Baltic ports’ perspective on biofouling

Dec 06 2019

Baltic ports’ perspective on biofouling

The Sustainable Shipping and Boating conference concluded today in Jurmala, Latvia. The event, organized by COMPLETE, focused on better biofouling and ballast water management. The Baltic Ports Organization (BPO) was present to shed some light on the ports’ perspective on the first of the two issues.

Shipping is the most important vector of introduction of harmful aquatic organisms and pathogens in marine environment worldwide. Such organisms can have significant socioeconomic and ecological impacts when they spread to new sea areas, as they can affect human health, livelihoods like aquaculture and fisheries or alter the structure of marine food webs. Thus, tackling the issue of biofouling, being one of the two major sources of introduction of invasive species along ballast water, is one to be considered by multiple parties involved in maritime transport and traffic.

The event offered a glimpse into the perspective of authorities, shipowners, leisure boat users and ports and how they approach the dangers related to biofouling. Bogdan Ołdakowski, BPO’s Secretary General, examined the extent to which ports themselves get involved in dealing with the issue. Based on three examples from Copenhagen-Malmö, Tallinnn and Gdynia, it became clear that their role is limited and in-water cleaning of ship hulls in ports occurs rather rarely.

In Malmö, permits required to perform hull cleaning operations were given only for ships running on the German route, since the municipal environmental authority believes that species inhabiting these waters are similar in nature. In Tallinn on the other hand, cleaning of the underwater parts of the hull is not allowed while in the harbour. A special permit issued by the Vessel Traffic Manager is required and these have been requested only a few times in recent years. Gdynia is the by far the most restrictive of the three ports due to the fact that in-water cleaning of ship hulls is prohibited in Polish ports. It is only allowed in the shipyards.

The problem is certainly a complex one, further magnified by limited experience with antifouling practices and how they impact the levels of pollution and the absence of standardized cleaning procedures and infrastructure and the associated cost-efficiency analysis, as well as exact data on the quantities of biofouling waste.

Bogdan Ołdakowski, Secretary General, BPO, said after the meeting, “Alien species transported by ships with ballast water or biofouling may cause serious negative impact on marine environment, especially in such sensitive sea as the Baltic. It is important to take part in the dialogue with other stakeholders in order to carry out a roadmap aiming at lowering the impact from biofouling in the Baltic Sea.”

Risks associated with biofouling and ballast water management are manifold and the biggest of them is the lack of specific knowledge related to the rights and obligations of involved stakeholders, approaches for non-indigenous species monitoring and surveillance taken by the policymakers, legal aspects, as well as lack of proper communication between the involved parties.

The COMPLETE project aims to address these issues by bringing together partners with long-term expertise and know-how in innovative solutions for shipping, risk assessment and management systems, surveillance and monitoring. The participation of HELCOM ensures involvement of relevant institutions from all Baltic Sea countries, harmonising the implementation of the Ballast Water Management Convention and elaboration on the Baltic Sea region biofouling management strategy.

COMPLETE is funded by the Interreg Baltic Sea Region Programme. More information can be found on the project’s website.