Marine pest biosecurity

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

Marine pest biosecurity is an important part of the department’s responsibilities. In particular, we focus on:

  • reducing the likelihood of the entry and establishment of exotic marine pests through policy and legislation
  • responding to marine pest incursions and manage established marine pests, in cooperation with state and territory governments and industry stakeholders
  • representing Australia’s interests in establishing international guidelines and conventions for marine pests.

The petroleum production and exploration industry also has an important role in Australia's fight against marine pests.

This page provides information about marine pest biosecurity and will assist you to develop an Environmental Management Plan.

If you are an operator of a vessel, immersible equipment or infrastructure involved in petroleum production and exploration operations, you can help prevent the spread of marine pests by implementing the following measures:

Further information on recommended biofouling management practices for petroleum vessels, equipment and infrastructure, is found on the Marine pest website.

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Ballast water

The Biosecurity Act 2015 and other related d​elegated legislation, collectively prescribe how ballast water should be managed within Australian seas.

The Australian Ballast Water Management Requirements explain how to comply with the legislation while operating a vessel in Australian waters. In general, vessels have the following obligations:

  • manage ballast water prior to arrival in Australian seas, and between Australian ports
  • carry a ballast water management plan, ballast water management certificate, and maintain ballast water records.

Some vessels may be required to install an International Maritime Organization (IMO) approved ballast water management system to meet new ballast water discharge standards. For more information on when a vessel will need to meet the discharge standard, please refer to the Australian Ballast Water Management Requirements.

Exemptions available for some vessels

Vessels may be eligible for exemptions from some or all of Australia’s ballast water requirements. For further information on exemptions, please refer to the Ballast Water web page.

Biofouling management

Biofouling occurs when microorganisms, algae, plants and animals stick to submerged surfaces on vessels. Biofouling ​ is a problem because these organisms can be transported and establish outside their natural range with potentially significant negative economic and environmental impacts. Vessel movements between offshore installations and Australian ports have the potential to transfer marine pests.

You can reduce this risk by preventing the build-up of biofouling of your vessel through routine cleaning and maintenance.

To assist you, see the National biofouling management guidance for the petroleum production and exploration industry. This page provides practical recommendations for operators on managing biofouling on petroleum related vessels, equipment and infrastructure.

The Anti-fouling and in-water cleaning guidelines provide information on how to:

  • apply, maintain, remove and dispose of anti-fouling coatings
  • manage biofouling
  • manage invasive aquatic species on vessels and movable structures.  

Additional information on managing biofouling can be found on the Marine pest website.

New biofouling management standards for vessels

The department is currently assessing the impact new biofouling standards would have on operators  with a view to establishing a clear framework that operators can use to manage the risks associated with biofouling on vessels. We will consult  our stakeholders on the development of biofouling regulations during 2018.

While that work is completed, the department is assessing vessels suspected to have an unacceptable level of biofouling on a case by case basis.

Assessing biofouling risk

We can help by providing advice on the potential risk of biofouling on your vessel. To obtain advice relating to your situation, email Pests marine. When assessing the risks, we will take into consideration factors such as:

  • presence and age of anti-fouling systems and technologies to address niche area fouling such as marine growth prevention systems
  • record keeping such as a biofouling management plan and record/log book
  • previous itineraries before visiting Australia including layover times.

Anti-fouling and in-water cleaning

The Anti-fouling and in-water cleaning guidelines provide best practice approaches to applying, maintaining, removing and disposing of anti-fouling coatings and managing biofouling and invasive aquatic species on vessels and movable structures in Australia and New Zealand.

These guidelines are applicable to all vessels and movable structures in Australian aquatic environments (marine, estuarine and freshwater), regardless of whether they have an anti-fouling coating. They are recommended for use by:

  • resource managers
  • owners and operators of vessels and movable structures
  • operators and customers of maintenance facilities
  • contractors providing vessel maintenance services.

Offshore Standard

We are working with other regulators and industry to develop a Standard to make marine biosecurity requirements clearer and more consistent across jurisdictions for organisations and vessels operating in the offshore petroleum sector.  If you would like to contribute to developing the standard, email Pests marine.

Further updates will be provided as the Standard develops.

Contact us

For enquiries about marine pest biosecurity, email Pests marine

For enquiries about aircraft or vessel interactions with offshore petroleum activities, email Seaports

To assist us in answering your query, please provide us with your preferred contact details and any other relevant information.

Related government agencies

National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority
Australian Maritime Safety Authority
Department of the Environment and Energy
Australian Fisheries Management Authority