The IMO executed - GloFouling Partnerships Project, and the government of the Philippines, have organised the first delivery of a new general training course on biofouling management to introduce key national stakeholders to the wide range of aspects related to this important environmental issue. The newly developed training was delivered over four days (14-17 December) to over 50 participants using fully online resources. The course introduced participants to the key features of marine biology and environmental impacts of invasive species; the range of antifouling coatings, marine growth prevention systems, in‑water grooming and cleaning technologies available to prevent the biofouling issue; the main aspects of IMO’s Biofouling Guidelines; and the current status of national regulations around the world.
Biofouling is the build-up of aquatic organisms, such as algae or small animals, on marine surfaces that can lead to the introduction of potentially invasive species to new environments, where they may threaten native species and cause irreversible damage to biodiversity. It also has measurable impacts on a number of economic sectors such as fisheries, aquaculture and ocean energy. Once established in a new ecosystem, invasive species are extremely difficult - if not impossible - to eradicate.
During his inaugural speech, Vice Admiral Robert A. Empedrad, Administrator of the Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA) of the Philippines, highlighted the importance of improved biofouling management as a tool for reducing the greenhouse gas emissions from ships and a key aspect for achieving the targets set by the international community to reduce the carbon footprint of the shipping industry.
Capacity building using online tools is a very different endeavour from traditional training packages. The biofouling course incorporates numerous interactive polls, Q&A sessions and other tools to increase interaction with participants and improve their learning experience. Participants particularly enjoyed a role play exercise that immersed them in a real scenario typically addressed by decision-makers when upholding marine biosafety in their coastal waters.
The environmental benefits derived from improved biofouling management are becoming ever so important in the light of ongoing global discussions to achieve economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. The Blue Economy, that is, the sustainable economic development based on ocean resources, has been highlighted as a key ingredient for providing society the means to return to pre-crisis levels. But this focus on the blue economy should address marine biofouling to ensure it does not act as a pathway for the introduction of invasive aquatic species that may impact marine biodiversity and hamper local livelihoods based on ocean resources.
The new training package will be deployed during 2021 in the remaining 11 Lead Partnering Countries of the GloFouling project, trough national maritime training academies that will be enabled to incorporate the course into their teaching programme and deliver it on a regular basis.
The general training course on biofouling management was developed by LITEHAUZ in collaboration with Chalmers University of Technology; Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development, Government of Western Australia; and Department of Defence Science and Technology, Australian Government.