from these shops alongside the armies of employees that man the shops. It has the same effect of reducing or eliminating commissions for sales and, I suspect, removing any incentive for above-and-beyond salesmanship.

This distribution model is still practiced on a much smaller scale by independent sales reps, but more and more large manufacturers are pulling their products from these reps to keep from having to divvy up margins. The products still being sold by independent reps now tend to come more from niche manufacturers.

Perhaps this is part of a larger movement in the United States and elsewhere, where all possible efforts are made to concentrate profits at the summit of the organizational pyramid. Major industrial coatings brands are now confident enough in the esteem of their global brand that they no longer invest much on the sales side. They let their product’s labels do their selling for them.

An Alternative Model

It is possible, even still, to find another mode of operation (and full disclosure, this is the one that I have always envisioned for my own business). This model is based on nimble, responsive salesmanship. It is a global network, without the overseas offices. It is a web of talented, independent salespeople with their own contacts, experience and incentive to sell.

The independent sales model keeps all of the manufacturing capabilities without the overhead that comes with putting the brand name above everything else. And lower operating costs free up space for higher commissions. Higher commissions in turn attract a more driven, talented sales force.

There may be fewer and fewer players in industrial coatings who operate by this model, but that just means a deeper talent pool. For these companies, locating seasoned independent salespeople represents the biggest challenge and the biggest opportunity to challenge established industry megabrands.

The independent salesperson may be an endangered species, but for emerging coatings companies, they represent a mutually beneficial opportunity to seriously grow sales volume.

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Talking to a Paint Specs Professional

Finding out who to talk to about paint specifications is often one of the biggest hurdles for facility owners and managers. They simply don’t know where to start. They usually rely on one of three options. They either reach out directly to a contractor, to an engineering firm or to the manufacturers themselves.

The Contractor

There are obvious issues with expecting a contractor to write paint specifications for a project, especially if they plan on being involved in the bidding process. The potential for conflict of interest between the contractor and owner is simply too high. That said, a trusted contractor is often able to point an owner in the direction of an engineering firm or manufacturer with whom they’ve worked in the past and whose specifications they have been satisfied with.

Engineering Firms

Engineering firms tend to write thorough, detailed project specification sheets, though typically at a cost. When it comes to the paint portion of the specification, some larger engineering firms will have a coatings specialist on staff. Others will, like contractors, fall back on trusted connections they’ve worked with in the past. This may mean going directly to the manufacturer to consult product data sheets or for an opinion on products. Say, for instance, which coating would be capable of standing up to a specific chemical concoction housed in a large storage tank.

Coatings Manufacturers

Coatings manufacturers specialize in the sort of details hashed out in a paint specification sheet. They are familiar with the strengths and drawbacks of their products, ideal application conditions and the best methods for applying them. Coatings sales representatives need to make sure their products work properly. They have a vested interest in writing specifications in such a way that their products live out their service lives and successfully guard against corrosion. Otherwise, repeat business is a pipe dream.

That said, owners should not assume that all manufacturer-generated spec sheets are created equal. Some will call it a done deal once they’ve talked to you on the phone, heard you describe the conditions in your facility, and then written you a recommendation for a product that will probably get the job done. In general, if a manufacturer makes a recommendation after only one phone call, it’s time to cue the alarm bells.

A more detailed approach to a paint specification sheet is likely needed for a successful project. The writer should have a feel for the ambient conditions surrounding the asset in question. Personally inspecting current levels of corrosion, atmospheric conditions, frequency of wetting, operating temperature fluctuations and other site-specific concerns will lead to a better understanding of the stresses the coatings will be exposed to, and the level of protection needed to preserve the asset.

If an owner should decide to go to a coatings manufacturer for writing paint specifications, he or she should demand at least that level of detail. If the manufacturer is unable or unwilling to accommodate those standards, it would perhaps be wise to explore other options. Remember, the specification sheet will determine the entire scope and direction of your project. It’s not a place to cut corners.

