BIMCO and industry partners to launch hull underwater cleaning standard

In response to growing concerns over the impact of hull biofouling on the marine environment, BIMCO and a group of industry partners have set out to create an internationally recognised standard.

The group consists of eight different organisations, including paint manufacturers, ship owners and cleaning companies, with the aim to take a holistic approach to establishing an international standard that will work in practice. The standard is expected to be finalized in the autumn of 2019.

Today, underwater cleaning is only allowed in a few locations around the world, and there is a trend for coastal and port states to tighten their rules for underwater cleaning, as well as an increase in ports prohibiting it all together. This may increase emissions from shipping as fouling increases the fuel consumption or in worst case force the ship to change its 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 who heads the working group and heads BIMCO’s Marine Technology and Regulation.

The standard will ensure that the result of the cleaning is in accordance with a set of specifications, that the environmental impact of the process and coating damage is controlled and that the cleaning process is planned, safe and effective.

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

The standard will also cover how ship owners can use it in their ongoing maintenance plans and, will establish an approval system for underwater cleaning companies, a currently unregulated and fragmented market.

“What is needed today is a standard that ensures that companies providing underwater cleaning services operate to a high standard that can apply wherever in the world they operate,” Aron Frank Sørensen said and continued: “Everyone will benefit from it. The cleaning companies will benefit because they will have certain standards to live up to, the ports because they can rest assured that the environment is not polluted by cleaning residues, the paint manufacturers because reporting will be standardized, improving the quality of execution, and the ship owners because they will have more places available for underwater cleaning, once the entire process is regulated and safe.”

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