BIMCO and industry partners to launch hull underwater cleaning standard

International shipping association BIMCO and a group of industry partners have set out to create an internationally recognized underwater cleaning standard In response to growing concerns over the impact of hull biofouling on the marine environment.

Eight organizations, including paint manufacturers, ship owners and cleaning companies, said that they were taking a “holistic approach to establishing an international standard that will work in practice”.

A finalized standard should be presented around this time next year, in Q3 or Q4 2019.

BIMCO said that underwater cleaning currently was only allowed in a few locations globally and there was a trend for coastal and port states to tighten their rules for underwater cleaning, as well as an increase in ports prohibiting it altogether.

It said that this could  increase emissions from shipping as fouling increased the fuel consumption or in worst-case scenarios forced ships to change route. “Creating an international standard is important. We need more places available around the world for underwater cleaning. We believe that a standard that is safe, efficient and environmentally sustainable, will encourage States to make more places for underwater hull cleaning available,” said Aron Frank Sørensen, head of the working group and head of BIMCO’s Marine Technology and Regulation.

The new standard would ensure that the result of the cleaning was in accordance with a set of specifications, that the environmental impact of the process and coating damage was controlled and that the cleaning process was “planned, safe and effective”.

Part of the standard would relate to how to ensure that the paint was not damaged during cleaning, and that debris and wash-water was collected in a practicable and sustainable manner.

The standard would also cover how shipowners could use it in their ongoing maintenance plans and would establish an approval system for underwater cleaning companies, Which BIMCO said was a “currently unregulated and fragmented market”.

The standard will undergo thorough practical trials prior to launch, with the aim to send it to appropriate international organisations for endorsement.