Biofouling is the undesired growth of marine algae, invertebrates or other marine microorganisms on a submerged structure, primarily ship hulls but also on offshore platforms and marine renewable energy structures. Biofouling is harmful to local marine communities due to the transport of alien species to new habitats within which they may monopolise, outcompeting native species and causing changes to local ecosystems and food webs. Techniques to reduced invasions via biofouling include removal of species and additional mechanisms to protect ships such as anti-fouling paints and treatments.
The biofouling of ships is also detrimental to ship operations, increasing drag, boosting fuel requirements and reducing efficiency and can impact other structures such as tidal turbines, increasing operational and maintenance costs.
The group’s overarching aim is to ensure shipping and other maritime industries can continue to underpin trade, security and economic development with minimal environmental impact, both in the immediate and long term.
The Biofouling Management Expert Group will centre on providing a platform of knowledge exchange and technical expertise on the issues surrounding (but not limited to):
In-water cleaning of ship hulls to remove biofouling: regular cleaning reduces hull roughness, fuel consumption and consequently greenhouse gases and other harmful air emissions. However, there is concern that uncontrolled in-water cleaning will cause both chemical contamination from anti-fouling biocides and the release of propagules of potentially invasive species;
Relative merits of biocidal and biocide-free fouling control coatings for preventing atmospheric, biological and chemical contamination and environmental harm: Do non-toxic coatings adequately prevent biofouling attachment on all vessels? Do they increase the risk of invasive species transfer? What risks do antifouling biocides pose?
Regulatory scrutiny of new and existing fouling control coatings and antifouling biocides: Is it appropriate/adequate/overly zealous? What uniformity is there in regulations and requirements between states/jurisdictions?
Are voluntary guidelines for the management of ship biofouling sufficient to minimise invasive marine species translocation risk, or are more stringent biofouling standards and compliance regulations necessary for ships entering regional ports and harbours? If the latter, what are the practical options for the regulatory mechanism and monitoring of compliance?
The current and future maritime landscape and how it relates to recent and proposed legislative changes (e.g. ANZECC In-water Cleaning Guidelines, Biofouling Management Guidelines, Marine Reserves Network Proposal)
How to address the increasingly urgent need of vessel operators to find a balance between improved vessel fuel efficiency (through hull husbandry techniques), reduced maintenance costs, effective biosecurity risk mitigation and compliance with more stringent environmental regulation.
Identify knowledge and policy gaps that are hindering the realisation of effective biofouling management strategies.