US Coatings

If you would like to discuss writing paint specifications further – the writing process, what you should expect from a completed document, or ask any question you may have – please contact one of our NACE-certified professionals at US Coatings.

Alternatively, if you want to know more about paint specifications, download our comprehensive guide to writing paint specifications below.

 

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Breaking Down Paint Specifications

The paint specifications sheet will determine the entire scope of any coating project. Specifically, for a painting project, this is broken down into three broad categories; the product to be used, the surface preparation required and how the product should be applied.

As mentioned in our previous post on how to write paint specifications, a specification’s worth is largely a matter of detail. Instructions must be detailed enough to avoid misunderstandings between the contractor and the owner, while not being unnecessarily restrictive. The following are details that may be included for each category of the specification.

The Product

“Sole spec” sheets are written specifically for a certain product. This is a situation where “shall” or an equally stern term will be used to refer to the product to be used. In some instances, such as federally funded projects, sole spec sheets are not permitted. In these instances, a few options may be provided, or “may” will be used to indicate a tolerable substitute. Here a product may be referred to as “trade name or equal”. This section will also likely specify any unique product formulations the project requires. For instance, if strict VOC regulations are a concern, this section could stipulate a high solids or even 100% solids formulation.

Surface Preparation

The most commonly accepted industry standards pertaining to surface preparation were devised by the Society for Protective Coatings (SSPC) and the National Association of Corrosion Engineers International (NACE). These are the gold standard for measuring the readiness of a surface to receive a coat of paint. These surface preparation standards range from SP1 to SP14, though a higher number does not necessarily indicate a higher level of surface cleanliness. Each standard indicates the method of cleaning as well as criteria for evaluating the outcome. For instance, an SP5/NACE 1 level of surface preparation is a white metal blast cleaning “that should leave the surface free of visible oil, grease, dust, dirt, mill scale, rust, coating, oxides, corrosion products and other foreign matter.”

Because surface preparation is such a tremendously important step in the process (improperly preparing a surface is a surefire way to shorten the coating’s service life) spec sheets must either stipulate the required level of surface preparation or direct the contractor to a product data sheet that does so.

Application

This is another section of the spec sheet that should heavily reference specific product data sheets. The ambient conditions, number of coats and mil thickness required for a successful application should be spelled out in that document.

The specification sheet should also specify the method to be used during application. If a specific formulation, such as a 100% solids formulation is called for, then this section should also include any notes on required application equipment such as plural component pumps. The contractor should also be made aware of any other challenges that may arise during the application process in this section of the specification sheet.

Your paint specification sheet will specify what products are needed and how they need to be applied, as well as the surface preparation required for the job. These are the core elements of a paint specification, but to learn everything there is to know about paint specifications you can download our comprehensive guide below.

 

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What are Paint Specifications?

Implementing corrosion protection for your facility all starts with one important document: your paint specifications sheet. Your paint specifications sheet will outline the entire course of your project. This document must clearly and concisely lay out the conditions and processes that will prevent corrosion and other harmful damages to your facility.

It is not a statement of how the project should look once completed, but rather a detailed explanation of the conditions necessary to achieve maximum service life and corrosion protection. Paint specifications are the project template, and if something is wrong with the template, the finished product simply won’t perform properly.

In the unfortunate event of a dispute between a contractor and a project owner, the project specifications will also likely be used to determine whether each party lived up to its responsibilities. This is just another reason to make sure your paint specifications are thorough and clear before a project gets off the ground.

How to Write Paint Specifications

Well-written paint specifications contain exactly as much detail as they need to make expectations clear and no more. Industrial coatings are more complex than they used to be, and paint specifications need to reflect that complexity.

At the same time, these specifications need to be unambiguous in order to avoid confusion about an owner’s expectations. It should be clear to a contractor that the owner expects all aspects of the document to be lived up to, or else any recommended changes should be clearly mentioned during the bidding process.

Clarity of the paint specifications will reduce the likelihood that a contractor’s work does not conform to expectations. A clear understanding between both parties will also reduce the probability that expensive change orders will need to be filed during the course of the work.

