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What is Biofouling

Biofouling is a natural process that occurs in marine environments involving the accumulation and growth of microorganisms, plants, algae, and/or animals on surfaces that are in contact with water, such as ship hulls or underwater equipment. While this process is a vital part of marine ecosystems, it can also cause significant economic and environmental problems when it occurs on vessels, especially when these vessels will travel to multiple different locations, possibly spreading marine life to areas where the local ecosystem is unprepared for it, thereby damaging marine environments.

There are two main issues when we consider the effects of biofouling.

- The accumulation of biofouling on the hulls of ships can cause a significant increase in fuel consumption and maintenance costs. The drag caused by the accumulation of organisms and debris can slow down a ship's progress, leading to a need for increased engine power and fuel consumption. This increases the GHG emissions from ships.

- The presence of invasive species that hitch a ride can result in a disruption of the ecological balance in marine environments. These invasive species can cause harm to native species, leading to ecological imbalances that can ripple throughout the ecosystem.

There are many methods to prevent and manage biofouling. One common approach is to use coatings that inhibit the growth of organisms. These coatings can be applied to ship hulls, underwater equipment, and other structures to reduce the accumulation of organisms. Additionally, biocides, chemicals that kill or prevent the growth of organisms, can be applied to surfaces to prevent biofouling.

Physical cleaning is another method used to manage biofouling. This involves cleaning the surface of structures with brushes or water jets to remove organisms and debris. This approach can be effective, but it can also be costly and time-consuming.

Both of these methods have their advantages and drawbacks. As technology advances, new methods for preventing and managing biofouling are emerging. Researchers, for example are exploring the use of ultrasonic waves to prevent biofouling on ship hulls.

As the global economy continues to rely on shipping and other marine activities, the prevention and management of biofouling will become increasingly important. This is a subject that is constantly being researched and developed with a need for a global and international approach to tackle this issue on a wider scale. Workshops such as the Arab Women in Maritime- Biofouling Management Workshop hosted by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia seek to foster cooperation and develop solutions to the issues of biofouling such as developing best practice approaches.

The workshop will play a key role in the discussion of opportunities for women in the biofouling sector. The workshop is the first of its kind and hopes to empower women, recognise their ongoing efforts in the sector and identify key opportunities for women to lead in this area in the future.

The AMWIM-BM workshop will be held in Jeddah on the 10-11th of May as part of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s commitment to cooperation, seafarers and climate within the IMO.

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