BIMCO has set out to create an internationally-recognized hull underwater cleaning standard along with a number of industry partners.
The group is made up of eight different organizations – including paint manufacturers, ship owners and cleaning companies – which will aim to finalize the standard in the autumn of 2019.
Underwater cleaning is only currently permitted in a handful of locations around the world, and many port states are tightening their rules for the procedure, if not banning it altogether. This is likely to increase greenhouse gas emissions from shipping, as fouling is known to increase vessels’ fuel consumption.
According to BIMCO, the creation of a standard will ensure that any hull cleaning is conducted in accordance with a set of specifications, that the environmental impact of the process and coating damage is controlled and that the cleaning process is planned, safe and effective.
“We need more places available around the world for underwater cleaning,” says Aron Frank Sørensen, the head of Marine Technology and Regulation at BIMCO. “We believe that a standard that is safe, efficient and environmentally sustainable, will encourage States to make more places for underwater hull cleaning available.”
Part of the standard will relate to how to ensure that the paint is not damaged during cleaning, and that debris and wash-water is collected in a practicable and sustainable manner. The standard will also establish an approval system for underwater cleaning companies, a currently unregulated and fragmented market.
“What is needed today is a standard that ensures that companies providing underwater cleaning services operate to a high standard that can apply wherever in the world they operate,” Sørensen says.
IMarEST Biofouling Management Special Interest Group (SIG) co-chair John Lewis has stressed the importance of in-water cleaning as part of a raft of management measures needed to minimize the environmental impact of hull biofouling by reducing hull roughness and consequent greenhouse gas emissions, as well as the movement of invasive marine species.
Lewis says: “The Biofouling Management SIG has recognized the need for globally consistent guidelines on in-water cleaning to ensure that operations are both effective, and operationally and environmentally safe, and the BIMCO initiative is seen as a positive move to address this need.”
The standard will undergo thorough practical trials prior to launch, with the aim to send it to the appropriate international organizations for endorsement.