Hull fouling

Research on hull fouling control solutions for sea-going ships

What are the economical and ecological effects of bio fouling on ships' hulls? Which technologies are available and effective to prevent and combat hull fouling?


Marine Eco Analytics (MEA-nl) carries out research on solutions for the increasing problem of hull fouling as a vector of invasive organisms. We test hull fouling control technologies on effectiveness and their ecological impact. MEA-nl assists ship owners and shipyards to select the most appropriate hull fouling control method. This selection is based on a thorough risk analysis based on theoperational, economical and ecological impacts.

Why choose MEA-nl?

  • MEA-nl test operations are carried out with natural marine, brackish and fresh water, obtained from the aquatic environment in close vicinity of our test facility.
  • Expertise of water, marine biology, chemistry and the shipping sector.

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Hull fouling: an increasing global problem

Hull fouling of (marine and brackish) bio organisms is the growth of these species on the ships' hull. Hull fouling causes a significant rise in the physical resistance under water and, consequently, results in higher fuel consumption and costs. Moreover, hull fouling is a growing international ecological problem. Attached to the ships' hull, marine organisms are introduced around the world, often thousands of miles from their natural habitats. In these new habitats, natural enemies are often absent, and consequently, the introduced species grow at an uncontrolled rate and cause unpredictable and uncontrollable effects. In some sea areas, the problem of hull fouling is even (almost) exceeding amount of invasive species introduced by ballast water:

  • 74% of non-indigenous marine invertrebrates transported to the Hawaiian Islands is estimated to originate from hull fouling (Eldredge and Carlton in GISP, 2008);
  • 42% of marine species unintentionally introduced into Japan is suspected to be transported by ships’ hulls (Otani in GISP 2008);
  • 78% of introduced marine species in Port Philip Bay, Australia are ‘hull fouling species’ (Hewitt et al. in GISP 2008);
  • more than half of the ship-mediated species introductions into the North Sea originate from hull fouling (Gollasch in GISP 2008).
  • (above information was obtained from the Marine Environmental Awareness Course of the Pro Sea Foundation, second edition 2012)

To conclude, species introduced by hull fouling can have a huge impact on vulnerable eco systems, cause economical damage and threaten human health.

Hull fouling trade-off of new generation of anti-fouling systems

For many decades, toxic anti-fouling paints and coatings have been applied in the shipping industry. Because of their environmental and ecological impact chemical anti-fouling systems have either been regulated or prohibited. Shipyards and ship owners are actively searching for effective and environmentally safe alternatives. Within such environmental criteria, the prevention of invasive species by hull fouling is a growing priority. The overall objective is to find economical and environmental biocide free hull fouling control options that are operationally, economically ánd environmentally effective. This creates a major challenge for developers of coatings and other hull fouling control technologies. For such companies and organizations, MEA-nl is a partner in expertise and research.

How can we assist you with hull fouling control?

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