As mentioned before, specifications can act as legal documents in the case of a dispute, and any confusion resulting from unclear specifications may increase the risk of a breach of contract or a legal dispute.

But what are the actual elements of a specification document?

What exactly is being specified?

For answers to these questions and more info on who to talk to about paint specifications, download our whitepaper below.

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How long will my marine coatings last?

Marine coatings durability

Durability is often one of the first topics to come up when discussing marine coatings. How long will this coating last? Given our emphasis on the importance of marine coatings maintenance, it’s something we put a lot of thought into. As with any coating application, a lot of factors go into predicting the lifespan of marine coatings.

When it comes to exterior marine coatings and durability, ship and barge owners have some pretty simple expectations. A good exterior marine coating must have excellent corrosion protection, high UV-resistance (it’s not like tugboats pull into a garage come quitting time), high gloss retention, and solid abrasion resistance characteristics.

Even with these characteristics, the coatings that protect the hulls of barges are faced with an uphill battle. With all the abuse they encounter—from raking against other barges, scraping river bottoms, hitting driftwood and other debris—it’s normally a good idea to maintain these coatings every two to four years, when the barge is dry-docked for maintenance.

Besides the hull, coatings in other areas of a vessel face their own challenges. Non-skid coatings are safety coatings that are popular because they reduce or even eliminate fall hazards in high-traffic areas. But because non-skid coatings are subjected to such heavy foot traffic, they’re susceptible to wear and it’s important that owners keep a close eye on them and pick the best option for their application.

One solution we often recommend is an epoxy-based system, where an aggregate is broadcast onto an initial, wet application and then a topcoat is applied over that. The aggregate can be anything that can be ground up into a fine material that’s still course enough to cause friction. Some of the most common are glass, coal slag and sand. When it becomes apparent that the coating has reached the end of its life expectancy, it should be replaced immediately.

A consultation with a certified coatings professional will leave a barge owner with a much better understanding of how long a coating will hold up under given conditions. This meeting should also work to establish a maintenance plan, which will simplify service schedules moving forward, and give the owner a better idea of how to budget for coatings. The professional should be able to give options at several price points, tips for extending the coating’s lifespan, instructions for proper maintenance of the coating and specific recommendations for how and when to reapply the product.

If you’re ready to talk now about marine coatings for your barges, get in touch with US Coatings today.

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Safety and marine coatings

Coatings are capable of more than just protecting against corrosion. They also play a wider role in making marine vessels safer places to work.

We’ve written before about how, for a fraction of a facility’s maintenance budget, safety coatings can help to cut back on workplace accidents. The same holds true for the marine market. Surfaces are constantly exposed to moisture and become slippery. Going from a bright, sunny deck to a dark cargo hold can strain the eyes. Coatings are especially important in the case of a fire while on the water.

Safety and marine coatings

Making marine work safer

Non-skid coatings are becoming recognized as essential in the marine market.

It’s not hard to see why non-skid coatings are so important. According to Bureau of Labor Statistics, roughly 126 marine cargo handlers reported missing work in 2019 due to slips, trips and falls. Four people suffered fatal injuries in deep sea freight transportation that year.

Beyond preventing wet surfaces from becoming slippery, non-skid marine coatings need to be durable, easy to apply (especially if they’re going to be applied while on the water) and remain functional when subjected to fuel or chemical spills.

Luminescent coatings also have a lot to offer the marine market. Making the transition from sunny conditions above deck to much darker conditions below deck can strain the eyes. Often the pace of work doesn’t allow time to let the eyes adjust. But glow-in-the-dark marine coatings can illuminate obstructions both overhead and underfoot.

Bulkheads, low-hanging ventilation systems and narrow walkways can be made more visible with a solution that’s inexpensive, easy to maintain and also serves as a reliable backup in the case of a power outage. But the most important area for luminescent coatings is the leading edge of the tugboat or barge. In low-light situations, or in the case of a total power outage, an illuminated bow will give the crew and others an idea of the outline of the vessel. This can prove instrumental in avoiding accidents.

