Managing biofouling in Australia

​​​All vessels pose some risk to Australia’s marine biosecurity.

Biofouling are the marine plants and animals that attach and grow on the submerged parts of a vessel like the hull, propellers, anchors, niche areas and fishing gear. Vessel biofouling is a major pathway for the introduction of exotic species into Australian waters.

The introduction and spread of marine species into and around our waters through biofouling, or in a ship’s ballast water, can harm fisheries, threaten healthy fish habitats and have adverse economic and health effects.

To manage this risk, the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources is working closely with Australian and international commercial and recreational vessel industries on a number of initiatives.

New biofouling management standards for international vessels

International vessels can bring unwanted pests and diseases into Australia through biofouling and in ballast water.

Under the Biosecurity Act 2015, the department is investigating new biofouling management options for vessels arriving in Australian territory.

We consulted with industry stakeholders in 2015 on the Review of National Marine Pest Biosecurity, where it was recommended that Australia introduce new biofouling requirements for international vessels consistent with the direction of the International Maritime Organization (IMO).

As a result, we are preparing a regulation impact statement with consultation expected to start in early 2018.

The RIS will:

  • assess the biofouling problem
  • establish why government action is required
  • present the costs and benefits of each biofouling management option identified.

We will provide further updates as they become available.

To learn more, subscribe to our mailing list Maritime Vessel Pathway or send an email to Marine Pest Unit

Advice on biofouling management

The National Biofouling Management Guidelines are designed to help the maritime industry and vessel owners and operators to manage and control vessel biofouling.

Managing vessel biofouling not only reduces the risk of harmful plants and animals entering new waters, but also helps improves vessel performance and efficiency, reduces greenhouse and other emissions and reduces maintenance costs.

Current advice and guidelines are available to help you manage biofouling on your vessel or in your industry:

Anti-fouling and in water cleaning

The activities you undertake to manage biofouling on your vessel, can also threaten the health of our marine waters.

The anti-fouling and in-water cleaning guidelines can help you manage risks associated with:

  • anti-fouling coatings on the hull of your vessel, including application, maintenance, removal and disposal at shore-based maintenance facilities
  • biofouling plants and animals released during in-water cleaning operations.

Managing the risks of marine pest incursions

The department provides national leadership in the development and implementation of national marine pest biosecurity.

The department is also the lead agency in implementing Australian Government responsibilities under the Intergovernmental Agreement on Biosecurity and the National Environmental Biosecurity Response Agreement.

For more information or to subscribe to our mailing list for marine biosecurity updates, please contact the Marine Pest Unit.

Current Activities

The department has a number of activities underway to help inform the development of new International Maritime Organization (IMO) consistent biofouling standards for Australia.

In-water hull and biofouling survey

Recently the department undertook a survey to better understand how biofouling is managed on vessel hulls arriving into Australia. The survey was targeted at Australian and internationally operated commercial vessels that had travelled overseas and looked at the amount and location of biofouling, condition of the antifouling coatings and general condition of the hull.

The survey results will help inform new internationally consistent biofouling standards for Australia.

The department engaged Ramboll Environ to conduct the underwater surveys at the following Australian ports:

  • Adelaide (South Australia)
  • Brisbane, Gladstone, Townsville (Queensland)
  • Burnie, Devonport, Hobart (Tasmania)
  • Dampier, Fremantle (Western Australia)
  • Darwin (Northern Territory)
  • Geelong, Hastings, Melbourne (Victoria)
  • Port Botany, Port Kembla, Sydney (New South Wales).

Participants also completed a short online survey to collect information on:

  • biofouling management activities
  • voyage patterns
  • awareness of biofouling management strategies.

This survey is now closed to participants and results will be shared when they are finalised.


GloFouling is an international collaboration between the Global Environment Facility (GEF), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the International Maritime Organization (IMO) to address the transfer of aquatic species through biofouling in developing nations and small island developing states. Australia is a strategic partner in the GloFouling project and will work with our regional partners and the global community to support the uptake and implementation of the IMO biofouling guidelines for the control and management of ships’ biofouling.

Please visit the IMO website for more information on the Glofouling project. ​