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2nd GloFouling Partnerships Forum presents state of affairs on biofouling management

Updated: Nov 29, 2022

The 2nd GloFouling Partnerships Forum and Exhibition on Biofouling Prevention and Management for Maritime Industries (11-14 October) was held at the International Maritime Organization (IMO) Headquarters, bringing together government delegates, researchers, leading scientific experts, technology developers, and global representatives from maritime industries such as shipping, ports and harbours, aquaculture & fishing, offshore oil & gas, deep sea mining and ocean renewables.

Participants discussed greener technologies for the management of biofouling and ways of tackling transportation of invasive aquatic species to protect marine biodiversity. Biofouling is the accumulation of aquatic organisms on wetted or immersed surfaces such as ships and other offshore structures.

Twelve sessions were held over four days to debate and share knowledge about the most pressing areas facing the maritime biofouling sector, including preventing and reactive technologies for managing biofouling; testing of technologies and innovative technology for monitoring biofouling; environmental and economic impacts as well as best management practices in shipping and other sectors, such as renewable energy, aquaculture and recreational boating. Port perspectives and initiatives undertaken by ports was another subject of interest. The last day of the event focused on industry-led contributions to the global environment agenda, where the work conducted by the project's Global Industry Alliance (GIA) for Marine Biosafety on biofouling management was highlighted, notably two studies commissioned by the GIA, the first one on fuel efficiency resulting from good biofouling management, and the second one analysing the current and emerging regulatory environment for biofouling management. The day ended with a panel that discussed policy aspects and how policy can timely and adequately respond to current biofouling management issues.

As part of the event, a special industry panel led by the World Ocean Council (WOC) held discussions on green investment to support innovation and technology development for biofouling management, which highlighted the need to increase awareness of investors on the role of shipping as trade enabler and the opportunities for green financing shipping carries. In a side event, a special presentation was delivered by Mark Patterson and Gary Rosewell from Proteus Ocean Group on their plans to build an advanced underwater research station, namely PROTEUS™. The ocean space station will serve as an ocean observatory and research platform aimed at scientists, innovators, and global customers with an interest in enhancing their of marine life and address some of its most critical threats.

The Forum also provided an opportunity for beneficiary countries of the GloFouling Partnerships project to showcase some of their key progress and exchange experiences, and to meet with Maritime Technologies Cooperation Centres (MTCCs) to discuss a sister project, TEST Biofouling focusing on demonstration pilot initiatives.

Representation of women in the maritime biofouling field

One salient session at the GloFouling R&D Forum considered the representation of women in the maritime biofouling field. With an all-women panel, the session opened with a presentation by Sanjam Gupta of Sitara Shipping looking at the route towards inclusive biofouling management.

She highlighted the importance of increased awareness of the issue and the need for a commitment to gender equity and inclusion in the biofouling sector but acknowledged that change wouldn't happen overnight. Arguing that those who didn't recognise the business case for gender diversity were missing out on ideas, creativity and, probably, profit, she called for male leaders to take the initiative, and urged everyone in the industry to "walk the talk" by committing to a target that, she said, "has to be closer to 50/50 than 90/10".

The GloFouling Partnerships project includes targeted initiatives focusing specifically on women, aimed at creating an empowering space for reducing existing disparities in maritime administrations, the scientific community and the private sector to support implementation of the sustainable development goal 5 on gender equality (SDG 5).