A new “Global Industry Alliance for Marine Biosafety” was launched on 08 June by the International Maritime Organization, along with other global stakeholders, to tackle marine biofouling and greenhouse gas emissions.
The aim of the GIA is to “accelerate the development of solutions to improve the management of marine biofouling” and to “contribute a significant reduction in greenhouse gas emissions”, the IMO said. Other key aims of the GIA are to leverage human, technological and financial resources; facilitate industry input into policy developments and a positive pull for reform processes; and the development and dissemination of technological solutions to improve biofouling management, the IMO added.
Areas of focus include in-water cleaning and grooming technologies; operational improvement; new and alternative coating solutions; ship design; and the human element, according to ICOMIA, an international body that represents a variety of different marine industries.
Marine biofouling refers to the attachment and growth of aquatic organisms (such as barnacles) on the hulls of ships, ocean-platforms and other marine infrastructure. That creates several environmental problems.
A biofouled hull drastically reduces the sailing performance of a ship through increased turbulence and drag, which lowers speed, increases fuel consumption, reduces efficiency and increases operational costs. A ship must also then have its hull cleaned, which has direct costs plus the costs of forgone revenue from taking a ship out-of-service. A biofouled ship that burns more fuel to maintain a service speed also generates more carbon dioxide gas. That gas traps heat from the sun in the Earth’s atmosphere, which helps to increase the overall temperature on the planet.
Finally, a biofouled hull can potentially introduce a marine species to an area of the world where it was previously not present. The species can become invasive and create environmental problems.
The GIA for Marine Biosafety is brings together private sector companies from various industries affected by biofouling, including shipping, aquaculture, offshore oil and gas, and ocean renewable energies.
Four companies are the founding corporate members of the GIA for Marine Biosafety and these are CleanSubSea, ECOsubsea, Hullwiper and Sonihull. The founding UN agencies are the IMO and the United Nations Development Programme. They are joined by the Global Environmental Facility, a multi-billion international public fund set up in 1992 just before the Rio Earth Summit.
The two UN agencies and the Global Environmental Facility are working together in a joint initiative called the Glofouling Partnerships Project, which aims to drive implementation of the IMO Guidelines for the control and management of ships’ biofouling.
IMO Secretary-General Kitack Lim said the new alliance will, for the first time, bring together all maritime industries in finding solutions to two key environmental issues affecting our planet – marine biodiversity and greenhouse gas emissions.
“Under this new initiative, these industry champions, from different sectors, are coming together to address common challenges and move towards a more sustainable use of ocean resources”, Mr Lim said.