The International Maritime Organization (IMO) is moving its attention to hull biofouling after its success with preparations for the Ballast Water Management Convention in developing nations.
A new global project, the GloFouling Partnership, a collaboration between the Global Environment Facility (GEF), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the IMO, has been given the go-ahead and allocated $6.9 million.
The project will focus on the implementation of the IMO Guidelines for the control and management of ships’ biofouling. The Guidelines (resolution MEPC.207(62)) are intended to provide a globally consistent approach to the management of biofouling. They were adopted by the Marine Environment Protection Committee in July 2011.
For now, the Guidelines are not mandatory. While the International Convention on the Control of Harmful Anti-Fouling Systems on Ships, 2001 (AFS Convention) addresses anti-fouling systems on ships, its focus is on the prevention of adverse impacts from the use of anti-fouling systems and the biocides they may contain, rather than the prevention of the transfer of invasive aquatic species through hull fouling.
Like ballast water, biofouling is considered one of the main vectors for bioinvasions. At a presentation at the World Ocean Council's Sustainable Ocean Summit late last year, IMO technical officer Dr Theofanis Karayannis suggested that hull biofouling could be just as serious a problem for the spread of invasive aquatic species as ballast water.
In New Zealand, fouling was found to be responsible for about 70 percent of aquatic invasive species, compared to just three percent from ballast water. In Port Phillip Bay, Australia, about 80 percent of aquatic invasive species reported was from ships’ hulls, with 20 percent from ballast water. In American waters, hull biofouling accounted for about 35 percent of aquatic invasive species compared to 20 percent from ballast.