According to a report from coatings company Jotun, 59% of the shipping industry underestimate the negative environmental impacts of biofouling, with as many as 1 in 4 claiming to know little about the issue.
Biofouling, caused by the build-up of micro-organisms, plants, algae, and other small aquatic animals on the hull of a ship, can result in significant operational impacts, reducing speed and manoeuvrability, causes more fuel to be used, and in extreme cases, damage to the hull.
The survey of 100 shipping industry professionals was conducted by Lloyd’s List on behalf of Jotun in May 2023. It follows a recent GloFouling report published in partnership with IMO which found that vessels operating with a clean hull free from biofouling could cut CO₂ emissions by a fifth and fuel spend by 19%. The latest research by Jotun shows that the industry has a long way to go before achieving such gains. Just over a third of shipping companies (38%) said they invest in biofouling solutions outside of the normal five-year dry-docking intervals.
Lack of awareness and cost-limitations were cited as the main reasons why 62% of shipping companies only invest in biofouling solutions during the dry-docking period. However, the GloFouling report showed that a ship could save as much as US$ 6.5m on fuel costs over a five-year period by adopting proactive hull and propeller cleaning.
Morten Sten Johansen, Jotun Global Marketing Director, Hull Performance, said: “If the shipping industry took a more proactive approach to hull cleaning, we as an industry could save as much as 198m tonnes of CO₂, according to global estimations published by the IMO in 2022. This is more than six times the volume produced by the nation of Norway annually. However, an issue which is often overlooked is the potentially catastrophic impact biofouling can have on biodiversity through the spread of invasive aquatic species, such as Pacific oysters which are plaguing European coastlines. The responses to our survey showed that this is still an incredibly misunderstood issue, with only 14% believing it posed a significant risk. As well as being more fuel efficient and lowering emissions, proactive cleaning would reduce the risks ships pose to international waterways and maintain the shipping industry’s right to operate.”
The survey highlighted the positive impacts of new CII regulations, with 88% of shipping industry professional saying they expect tackling biofouling to form part of their strategy to improve fuel efficiency, reduce GHG emissions and support environmental policies.
Johansen added: “It’s encouraging to see the impact new policies are already having on the industry and it’s likely that we’ll face more regulatory challenges in the future. Decarbonisation is vital and adopting new regulations to deliver the long-term goals of the Paris Agreement requires significant collaboration from industry and policymakers. But as we’re a global industry, it is imperative that we take a united international approach if we are to succeed in reducing emissions, preserving fuel and protecting the oceans’ biodiversity.”