Biofouling management


BIMCO's position on "biofouling management" has been approved by the BIMCO Board of Directors.


In October 2001, the International Convention on the Control of Harmful Anti-fouling Systems on Ships (AFS Convention) was adopted by the IMO. It sets forth requirements to prevent direct adverse impact on the environment from use of anti-fouling systems on ships. In July 2011, IMO also adopted a set of Guidelines, to provide a globally consistent approach to managing biofouling reduction.

High levels of fouling on a ship's hull significantly increases its drag resulting in poorer hydrodynamic performance and increased fuel consumption. Shipowners, therefore, have a strong economic incentive to combat biofouling and they have been doing so since the beginning of modern shipping. Biofouling is prevented by using anti-fouling paints, which eliminate or prevent species from gaining a foothold on the hull.

Sometimes coatings cannot maintain a fouling-free surface, so in-water cleaning between dry-dockings of a ship is required. Shipowners, however, lack underwater hull cleaning facilities worldwide. Some countries have adopted local regulations on hull husbandry prohibition, thus making in-water hull cleaning very difficult or impossible. In some cases, local regulations call for examination of niche areas like sea lockers without taking into consideration the safety of divers or even the possibility of accessing such areas.

BIMCO’s position

  • A voluntary ship-specific management approach that requires the use of appropriate coatings and recognised hull cleaning practices is the best option for both ships and the environment.
  • Shipowners have a natural incentive to avoid fouling on ships’ hulls, so a voluntary ship specific management approach using IMO’s guidelines on ships’ biofouling is sufficient.
  • BIMCO does not support unilateral initiatives to legislate on biofouling, as they open up for potentially discriminatory and impractical regulations for the industry.
  • In-water cleaning of hull and propeller with due regard to its effects on the environment should be allowed by coastal and port states.
Gemma Wilkie
By Gemma Wilkie
in Copenhagen, DK

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