As the world commemorates International Day for Biological Diversity 2019 on Wednesday, 22 May, Transnet National Ports Authority is taking steps to manage biodiversity and adhere to International Maritime Organization (IMO) guidelines for fuel efficiency and reducing carbon emissions. TNPA intends to introduce in-water hull cleaning for permit holding service providers in all South African ports in an effort to stringently manage biofouling, where marine organisms attach themselves to the hull of a ship and niche areas, potentially spreading alien and invasive species across borders.

“Biofouling slows down the vessel and reduces fuel efficiency. This results in vessels burning more fuel and emitting more carbon emissions. The cleaning of ship biofouling is one of the practices recommended by the IMO to help vessels meet its new regulations to improve their fuel efficiency and reduce their carbon emissions by 2020,” said Simphiwe Mazibuko, TNPA’s Environmental Manager at the Port of Durban.

Mazibuko said TNPA’s decision to offer hull cleaning in its ports in response to market demand was influenced by significant advances in hull-cleaning technology, which minimise the spread of alien species during the cleaning process.

“Hull cleaning that is not managed correctly during removal of biofouling, can result in the global spread of alien and invasive species posing serious risks. These risks could include destroying indigenous biodiversity, harming local fisheries and aquatic farming operations and introducing diseases to the local population,” she explained.

TNPA has sensitive aquatic habitats and aquatic farming operations in a number of its ports in South Africa, making it critical for the port landlord to introduce a strict permit for all service providers undertaking hull cleaning activity in any port.

The permit is in line with the ‘2011 IMO Guidelines for the Control and Management of Ships’ Biofouling to Minimise the Transfer of Invasive Aquatic Species’. Submissions from prospective service providers are presently being reviewed as part of TNPA’s tender process.

“Strict environmental monitoring of all hull cleaning activities will ensure that deviations are picked up early and strict interventions are implemented, even if it means cancelling a permit of a non-compliant service provider,” said Mazibuko.

TNPA is also committed to working with all regulatory Authorities that are mandated to manage Biodiversity, conduct research or establish policy and exercise oversight on environmental marine issues.