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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).

Recreational craft and invasive species report

The spread of invasive aquatic species by recreational boats due to biofouling was described by Dr Agnese Marchini from the University of Pavia as posing a "real threat" to marine biodiversity. Chairing a session on how to manage the introduction of alien species to new areas, she highlighted a lack of knowledge about the issue within the global recreational boat community.

A report aimed at helping to tackle the problem was launched during the R&D Forum. The Recommendations for biofouling management in the recreational boating sector has been compiled by the GloFouling Partnership project, led by IMO and in collaboration with the International Council of Marine Industry Associations (ICOMIA), World Sailing and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) (read more here).

The report describes the role of recreational boating in creating a pathway for invasive species to travel across the world's oceans and inland waterways. It also outlines best practice to minimise the threat and offers guidance on the use of anti-fouling paints to prevent the spread of invasive species and ensure biosecurity.

Biofouling management, fuel efficiency and GHG emissions

The importance of maintaining a smooth and clean hull free from biofouling was examined during a session on the final day of the Forum aimed at demonstrating the potential for GHG emissions savings. During the session, John Alonso of the GloFouling Partnerships project spoke about the conclusions of a study on the Impact of Ships' Biofouling on Greenhouse Gas Emissions. The study's preliminary findings, launched at last November's COP 26, found that keeping ships' hulls free from just a thin layer of slime could reduce a ship's GHG emissions by 25 per cent. These percentages can be much higher for more severe biofouling conditions, depending on the type of ships and other parameters.

The final report - Analysing the Impact of Marine Biofouling on the Energy Efficiency of Ships and the GHG Abatement Potential of Biofouling Management Measures also presents an analysis of how some biofouling management solutions may impact ship efficiency. The study presents results from seven scenarios (or anti-fouling strategies) in relation to a reference ("always clean") of a target vessel (bulk carrier), between dry-docking periods. These results demonstrate the magnitude of fuel, CO2 and cost savings that can be achieved by keeping this ship as clean as possible from biofouling. Biofouling management is one important contributor to the overall operational efficiency of ships and should be considered by shipowners to achieve IMO's Carbon Intensity Indicator (CII) rating indicator that measures vessel carbon intensity over time.

Download the full report here:

Contributing to global efforts for biodiversity protection

Established under the GloFouling project, the Joint Group of Experts on the Scientific Aspects of Marine Environment Protection (GESAMP) working group 44 on biofouling management is currently looking at the scientific aspects of biofouling role as a vector of the transfer of invasive species. The status of this work was presented during the Forum and a report is expected to be released by the end of 2023. Participants at the Forum highlighted the relevance of the GloFouling Partnerships project's work to the United Nations broader work on biodiversity, ahead of the UN Biodiversity Conference (Fifteenth meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP-15) to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD)), which meets for its second part from 7-19 December 2022, in Montreal, Canada.

GloFouling Exhibition

Alongside the opportunity for discussion, Forum delegates were treated to an exhibition of the winning entries of a photography competition with pictures illustrating the problem of maritime biofouling. Several informative posters were also displayed, and through the wonders of virtual reality, there was also the chance to experience being up close to a submerged surface where the result of biofouling was all too obvious.

3rd GloFouling Partnerships Forum and Exhibition – Republic of Korea 2024

The 3rd GloFouling Partnerships Forum and Exhibition will be hosted by the Korea Research Institute of Ships & Ocean engineering (KRISO), Republic of Korea, in late 2024.

For more photos of the event, visit the Flickr gallery here



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