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 and propeller significantly increases its drag resulting in poorer hydrodynamic performance and increased fuel consumption. Shipowners, therefore, should 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. There is a lack of 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.

According to the BIMCO Hull Fouling Clause, if as a result of the charterer’s orders, the ship lies idle for an extended period where hull fouling is likely to occur, the owners’ speed and performance warranty will be suspended until the hull has been inspected and, if necessary, cleaned at the charterers’ expense.

An industry group led by BIMCO has initiated the development of an underwater cleaning standard to enable and increase the quality and safety of underwater cleaning. It will ensure that underwater cleaning can be carried out in an efficient and environmentally sustainable way, for example, the collection of debris.

BIMCO’s position

  • A voluntary ship-specific management approach that requires the use of appropriate coatings and recognised hull and propeller cleaning practices is the best option for both ships and the environment.
  • Shipowners should have an incentive to avoid fouling on ships’ hulls and propellers, 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.
  • Designation of areas for in-water cleaning of hull and propeller with due regard to its effects on the environment should be agreed by coastal and port states.
  • Support the development of innovative technologies such as ultrasonic anti-fouling and nano-structured surfaces, which might provide a solution for niche areas.
  • Participate in the GloFouling project funded by the UN and executed by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) to help implement the IMO guidelines on biofouling in developing coastal states.


Rasmus Nord Jorgensen
in Copenhagen, DK

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