19 Sep 2023
Author: Simon Doran, HullWiper MD
Unbeknownst to many, biofouling causes the shipping industry a staggering multi-billion dollars every year. Biofouling results in increased fuel consumption and emissions, poses a risk of spreading invasive aquatic species (IAS) and necessitates additional maintenance and compliance measures for ships to mitigate its impact.
Marine fouling has evolved into a defining challenge, highlighting the delicate balance between commerce and ecology. The urgent need for innovative green solutions to address this escalating crisis and its financial toll is demanding the industry’s immediate attention. The island nation of Mauritius is one of 12 countries leading the International Marine Organization (IMO) GloFouling Project. This collaborative effort involves the Global Environment Facility (GEF), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and IMO whose purpose is to implement guidelines for controlling and managing the transfer of IAS on vessel hulls.
Biofouling’s costly consequences
The ecological footprint of marine fouling extends beyond the visible accumulation of organisms on a ship's hull. It plays a devastating role in two critical aspects of environmental concern. Firstly, it contributes significantly to the rapid spread of IAS into foreign waters. This phenomenon occurs when marine organisms, often in the form of microscopic larvae or attached adults, hitch a ride on the hulls of vessels and are transported to regions far from their native habitats.
Once introduced into new environments, marine fouling can wreak havoc on local ecosystems. They may outcompete native species for resources, disrupt established food chains and even alter the physical and chemical properties of their new habitats. This ecological disturbance has far-reaching consequences, affecting not only the marine biodiversity but also the livelihoods of communities dependent on healthy ecosystems.
Secondly, marine fouling has a direct negative impact on vessel fuel consumption. When a ship's hull becomes fouled with the accumulation of barnacles, algae, and other organisms, it experiences increased hydrodynamic drag. This added resistance requires more energy to maintain the vessel's speed and operational efficiency, leading to higher fuel consumption. As ships burn more fuel to compensate for the drag caused by fouling, they emit greater quantities of greenhouse gases (GHGs) into the atmosphere.
As marine fouling continues to pose a dual threat, facilitating the spread of IAS, increasing fuel consumption and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, the call for effective fouling prevention and mitigation strategies grows more urgent. In response, Mauritius Ministry of Environment has implemented the some of the world’s strictest conditions for hull cleaning, in support of the country’s Green Port Initiatives.
Clean seas, clear goals
The Mauritius Green Port Initiative is a comprehensive Programme aimed at strengthening environmental sustainability and responsible maritime practices within the nation's ports. This multifaceted initiative encompasses a spectrum of measures designed to achieve its objectives.
At its core, it focuses on emissions reduction, energy conservation and pollution prevention within port operations. Simultaneously, it emphasizes safeguarding local marine ecosystems, with particular attention to preventing the introduction of IAS and preserving biodiversity in port areas. The Programme actively encourages the adoption and use of eco-friendly technologies and best practices to enhance port efficiency and minimize resource consumption while promoting strict compliance with environmental regulations and international best practices.
To ensure the programmes success, Mauritius has mandated the use of hull cleaning equipment equipped with advanced reclamation systems. This requirement guarantees that water discharged from hull cleaning operations is entirely free of micro and macro-organisms. The Mauritius Port Authority is responsible for the oversight and enforcement of these. Their detailed approach involves the submission of a provisional report to the port for approval before each hull cleaning operation, coupled with stringent water sampling procedures to verify the absence of micro-organisms in seawater. Compliance with these regulations is incentivized, with vessels adhering to eco-friendly hull cleaning methods receiving reduced port dues. Conversely, non-compliance can result in the revocation of a vessel's license.
Samuel Rochecouste, Director of Immersub and HullWiper's partner for hull cleaning operations in Port Louis, emphasises the global importance of implementing in-water hull cleaning standards. Rochecouste contends: "More countries will advocate for proactive hull cleaning, necessitating more frequent hull cleans to mitigate the risk of introducing marine fouling into foreign waters." His perspective underscores the global significance of responsible maritime practices and the growing momentum behind them.
Partnering for cleaner oceans
The maritime sector faces pressing needs to reduce our contribution to CO2 emissions, and collaboration is the key to success. This global challenge requires partnerships, innovation and commitment to move us closer to a future where our oceans thrive and flourish.
Immersub, an integral part of our global family, shares our vision for a more sustainable maritime industry through sustainable, innovative hull cleaning solutions with HullWiper Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV). At HullWiper we believe there is a joined-up solution, and we are continually looking to increase our efforts to develop more environmentally friendly and advanced hull cleaning solutions, all with the goal of helping shipping’s management of biofouling to reduce its negative consequences.