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Polluting The Seas

biofueling the sea

Image source: www.rhur.uni.bochum.de

If you have ever walked by a sea harbour, you may have noticed a few organisms attached to a docked large ship by the waterline.

These attachments may be telling of a worse situation that lies beneath the water than the naked eye can sea.

These attachments consist of micro-organism, plants, algae, molluscs and other marine organisms, and such attachment is known as biofouling.

Biofouling is not a new phenomenon, it can occur on all marine vessels if appropriate anti- fouling measures are not taken.

Environmental scientists have long stated that biofouling provides transportation of non-indigenous species of aquatic plant life that can compete with native species and upsetting the ecological balance in the different sea territories.

Biofouling is also said to slow down sea vessels and increase fuel consumption, which in turn increases ships’ carbon footprint. The environmental impact of biofouling is not only restricted to when it is not addressed, it also extends to the ways in which it is treated. Anti-fouling paint has been used widely to deal with biofouling, however such paint was discovered to be heavily laden with toxic chemicals that threatened marine biodiversity.

The International Maritime Organisation (“IMO”) prepared the International Convention on the Control of Harmful Anti- fouling Systems on Ships which was adopted in 2001 and came into force in 2008. The title of the convention is self explanatory, it banned the use of toxic chemicals in anti-fouling paint.

Some anti-fouling paint still contains potentially harmful metals like copper, however the convention is forward looking, and may restrict the use of copper in anti-fouling paints in the not so distant future. Thus this was a positive move by the IMO to pave a way for maritime nations to abandon environmentally unfriendly measures, the convention will undoubtedly yield favourable results.

Maritime nations must adhere to the regulations provided for by the convention, furthermore governments must continue to legislate and regulate the use of anti-fouling measures.

anti-fouling on boats

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