Given the potential costs of a fire while on the water, fireproof marine coatings are certainly an option for making vessels safer that should be explored. Intumescent coatings protecting the structural steel of a vessel can make the difference between the outbreak of a small fire and completely losing the craft. If a barge’s normal operations put it at an increased risk of encountering a fire, fireproof marine coatings make obvious sense.

Ensuring that potable water tanks are lined with an NSA-approved tank lining is another essential step in looking out for the wellbeing of crews. This ensures that the fresh water supply is safely contained and free from contaminants that could cause sickness.

Protecting the environment

Booms in domestic oil production increased the rate of oil moving by barge, though it still falls behind pipelines and railroads, according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics.

The oil traveling our nation’s waterways makes it worthwhile to remind owners that tank linings should be the subject of intense scrutiny. If transporting fuel that was extracted by hydraulic fracturing, a barge’s oil tanks should be equal to the task, lined with a product that can withstand higher concentrations of water.

Unfortunately, the American public is all too familiar with oil-related incidents on our waterways. So talk to a coatings professional about the state of your barge’s tank linings and ask about how a marine coatings maintenance plan can help to simplify the upkeep, while protecting against costly incidents.

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Simplifying marine coatings maintenance

Barge paint / marine coating maintenance

Keeping a barge in shape to run rivers is no easy task. During its life of ferrying goods up and down waterways, a barge is constantly encountering driftwood and other debris in the water. Its hull regularly scrapes the river bottom. It’s also guaranteed to spend a large amount of time moored to other barges, where a rising and falling wake leads to a lot of bumping and raking for it and its neighbors.

On its interior, the barge is subjected to regular loading and unloading of cargo which can cause impact damage in the case of dry goods, or pitting and rusting in the case of corrosion caused by liquids. On top of all that, tugboats are expected to support the living needs of a crew that spends long stints aboard while working the river.

Given the constant motion of both cargo and crew, it’s no surprise that regularly scheduled maintenance is a critical part of extending the service life of a vessel. At regular intervals, key components such as engines, pumps and generators need to be checked to make sure they’re working properly. The marine coatings that protect barges and tugboats are no exception.

Marine coating maintenance conundrum

When it comes to tracking the life cycle of each vessel’s coating system, there’s a lot to keep in mind:

  • Which areas of the barge or tugboat were last painted?
  • What type of marine coating was used on the area?
  • Was the deck painted with a non-skid coating?
  • What sort of chemical resistance was required of the coatings used to line the barge’s storage tanks?
  • Have potable water tanks been lined properly?
  • Is the marine coating deep enough into its service life that it needs to be replaced before the asset is put back into service?

Now imagine you’re in charge of this routine for a fleet of barges that numbers upwards of 100. A task that required diligent work for one barge is an enormous logistical burden for an entire fleet.

Luckily, there are ways individuals in charge of marine coatings can make things easier on themselves. It’s possible to get together with a coatings manufacturer to design a coating that perfectly coincides with the other facets of a barge’s maintenance schedule. Say a barge is dry-docked periodically for scheduled maintenance, a coating can be designed with exactly that intended service life. This way, a given maintenance task can also serve as a reminder that a coating’s service life is up.

US Coatings can also provide total asset analysis tracking along with its coatings. This enables us to keep tabs on every aspect of your marine coatings maintenance schedule. We can remind you when coatings were applied, what area they were applied to, the product specifications and alert you when a coating is nearing the end of its service life, for every vessel in your fleet. With digital record keeping of the fleet’s coatings maintenance schedule, it’s possible to look up when work was last done on a vessel and when it’s next scheduled to receive service. It’s our way of simplifying the way you do marine coatings maintenance.

Let’s get started

For a consultation on simplifying you marine coatings maintenance operation, get in touch with us today. We can talk coatings specifications, tracking your coatings and formulating a budget so your marine coatings are never the cause of future surprises.

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