Global alliance to shape biofouling strategies grows, still needs shipping companies

Membership growth of the biosecurity GIA is welcome, but without shipping companies taking biofouling and invasive species risks seriously, policy decisions risk missing the mark

Building regulations in shipping can be difficult – the latest diplomatic deliberations at the committee level of the International Maritime Organization are testament to this.


Regulations, whether to protect human life or the environment, are increasingly political in nature. But at Fathom World we have often written that one should not confuse the policy gaming of the member state representatives who come to the committees and the work and outreach of the IMO secretariat who work at the IMO headquarters.


The work of the Organisation is largely funded by member states, one can see projects and partnerships being built up in a growing array of key areas in the last two years, funded by Saudi Arabia, Norway, Germany and others.


There is also the creation of alliances with industry too, allowing closer collaboration with shipping companies and others who will either be impacted by any rule changes, or expected to provide solutions to meet rule changes.


Take the Global Industry Alliance for Marine Biosafety, which sits within the GloFouling Partnerships, whose membership has grown in the last month.


Companies that join this alliance are not funded, they have to pay their own way, but they work closely with the secretariate on biofouling and invasive species issues which in turn help with policies, and spreading the confidence that any guidance or rules can have an impact.


Membership of the biosafety GIA now consists of three coating companies – Akzo Nobel, Jotun, KCC Marine Coatings, Antifouling system maker Sonihull, research group JSTRA and six companies that have developed robotic hull cleaning systems – Armach Robotics, CleanSubSea, ECOsubsea, Hullwiper, SLM Global, TAS Global.


There is however still only ne shipping company in the alliance, Hapag Lloyd, showing interest in the notion of building up competence and having a voice in how potential strategies and regulations can be developed to curb invasive species risks.


It was telling also that during the GloFouling Partnership Research and Development Forum there were very few shipping company representatives attending.


Hull cleaning remains a huge policy discussion with some ports and national administrations allowing unlimited hull cleaning, with divers and cleaning technology, while other ports have completely banned it due to the invasive species risks.


Marine biofouling is a huge risk, and the ballast water convention is proof of this, even though its journey to becoming a way to curb the risks as been tortuous and a lesson in needing to bring regulators and the various aspects of industry and science together.


The Glofouling Partnerships is about doing that, and the GIA is specifically there to help give policy makers the insights into the technology and industry capabilities, while giving industry the awareness of what policies are being discussed and planned, nationally, regionally or internationally.


This is why the GIA and GloFouling has the potential to reduce the risk of the policy process for the ballast water convention being repeated, but it still needs more industry input, particularly shipowners and operators, into the GIA.


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