IMO's Guidelines for the Control and Management of Ships' Biofouling

Control and Management of Ships' Biofouling, 2012 Edition

IMO has published Guidelines for the Control and Management of Ships' Biofouling to Minimize the Transfer of Invasive Aquatic Species (Ships' Biofouling), 2012 Edition.

What’s it for?

The introduction of harmful aquatic organisms to new environments by ships has been identified as a major threat to the world’s oceans and to the conservation of biodiversity. Biofouling, described as the undesirable accumulation of microorganisms, plants, algae and animals on submerged structures (especially ships’ hulls), is considered one of the main vectors for bioinvasions.

Biofouling includes large, distinct multicellular organisms visible to the human eye such as barnacles, tubeworms, or algae (“Macrofouling”) as well as microscopic organisms including bacteria and diatoms and the slimy substances that they produce (“Microfouling”). Biofouling comprised of only microfouling is commonly referred to as a “slime layer.”

All ships have some degree of biofouling, even those which may have been recently cleaned or had a new application of an anti-fouling coating system. Studies have shown that the biofouling process begins within the first few hours of a ship's immersion in water. The biofouling that may be found on a ship is influenced by its design and construction, specific operating profile, places visited, and maintenance.

Anti-fouling systems—a coating, paint, surface treatment, surface, or device that is used on a ship to control or prevent attachment of unwanted organisms—are employed to prevent biofouling.

These Guidelines are intended to provide a globally consistent approach to the management of biofouling. They were adopted by IMO's Marine Environment Protection Committee in July 2011 by resolution MEPC.207(62) and are the result of three years of consultation between IMO Member States. The Guidelines represent a decisive step towards regulating the transfer of aquatic invasive species by ships.

When is it available?

The English edition of Ships' Biofouling 2012 is expected to publish in late February, with Spanish and French translations to follow.

Update: The English version of Ships' Biofouling, 2012 Edition, is now available.