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Finsulate offers a safe alternative to painting boat hulls that lasts for years

Instead of repainting the hull of boats annually to prevent marine growth, Finsulate offers a solution inspired by sea urchins that's safe for marine life.

PORTLAND, Maine — Sometimes the solutions to our most complicated problems lie quietly in nature. 

Sea urchins have inspired a company based in Maine to tackle a prickly issue. 

Finsulate is a start-up company that’s taking a fresh approach to an issue that plagues just about anyone with a boat, and its innovative solution may have far-reaching benefits for the health of our oceans.  

Whether they're used for fun or work, boats are expensive to maintain but little is accomplished on the water without one. And even if you've never stepped foot on one, boats still have a huge impact on your life. 

Ever eaten a banana? That landed in your grocery cart by way of a container ship, as do most American imports and exports. So, keeping boats in working order and making sure they don't pollute our oceans is a top priority. 

One of the biggest problems for most boats is marine fouling, which is when organisms such as barnacles, algae, and one of the biggest culprits: mussels, attach themselves and then grow on underwater objects like ropes, nets, piers, and boats.

"We need to understand that it's a major problem globally worldwide and if you don't address it, [it] will cost billions of dollars because it slows boats and it affects all the activity in the water," Bernard Hidier, who heads the U.S. Finsulate office headquartered in Maine, said. 

"Up until now the only solution we had was to use toxic chemical paint that are designed to dissolve in the water," Hidier explained. 

Until a couple of years ago when Dutch inventor Rik Breur noticed while diving that, unlike clams and lobsters, sea urchins were devoid of any marine fouling. 

Breur got to work and developed a synthetic material, that much like a sea urchin, has fibers that create an inhospitable place for marine organisms to grow. The material, which is manufactured in Europe, has a self-adhesive and is applied to the hulls of ships much like wrapping a car. 

Unlike anti-fouling paints, which are designed to dissolve in the water and have to be reapplied every year, Finsulate's wrap material is guaranteed for five years, though Hidier said they have many ships that are well into their seventh year with the material on the hull. 

Perhaps the best part of Finsulate's product is that it's safe for marine life. Studies have shown that anti-fouling paint is polluting oceans at a faster rate than previously thought. 

Early this year, Finsulate competed in the Maine Center for Entrepreneur's "Top Gun" Competition, where Maine start-ups get 15 weeks of mentoring and then compete for a $25,000 prize. Finsulate came out on top. 

"They are cleaning up the oceans, which is built into the DNA of any coastal state’s heart," Laurie Johnson, who heads the "Top Gun" program, said. "They are an international company and they chose us to headquarter in and really become part of our community. And I think that told a really compelling story for our judges."

So far only one Maine boat is sporting Finsulate's material on its hull, but Hidier said they are in the process of training people to properly install the material, which costs around $8 per square foot. 

Finsulate claims the material also improves fuel efficiency for boats, which is of course important to most boat owners. The material can also prevent the spread of invasive species, which are often transported via boats and ships as they sail from one ocean to another. 

For more information about Finsulate, reach out by emailing contact@finsulateUSA.com.

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