Applicabilty: All shipowners, operators and charterers

Biofouling on ships has been shown to be an important vector for the transfer of invasive aquatic species which, if established in new ecosystems, can pose threats to the environment, human health, property and resources.

As part of its commitment to minimising the transfer of invasive aquatic species, the International Maritime Organization has developed Guidelines for the Control and Management of Ships' Biofouling to Minimize the Transfer of Invasive Aquatic Species (resolution MEPC.207(62)) to provide a consistent approach to the management of biofouling on ships. The Guidelines are non-mandatory and therefore do not require any surveys, certification or plan approval.

The Guidelines provide practical guidance on measures to minimise the risks of transferring invasive aquatic species from biofouling on ships.

They include considerations for ship design including:

  • Designing the hull area so that niche, sheltered areas, fittings and sea chests are minimised or can easily be inspected and cleaned
  • Use of biofouling-resistant materials
  • Installation of effective anti-fouling coatings on the hull, niche areas, fittings and within sea water systems, or the use of growth prevention systems as appropriate.

They also contain guidance on developing biofouling management procedures which could be implemented through a biofouling management plan and a biofouling record book. Items to consider include:

  • Maintenance of anti-fouling systems
  • Planned regular inspection of the hull, and niche and other areas, for signs of biofouling, and cleaning of these areas in a controlled manner
  • Planning dry dockings so that, where possible, blocks are not in the same area every docking, to allow the maximum area to be coated with the antifouling system
  • Using cleaning systems during in-water hull cleaning that prevent or minimise the release to the sea of removed fouling.

The management plan should also include a training programme for ships’ crews on the impacts of biofouling and implementation of the management plan.

Additionally, the Guidelines include a recommended format for a biofouling record book which is intended to record items such as details of the anti-fouling systems applied to the ship and operational practices to be implemented, dates of dry docking and in-water inspections, inspection and maintenance of internal seawater cooling systems and the results of inspections.

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