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It’s all a can of worms

Mon 04 Sep 2017 by Paul Gunton

It’s all a can of worms

Paul Gunton looks ahead to hull fouling regulation and already sees parallels with how regional ballast rules evolved

It’s just a few days now, as I record this, before IMO’s Ballast Water Management Convention comes into force. Now we move on: to hull fouling.

But unlike the bugs in ballast water, the creatures caught up in hull fouling are not contained in any way that might be tackled by technology.

In August, IMO announced a project to tackle this, GloFouling. It will follow the model established by the GloBallast Partnerships project which did much to drive the ballast convention and ended in June. It’s not yet clear when GloFouling will start work.

Meanwhile, in California, regulations will come into force on 1 October to minimise nonindigenous species arriving at the state’s ports in biofouling. They do not specify any tests or set any treatment standard – how could they? – but vessels will have to have robust routines and reliable reporting.

In a nod to IMO’s work on this topic, the biofouling management plan they require must be consistent with the components of the Biofouling Management Plan described in IMO’s 2012 Guidelines for the Control and Management of Ships’ Biofouling.

But it is worth digging into the commission’s responses to comments it received during the consultation period, some of which referenced IMO’s guidelines. One of the commission’s responses underlined the key difference between its regulation and IMO’s guidelines:

“There are no plans in place to determine whether IMO biofouling guidance should become mandatory, and discussions on that topic may be many years into the future,” it said. “Up to 60% of the currently established nonindigenous species in California’s coastal waters are likely the result of vessel biofouling introductions, so developing and implementing biofouling management regulations to protect California waters is necessary now.”

As we have seen with ballast water regulations, if a region does not think the international approach suits its needs, it will go its own way.

In short, the same old can; the same old worms.             

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