If you were one of last year’s 28.5 million cruise passengers worldwide, there is a good chance you walked on a deck coating made and installed by Dutch specialist Bolidt.
Bolidt is the established leader in the cruise industry, and delights in pushing the boundaries with funky but functional flooring products that excite ship designers.
Its best-known product is Future Teak, a modern take on traditional wooden decking. Like all of Bolidt’s floor coatings it is made from plant resins, and usually applied as a liquid. There is no chance of barefoot passengers getting a splinter, and it has non-slip as well as sound-deadening properties. It is also very low-maintenance, an important factor on a large vessel: traditional teak requires continual work, starting again at the beginning as soon as the end is reached.
At a press preview of their new high-tech Innovation Centre outside Rotterdam, Rientz Willem Bol, Chief Executive Officer of Bolidt explained that the company wants to encourage new ideas by increasing collaboration between end-user designers and their technical experts. The idea for the new innovation centre started seven years ago, with some blue sky thinking about how Bolidt could stay ahead and encourage clients to join in.
“The company started in 1964,” explains Bol, “with the first purpose and product was to prevent steel and concrete corrosion. We now service markets in industrial facilities, public buildings, food preparation and production areas, and sports facilities, as well as the marine market. The early marine products were very functional and durable, such as deck coatings for trawlers, livestock carriers and navies. If you can imagine the kind of mess produced on a ship with several decks full of cattle, you will see how important it is to be able to clean them quickly and efficiently.
“Originally we would use painters to apply our coatings, but we found that we really needed specialist installers. From that point we have been aligned to delivering turn-key products with specialist installation teams.
The company is now better known for the way these functional products have been enhanced with aesthetic possibilities, and these are increasingly being seen on land-based projects as well as in the high-end marine sector. One recent project is all the flooring for the King Abdelaziz Centre for World Culture in Saudi Arabia, containing a library, cinema, theatre, and museums and exhibition halls, which is listed by Time magazine as one of the world’s top 100 places to visit.
Another project was the flooring for Danone’s dairy products production facility, where hard wear and easy cleaning are the paramount considerations. As with ship gallies, food production areas demand a seamless floor surface for health and hygiene reasons: any cracks can result in closure of the galley, and neither a cruise line or a navy can take that risk. Highlighting their credentials in this field, Bolidt recently completed the flooring for Rotterdam’s new Medical Centre.
Best at sea
About 70% of Bolidt’s production is in the Maritime sector, most notably in the expanding cruise industry. Cruise lines favour European shipyards such as Lloyd Werft and Meyer Werft for the quality of their fitting, and these yards have close relationships with Bolidt. Growing demand is also producing opportunities as new yards open to keep pace.
Synthetic flooring brings a considerable weight saving of about 40% over traditional materials. The minimum thickness is about 10 mm, but ship decks are never really flat, so depths of up to 100mm, including the primer and underlay coating, can be applied to even out imperfections and to increase sound-deadening properties. Bolidt’s products are usually applied as a liquid, but where needed, they can be provided in finished sections.
Naval architects and designers are prime targets for the new Innovation Centre, designed to let them spark new ideas and technical collaboration, and make the floor an integral part of their designs. Recent pioneering projects have included the world’s first Ferrari race-track at sea (onboard NCL’s Norwegian Joy), glow-in-the-dark decking that harvests and stores solar energy, and flooring with embedded LED lighting.
On the Celebrity Flora, a mid size cruise ship recently completed in Rotterdam, designers wanted a stone patio adjoining a Future Teak bar area. Actual stone was problematic, so a bespoke resin effect was created. Meantime, Asia’s largest cruise line Gentings Dream started building their own ships in Rostock as other yard order books were already full, and they are working on the largest cruise ship ever to be built in Germany. Serving the Asian market, it has very different colours and patterns, with unique flooring products being provided by Bolidt. The cruise ships are big customers: Royal Caribbean’s Symphony of the Seas, the world’s largest cruise ship, features 20,000m2 of Bolidt materials.
