It seems to be becoming increasingly difficult to find locations where in-water hull cleaning will be allowed for environmental reasons. At the same time, local regulations related to biofouling, are now in place in New Zealand and California, Australia is working on it, and more locations may follow suit.
If it becomes more difficult to find viable locations for in-water hull cleaning, the alternative may be drydocking the vessel to handle the debris from the hull cleaning in an environmental friendly manner. This might pose two problems, availability of drydock capacity (for this purpose) and an increase in the cost of hull cleaning.
Already, hull fouling is a common bone of contention, both at the time the ship is fixed and when the time comes to implement the clause that may be contained in the governing charter party.
It is not difficult to envisage that parties may become involved in disputes if the better alternative - in a given case - is that the ship proceeds to drydock for hull cleaning. The same can happen if cleaning in-water is available but where a considerable deviation for the ship is required. Both seem to be equally unattractive alternatives, and we have not even considered the risk of waiting time for the dock or the cleaning operation in general.
This development may not only become relevant in the context of a time charter where disputes are most likely to occur. Parties engaged in voyage chartering may also be challenged by local regulations. Imagine a ship having to wait for weeks due to congestion before loading at a place where fouling is likely to happen, and then proceeding to a discharge port where the ship isn’t allowed to berth until the hull is spotless. Where and how can the owners (operators) arrange for hull cleaning en route?
As opposed to the implementation of local legislation, BIMCO strongly believes in a voluntary approach, based on IMO guidelines, on how to manage biofouling to avoid transferring invasive species from one area to another. These guidelines include, for example, coating and in-water hull cleaning maintenance.
Shipowners have in any case their own incentive to manage fouling, as it improves fuel efficiency.
Currently, there are no lists outlining rules for in-water hull cleaning in different areas.
If you want to learn more about biofouling there are a number of articles available on the BIMCO website:
The following articles may also be of interest: