International Council for the Exploration of the Sea
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ICES VIEWPOINT: Biofouling on vessels – what is the risk, and what might be done about it?

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posted on 2023-08-23, 09:45 authored by ICESICES

Vessel biofouling is the growth of organisms on the wetted surfaces of vessels. When the vessels move, organisms can be introduced to new regions where they may have adverse effects. Biofouling affects not only the economics of vessel management but also the environment.

Biofouled vessels support ecological communities characterized by a great abundance of opportunistic and non-native species. These vessel-transported species can, if they become established in new regions, affect the native species, community structure, and ultimately ecosystem function.

Biofouling compromises the vessels' operations, their effective range and maneuverability, and in some cases their safety. Biofouling can accelerate corrosion as well as increase hull roughness and frictional resistance. This in turn increases power demands, fuel consumption, emissions, and costs.

ICES recommends the following actions to evaluate and mitigate biofouling introductions:

• Urgent implementation of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) generic guidelines for the control and management of biofouling on vessels, with new and more detailed guidelines be developed for different vessel types.

• Ship designs should aim to reduce the potential for biofouling.

• All vessels, whether recreational, domestic, decommissioned, derelict, or abandoned, should adhere to the same standard for the control and management of biofouling.

• Performance measures should be implemented to assess management practice, in order to evaluate efficacy and guide adaptive management.


Published under the auspices of the following ICES Steering Group or Committee

  • ACOM


ICES Advice: ICES Viewpoints

Recommended citation

ICES. 2019. ICES VIEWPOINT: Biofouling on vessels – what is the risk, and what might be done about it?. In Report of the ICES Advisory Committee, 2019. ICES Advice 2019, vp.2019.01.