First tests of emerging industry-led standard for hull cleaning due in 2020


Aron Sørensen, BIMCO’s Head of Marine Environment, heads a working group of shipowners, paint manufacturers and service companies that has produced a first draft of a hull cleaning standard.Aron Sørensen, BIMCO’s Head of Marine Environment, heads a working group of shipowners, paint manufacturers and service companies that has produced a first draft of a hull cleaning standard.



BIMCO, the world’s largest shipping association, has moved a step closer to finishing a global set of guidelines covering in-water hull cleaning. A first draft of a standard drawn up by an industry-led working group is being circulated to government regulators and scientific experts, while practical tests of the standard with a shipowner are scheduled for 2020.

BIMCO notes a common hull cleaning standard is needed to protect the marine environment from invasive species and reduce CO2 emissions. Fouling can reduce a vessel’s fuel efficiency by as much as 35%, leading to higher fuel bills and more CO2 emissions.

At present no common global standard covers the cleaning of ship hulls, or the capture of potentially damaging debris washed off in the process. The emergence of local standards risks adding administrative complexity for shipowners: a number of countries, including Australia and New Zealand, have introduced regulations covering biofouling on vessels arriving in their waters as well as some state-level regulations in the US.

But without a clear, international standard for cleaning, ports will have difficulty identifying which companies clean the ship hulls sufficiently and collect the debris that is washed off the ship to a satisfactory standard. In the absence of common standards, there is no common method of evaluating in-water cleaning companies.

A common standard

In response, BIMCO and a working group of shipowners, paint manufacturers and hull cleaning companies have produced a first draft of a cleaning standard.

BIMCO’s Head of Marine Environment, Aron Sørensen, who heads the working group said “a global standard will create much needed transparency along with economic and environmental benefits for shipowners, ports, port authorities and in-water cleaning companies”. The new in-water cleaning standard puts great emphasis on capturing what is removed from the ship, thereby ensuring that the marine environment is not negatively affected.

Sørensen noted that the standard should cover cleaning done “in-water”, as there is limited availability of dry docks for very large ships, for example carrying iron ore or crude oil. In addition, the cost to deviate to docks in Asia and unload the ship is extremely high and the added trip to drydock adds to GHG emissions, which can be avoided if cleaning is done in-situ.

The group recently sent the first draft of the cleaning standard to a reference group that includes scientists and government regulators. The next step is practical tests of the standard done with a hull cleaning company and a shipowner, which are  scheduled to take place during 2020.

“At the stage we are now, we need to engage with industry experts, governments, scientists and port authorities before we finalize the in-water cleaning standard,” Sørensen says.

The standard is expected to address minimum requirements on approving in-water cleaners, based on testing verified by accredited laboratories and certificates issued by internationally recognized classification societies.

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