14 Feb 2023
Authored by: Simon Doran, HullWiper MD
Shipping changed the way goods were transported to overseas destinations. Traders realised that shipping cargo by sea, rather than land, was faster and less expensive. The industry boomed and today 90% of goods are transported by sea.
With this growth, however, our sector has come under scrutiny as one of the biggest contributors of harmful CO2 emissions impacting the global environment. An urgent change in how we do "business as usual" is needed. The maritime community sprang into action, establishing various industry initiatives and partnerships, as well as measures to regulate shipping's decarbonisation journey.
With goals to protect marine biodiversity and reduce shipping’s carbon footprint through improved biofouling management, the GEF-UNDP-IMO GloFouling Partnerships Project (GFP) established the Global Industry Alliance (GIA) for Marine Biosafety.
Biofouling, also known as invasive aquatic species (IAS), is the accumulation of waterborne organisms such as seaweed, algae or small marine animals on ship hulls and other ocean-going vessels. They pose a serious threat to the health of local marine ecosystems when transported to new waters.
These marine bottom feeders attach to vessel hulls in two ways: microfouling, which is the formation of biofilm on the surface, and macrofouling, the attachment of organisms like barnacles, tubeworms, and plants.
"On a large ship, biofouling can weigh up to as much as 10 tons," says marine ecologist Susan Williams of the University of California, Bodega Marine Laboratory. If left unattended, IAS can have a significant financial and environmental impact for ship owners and operators. Ship resistance increases as drag increases, requiring more fuel and emitting more CO2 into the atmosphere.
The GIA, in collaboration with GFP, brings together experts from the maritime, shipping, ocean energy, aquaculture, and other ocean-based industries. This unified approach includes:
· Contribute to the development of best operational practices
· Facilitate dialogue at a global level to identify and address barriers, and issues related to biofouling management
· Showcase innovative, best available technologies and methods through pilot and demonstration projects
· Build capacity through training on best practices and technologies
· Support technology verification and approval processes, accelerate technology transfer and diffusion
· Raise awareness, share information and knowledge on the impact of biofouling and the use of best management practices
· Conduct technical studies to advance knowledge on biofouling management
The primary objectives of the GIA are to expedite the development of technological solutions toward proactive biofouling management practices, make better use of existing human, technological and financial resources, and encourage industry participation in policy reform and development.
A detailed examination of current or upcoming local, regional and international biofouling management and in-water cleaning policies is provided in a publication by GFP and the GIA (GEF-UNDP-IMO GloFouling Partnerships Project and GIA for Marine Biosafety, 2022, Compilation and Comparative Analysis of Existing and Emerging Regulations, Standards and Practices Related to Ships’ Biofouling Management). The report offers suggestions for resolving the issues preventing the implementation of consistent and effective regulations.
Fouling-free hulls is crucial for ships, and our oceans. A project was undertaken to analyse the impact of biofouling for vessels operating in the Equatorial and Mediterranean regions and how current industry biofouling management practices impact ship efficiency (GEF-UNDP-IMO GloFouling Partnerships Project and GIA for Marine Biosafety, 2022, Analysing the Impact of Marine Biofouling on the Energy Efficiency of Ships and the GHG Abatement Potential of Biofouling Management Measures).
So what now?
I was honoured to be appointed as the chairperson of the GIA at our last meeting, but I did not receive a magic GIA lamp or the associated three wishes that would have made things simple.
Maritime and ocean trades portal Fathom World pointed out in December 2022 that policy decisions run the risk of falling short if shipping companies do not take biofouling and invasive species risks seriously. And they are right. We are woefully short of shipping principles.
As some of the global energy majors have revealed in the past week, the record profits they have acquired runs into the billions of US dollars, showing that high profits were not limited within the container shipping segment alone. So, if I could choose, wish one would be to have the oil majors at our table as the associated cost is a metaphorical drop in the ocean. In the same breath the aquaculture majors are noticeably absent from our table, and there goes wish two. I am loathe to use my third wish, so I will just finish with the hope that the maritime industry as a whole, not just in drips and drabs, will join the dots and turn this industry we work in to a sustainable and environmentally friendly one. One that shapes the world, and something that our children and children’s children (you get it) are proud of.