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IMO Panel Adopts Biofouling Guidelines

Thursday, August 11, 2011

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An International Maritime Organization committee has adopted the first set of international recommendations to address biofouling of ships, to minimize the transfer of invasive aquatic species.

IMO’s Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) approved the guidelines in July at its 62nd Session, held in London.

The guidelines are voluntary for now, but biofouling is facing increasing global scrutiny and concern, and experts say the IMO’s action may pave the way for national laws by IMO member states later on.

Biofouling management documents 

 International Marine

International Marine is offering downloadable templates for biofouling management records.

The guidelines are designed for shipmasters, operators, owners and builders; cleaning and maintenance operators; antifouling paint manufacturers; classification societies and others in the global shipping community.

Reducing Species Transfer

The goal of the guidelines is to provide globally consistent recommendations on measures that can minimize the risks associated with biofouling for all types of ships.

The guidelines build on the 2004 International Convention for the Control and Management of Ships’ Ballast Water and Sediments (BWM Convention), which recognized that transporting ballast water from one location to another contributed to translocation of invasive aquatic species. Biofouling on immersed areas of ships has also been shown to be a major contributor to species transfer.

 Biofouling on ship hull

 John Lewis, ES Link Services / International Marine

The International Maritime Organization’s new guidelines address biofouling on ships of all types.

Biofouling is a significant mechanism for species transfer by vessels, MEPC notes. A single fertile fouling organism has the potential to release many thousands of eggs, spores or larvae into the water with the capacity to found new populations of invasive species such as crabs, fish, sea stars, mollusks and plankton.

“Minimizing biofouling will significantly reduce the risk of transfer,” the agency reports.

The new guidelines focus on four areas:

• A biofouling management plan and record book;

• Antifouling coatings system selection, installation and maintenance;

• In-water inspection, cleaning and maintenance; and

• Ship design and construction.

Resources Available

Global coatings manufacturer International Marine has developed a collection of resources to help the shipping industry understand and implement the guidelines.

The resources include a Q&A document that addresses the guidelines’ basics, including background, applicability and compliance issues; downloadable templates for a Biofouling Management Plan and Record Book; an IMO video, Invaders of the Sea, about invasive species; and a video discussion of the guidelines by Dr. Julian Hunter, International Paint’s Regulatory Affairs Manager.


Compliance with the guidelines requires a biofouling management plan and record book and a non-TBT fouling control coating that complies with the IMO’s 2001 International Convention on the Control of Harmful Anti-Fouling Systems on Ships (AFS Convention), according to International Marine.

“If your existing fouling control coating prevents fouling on your ship, it will be compliant,” the company says. “The choice of coating should always be appropriate to your vessel’s operating profile.”

The company also recommends changing the positions of drydocking blocks and supports at each drydocking to ensure that areas under the blocks are painted with an effective fouling control coating.

Hulls should be regularly inspected visually and, if there appears to be a biofouling build-up, a dive inspection may be required to determine if cleaning is necessary, the company says.

Other Action

In other action at the MEPC meeting:

• The group adopted 2011 guidelines for the development of the Ship Recycling Plan as well as updated guidelines for the development of the Inventory of Hazardous Materials, which are  intended to assist in implementing the Hong Kong International Convention for the Safe and Environmentally Sound Recycling of Ships, adopted in May 2009;

• The MEPC gave a variety of approvals to several ballast water management systems that make use of active substances and approved guidance on scaling of ballast water management systems; and

• Mandatory measures to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs) from international shipping were adopted by parties to MARPOL Annex VI represented in the MEPC.


Tagged categories: Marine; Marine Coatings; Regulations

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