First global standard for ship hull cleaning essential for marine ecosystems

Independent shipping association BIMCO has moved a step closer to finishing a global set of guidelines needed to protect the marine environment from invasive species and reduce CO2 emissions.

BIMCO noted that there was no current common global standard for cleaning ships’ hulls to avoid transferring invasive aquatic species, nor for the potentially damaging debris washed off in the process.

The organisms growing on the hull also increase drag and reduce fuel efficiency of the ship by as much as 35%, leading to higher fuel bills and more CO2 emissions.

To ensure that hull cleaning can be carried out in a safe and environmentally sustainable way in the future, BIMCO sait that a global standard was essential.

Aron Sørensen, BIMCO’s Head of Marine Environment, said that “the new in-water cleaning standard puts great emphasis on capturing what is removed from the ship, thereby ensuring that the marine environment is not negatively affected. We believe that a global standard will create much needed transparency along with economic and environmental benefits for shipowners, ports, port authorities and in-water cleaning companies”.

He emphasized that it was imperative that the cleaning can be done “in-water”, as there was a limited availability of dry docks for very large ships, for example carrying iron ore or crude oil. In addition, the cost to deviate to docks in Asia and unload the ship was extremely high and the added trip to drydock added to GHG emissions, which could be avoided if cleaning is done in-situ.

BIMCO said that for ship owners the lack of a common set of global rules created economic and administrative headaches.

Without a clear, international standard for cleaning, ports would have difficulty identifying which companies had cleaned the ship hulls sufficiently and collected the debris that was washed off the ship to a satisfactory standard. The same applied to ship owners.

“If you don’t have global standards, the ship owner can’t know if a supplier in one country – the in-water cleaning company – has done a good job. Furthermore, the port authorities lack a common method to evaluate in-water cleaning companies,” Sørensen said.

BIMCO’s aim is to make a standard that is acknowledged by the International Maritime Organization (IMO). Such a process would take two to three years.

The next step will be practical tests of the standard done with a hull cleaning company and a shipowner, which is scheduled to take place during 2020.

An approval standard will address minimum requirements on approving in-water cleaners based on testing verified by accredited laboratories and certificates issued by internationally recognised classification societies. A certificate based on an approval will show that the equipment and the procedures of in-water cleaners of good quality.