All vessels pose some risk to Australia’s marine biosecurity.
Biofouling occurs when organisms attach and grow on the submerged parts of a vessel like the hull, propellers, anchors, niche areas and fishing gear.
Vessel biofouling and a ship’s ballast water are major pathways for the introduction of marine species into Australian waters. Once introduced they can spread, threaten healthy marine habitats, and have adverse economic and health effects, including to Australia’s important fisheries.
To manage this risk, the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment is working closely with Australian and international shipping industries and recreational vessel operators on a number of initiatives.
Mandatory biofouling management requirements for international vessels
In 2015, industry stakeholders were consulted on the Review of National Marine Pest Biosecurity. The review recommended that Australia introduce new biofouling requirements for international vessels consistent with the direction of the International Maritime Organization (IMO). In April 2019 a Consultation Regulation Impact Statement was released and feedback was sought from industry, regulators and the public on proposed biofouling management requirements.
The consultation submissions confirmed that we need to provide clearer biofouling management requirements for internationally arriving vessels. Most respondents agreed that the implementation of effective biofouling management practices such as the use of vessel specific biofouling management plans and record books was the best approach to managing the biosecurity risk posed by biofouling.
The consultation will inform the development of International Maritime Organization (IMO) consistent biofouling requirements, which are currently being drafted by the department.
Advice on biofouling management
The National Biofouling Management Guidelines are designed to help the maritime industry and vessel owners and operators to manage and control vessel biofouling.
Managing vessel biofouling not only reduces the risk of harmful plants and animals entering new waters, but also helps improve vessel performance and efficiency, reduces greenhouse and other emissions as well as maintenance costs.
Advice and guidelines are available to help you manage biofouling on your vessel or in your industry:
- aquaculture industry
- commercial vessels
- commercial fishing vessels
- non-trading vessels
- petroleum production and exploration
- recreational vessels.
Anti-fouling and in water cleaning
The measures used for managing vessel biofouling can also threaten the health of marine waters.
The anti-fouling and in-water cleaning guidelines can help vessel owners manage risks associated with:
- anti-fouling coatings on the vessel’s hull including application, maintenance, removal and disposal at shore-based maintenance facilities
- biofouling organisms released during in-water cleaning operations.
The Australian In-water cleaning standards specify minimum requirements for in-water cleaning of biofouling from vessels in Australian territorial seas.
The standards seek to manage the biosecurity and chemical contamination risks associated with in-water cleaning to an acceptable level.
Managing the risks of marine pest incursions
We provide national leadership in the development and implementation of national marine pest biosecurity. We are also the lead agency in implementing Australian Government responsibilities under the Intergovernmental Agreement on Biosecurity and the National Environmental Biosecurity Response Agreement.
For more information or to subscribe to our mailing list for marine biosecurity updates, contact the Marine Biosecurity Unit.
The GloFouling Partnerships project is an international collaboration between the Global Environment Facility (GEF), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and the International Maritime Organization (IMO) to address the transfer of aquatic species through biofouling in developing nations and small-island developing states. Australia is a strategic partner in the GloFouling Partnerships project and will work with our regional partners and the global community to support the uptake and implementation of the IMO biofouling guidelines for the control and management of ships’ biofouling.
The International Maritime Organization website has more information on the GloFouling Partnerships project.
In-water hull and biofouling survey
We contracted Ramboll New Zealand to undertake surveys to increase our understanding of how biofouling is managed on commercial vessels arriving from overseas. The survey investigated the amount and location of biofouling, condition of the antifouling coatings, and general condition of the hull.
Participants also completed a short online survey to collect information on:
- biofouling management activities
- voyage patterns
- awareness of biofouling management strategies.
The results of the in-water hull and biofouling survey are helping to inform the development of internationally consistent biofouling requirements for Australia. Results of this survey will be shared when finalised.