Managing biofouling in Australia

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

Biofouling occurs when organisms 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 marine 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 marine habitats and have adverse economic and health effects.

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

Mandatory biofouling management standards for international vessels

The department is consulting on proposed change to mandatory biofouling management requirements for vessels arriving in Australian territory. This consultation will inform the development of International Maritime Organization (IMO) consistent biofouling standards.

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

We released a Consultation Regulation Impact Statement on 1 April 2019 to seek feedback on proposed new requirements.
Consultation is open for submissions until 31 May 2019.

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.

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 organisms released during in-water cleaning operations.

The department is working to develop a national In-Water Cleaning Standard.

The standard will outline the requirements for undertaking in-water cleaning in Australian territory, to ensure the effective management of Australia’s marine biosecurity. This standard would seek to align with regulations in New Zealand and internationally where possible.

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 Biosecurity Unit.


The GloFouling Partnerships project 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 Partnerships 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 Partnerships project.

In-water hull and biofouling survey

The department recently undertook a survey to increase our understanding of how biofouling is managed on internationally arriving commercial vessels. The survey investigated the amount and location of biofouling, condition of the antifouling coatings and general condition of the hull.

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

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

The results of the in-water hull and biofouling survey will help to inform the development of internationally consistent biofouling standards for Australia. Results of this survey will be shared when finalised.​​

Last reviewed: 29 September 2020
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