Superyacht owners are notoriously demanding and have generally favoured traditional materials, but there is increasingly a willingness to adopt products such as Future Teak. Embedded lights, colour and texture options are also starting to attract customers in the market. Bolidt have established a special team of installers for super yachts, many of them ex-carpenters who are used to the standards demanded in the luxury market.
At the functional end of the market, both the floating offshore platform Sleipnir and the Johann platform in Norway have Bolidt decking throughout most of the living quarters.
The Dutch Navy has been a long-standing customer for the decking. Their largest ship, the HNLMS Karel Doorman, has two helipads, and when the need arose for it to accommodate US Osprey aircraft on joint operations, there was concern that the heat from the aircraft exhausts might prove too high for resin-based decking. Military tests in the US however found that the decking was up to the job, despite temperatures of around 150 C.
The Dutch submarine HRMS Walters, being built in Rotterdam, has secret new coatings products that will also be used on the next generation of Dutch submarines.
A recent development that Bolidt expect to be of interest, is flooring that acts as a sensor to identify the presence of bodies in an area by pressure. Rather than underfloor wires, the weight of a body causes the flooring to produce a current chemically, allowing passenger locations to detected in the event of a fire or other emergency. It also has applications in security, as it could detect intruders who had bypassed or evaded security cameras and other sensors.
Jacco van Overbeek, Bolidt Maritime Division Director, has been with the company for 26 years. He explains that the new centre brings technical research and designers together. Product development includes use of advanced testing, including a climate chamber and accelerated weathering laboratory that can replicate the climate anywhere in the world for temperature and humidity. “With the testing, we will know if the product will be okay when applied in harsh and extreme environments,” explains Van Overbeek. “We are working on a number of Polar and expedition cruise vessel projects at the moment, and these facilities will be put to good use developing materials that meet the needs of shipowners and passengers onboard.” As well as climate testing, compression, sound, fire and other tests are carried out on samples over time. The main markets, he says, are Cruise, Offshore, Super Yachts, and the Navy, but products for fishing fleets, livestock carriers and ferries remain important: “For fishing fleets it is important that the product is hygienic and has a non-slip surface. For livestock carriers it is very important to be able to clean the decks very quickly. We have been providing products to live stock carriers for 40 years. The ferry market is moving more up-scale and the ferries now are almost like small cruise vessels.
“We mostly talk to architects and to ship owners, but we have established relationships with shipyards and they also recommend us.”
Sustainability is another key area being worked on. Bolidt point out that one obvious advantage of Future Teak is that it does not require trees to be cut down and it lasts very much longer than wood. The coating is also made entirely from plant oil resins, rather than petrochemical products. When removed, the decking can’t be returned to liquid form, but can be broken down into small shredded particles. Research is currently underway to establish more ways to incorporate these into new products. A new use of resin products is as a replacement for asphalt in areas where weight, grip, and corrosion resistance are important, such as bridges. They currently have a project for 28 bridges in Germany, where a Bolidt resin-based product with the outward appearance of asphalt is being used to replace the road surface. The intention is to mitigate corrosion problems on the bridge structure and cracking of the tarmac due to movement – the new product can withstand more flexing and vibration and is very much lighter.
Applications as a road surface have already been carried out in car and cycle parks, and at “Cycling through Trees”, a bridge that allows visitors to cycle between tree tops in the Bosland region of Belgium, Bolidt installed the Boligrip surface on the trail’s 700-metre-long circular bridge.
“In the Bolidt Innovation Centre, we will focus specifically on open source innovation and collaboration,” says Bol. “Only by dreaming, thinking and working together and letting people experience everything that is possible with synthetics, will we achieve innovation that has the potential to conquer the world. That is what we want to achieve here, together with all of our partners.
“We have always invested in innovation. If you don’t think about the future, you will not have one”