External coatings used for corrosion protection often have to perform under severely corrosive environments. One major concern regarding coating performance is the negative effect of soluble salts on the steel substrate at the time of coating application, particularly for marine maintenance coating applications. These salts impact the ability of the applied coating systems to protect the steel in several ways including osmotic coating blistering, promotion of under-film metallic corrosion and coating disbondment. This paper focuses on removal of soluble salts contamination by commercially available decontamination processes in relation to external coating systems. We directly compare the effectiveness of four cleaning methods with the performance of ten coating systems. The methodology of surface contamination and preparation of test panels is discussed. After cleaning, sample evaluation for chloride ion contamination levels was carried out using Field method (commercial chloride ion test kit for surfaces) and Ion Chromatography method. Additionally, Scanning Electron Microscopy / Energy Dispersive X-ray Spectroscopy (SEM/EDX) and elemental surface mapping analysis were carried out. Laboratory testing of coating systems included Adhesion, Porosity, Electrochemical Impedance Spectroscopy (EIS) analysis and cyclic UV/Salt Fog exposure.

The performance of the ten coatings on all the substrates was good, but there were differences in gloss retention and on the degree of checking of the different coatings. The only significant difference in performance of the coatings compared to the method used for cleaning the substrate was higher undercreep observed for most of the coatings applied to the ultra-high pressure water jetted system. This shows the importance of substrate preparation due to the sensitivity of the coatings to even low levels of salt. Two coatings did not show increased undercreep and these may be more applicable for offshore maintenance applications where dry abrasive blasting is sometimes not used. The chemical treatment cleaning method used prior to coating application did not show any significant positive or negative effect on the performance of the applied coatings. The fact that the only differences in performance for the coatings applied to the differently prepared substrates was seen for undercreep suggests that the difference may be exacerbated for immersion situations. A follow up study to this one will examine the performance of internal coatings using immersion tests, and it will be interesting to see if these show increased effect on coating performance.

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