IMO’s Revised Guidelines Combat Invasive Species Threat in Maritime Sector

New Regulations Aim to Prevent Biofouling and Safeguard Marine Ecosystems

marine ecosystes

Revised guidelines from the International Maritime Organization (IMO) on biofouling, which came into effect in 2023, provide updated guidance on how to prevent the spread of invasive marine species. These recommendations are crucial due to the threat posed by infestations to oceans and marine biodiversity. As indicated by Gard, this phenomenon involves the accumulation of aquatic organisms on vessel hulls that are inadvertently transported through waters and have the capability to become a plague that surpasses native species.

Moreover, they not only pose an environmental threat but can also generate additional friction on vessel hulls, significantly increasing fuel consumption by up to 35%. Therefore, effective management becomes an important tool for enhancing energy efficiency and reducing emissions at sea.

Simple rules and a management plan

Best practices for preventing biofouling, according to the revised guidelines, include the installation of approved anti-fouling systems, the implementation of vessel-specific management plans, the maintenance of a record book, and the conducting of periodic inspections. Proper selection and maintenance of anti-fouling systems are essential to prevent the accumulation of threats on hulls.

Compliance with these guidelines will significantly contribute to preventing the spread of invasive marine species and maintaining the health of marine ecosystems.

All vessels must have a specific Biofouling Management Plan (BFMP), the responsibility of shipowners, operators, and captains. A BFMP may require input from naval architects, shipbuilders, shipowners, anti-fouling system (AFS) manufacturers, and class and marine growth prevention system providers. The purpose of the BFMP is to contribute to the goal of maintaining a recommended fouling index and should include:

The officer or position responsible for implementing the BFMP.

Details of the installed AFS (and where it is installed).

Details of recommended AFS operating conditions to prevent degradation (including parameters such as temperature, salinity, and vessel speed).

Cleaning regimen.

Details of hull areas and niches where biofouling could accumulate.

Fixed inspection schedule.

Repair, maintenance, and renewal regime for AFS.

Details of the documentation and reports required to document biofouling-related activities.

Periodic inspections

The guidelines establish a hull inspection protocol based on each vessel’s specific risk. These are carried out by organizations, crew, or other competent personnel at regular intervals. In the case of vessels without performance monitoring, an inspection is required within 12 months of AFS system application.

Additionally, if performance monitoring indicates that the AFS is not functioning correctly, an inspection should be conducted. Subsequent checks should then be carried out every 12-18 months, or more frequently if necessary.

Detailed record

A Biofouling Record Book (BFRB) must be kept onboard throughout the vessel’s lifespan, either in physical or electronic format. This record should contain details and reports of all inspection and maintenance activities conducted on all areas of the hull and niches, including:

Details of AFS repair and maintenance, including date, location, and affected areas.

Details of Marine Growth Prevention System repair and maintenance.

Information on in-water or dry-dock inspections, including the corresponding report.

Information on in-water or dry-dock cleanings, including the respective report.

Details of periods when the vessel has operated outside its normal operating profile.

Copies of cleaning reports.

A serious issue

In regions like Oceania, with sensitive marine ecosystems, strict control regimes are applied. A recent example was the expulsion of a cruise ship from New Zealand waters due to biofouling on its hull, resulting in denial of entry to Australian ports until the vessel was professionally cleaned.

Compliance with IMO Guidelines on biofouling is crucial to facilitate access to ports with mandatory regulations on the subject, although these regulations may vary between regions. It is important to note that in places like the aforementioned Oceania, the State of California (USA), and other areas with unilateral regulations, local regulatory specificities must be considered, which could include unique notification requirements and permitted levels of biofouling. Therefore, it is essential for the crew to be aware of these to comply with the required standards at each port they visit.

| | | | | |

Last news