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2023 IMO Biofouling Guidelines

Updated: Oct 24, 2023

The International Maritime Organization (IMO) has been at the forefront of the international efforts to address adverse impact of invasive alien species, by taking the lead in addressing the transfer of invasive aquatic species through shipping. Ships’ ballast water and biofouling on ships are the two main vectors for the transfer of invasive aquatic species through ships.


In July 2023, IMO’s Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) has adopted 2023 Guidelines for the control and management of ships' biofouling to minimize the transfer of invasive aquatic species (Biofouling Guidelines) (resolution MEPC.378(80)) at its eightieth session (MEPC 80). These voluntary guidelines are a revision of 2011 Guidelines for the control and management of ships' biofouling to minimize the transfer of invasive aquatic species (Resolution MEPC.207(62)).


The issue of the transfer of invasive aquatic species through ships’ biofouling was first brought formally to IMO’s attention in 2006 and in the following year MEPC agreed to develop related guidelines. This culminated in the preparation and adoption of 2011 Biofouling Guidelines (Resolution MEPC.207(62)).


It was further agreed that the Biofouling Guidelines may be reviewed to enable the risk to be more adequately addressed, if the implementation of the Guidelines was found insufficient. In support of this review process, IMO prepared the Guidance for evaluating the 2011 Guidelines for the control and management of ships' biofouling to minimize the transfer of invasive aquatic species. This Guidance was provided to assist Member States and observers who wished to collect information needed to determine whether the Guidelines had sufficient impact on biofouling management and to do this in a more consistent way. Based on the results of the evaluation which concluded that the impact of the 2011 Guidelines was insufficient, MEPC agreed at its seventy-second session in April 2018, to a new output for the Sub-Committee on Pollution Prevention and Response (PPR) to modify the Biofouling Guidelines.


This revision, which aimed at improving the uptake and effectiveness of the voluntary Guidelines, was completed in 2023 and the MEPC, at its eightieth session (July 2023) adopted the revised Biofouling Guidelines as mentioned above, which remained voluntary.


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