Responsible in-water vessel cleaning will prevent hull of a problem

News release | 01-Sep-2020

The shipping industry is being reminded of the importance of meeting their biosecurity obligations when conducting in-water cleaning of vessel hulls.

Biosecurity Queensland General Manager Invasive Plants and Animals Dr John Robertson said new vessel biofouling entry requirements in some countries and COVID-enforced inactivity, which made ships more susceptible to increased biofouling, meant ship owners were cleaning their vessels more regularly between the usual dry docking cycles.

“Cleaning vessels out of the water in a slipway or dry dock is always the first preference from a marine biosecurity risk mitigation point of view, however this is not always possible,” Dr Robertson said.

“We appreciate that ship owners want to reduce the effects of biofouling, including increased running costs and carbon emissions, but we need to ensure this is done in a manner that prevents introducing unwanted invasive marine pests which could have a devastating impact on Queensland’s biosecurity and economy.

“That is why it is important to remind ship owners and the in-water vessel cleaning industry to take all reasonable and practical steps to minimise the risk of introducing or spreading marine pests which often hitch-hike on ships’ hulls.”

Dr Robertson said the Queensland Government worked collaboratively with industry to protect Queensland’s marine environment from the ongoing threat of marine pest introduction.

“In-water cleaning activities are subject to strict national and state guidelines and should not be undertaken without seeking advice and approval from both Biosecurity Queensland and the Department of Environment and Science,” Dr Robertson said.

“Biosecurity Queensland provides advice when ships request in-water cleaning of their hulls in Queensland and works closely with commercial dive and in-water vessel cleaning industry representatives to deal promptly and effectively with detections to reduce the risk of introduction of marine pests to Queensland waters.

“Biosecurity Queensland is also developing additional guidance material on in-water cleaning approval and notification processes to assist ship owners and industry to understand and meet their biosecurity obligations.”

Dr Robertson said everyone had a general biosecurity obligation to take all reasonable and practical steps to minimise the risk of introducing or spreading marine pests.

“Biofouling on vessel hulls is a pathway for the introduction of unwanted invasive marine pest stowaways which could have irreversible impacts on Queensland’s marine environment, the industries that rely on it, and the community,” Dr Robertson said.

“Preventing the establishment of marine pests is the most cost-effective management strategy, as eradication and control once they are established is difficult, costly, and rarely successful.

“This is critical to protecting Queensland’s marine biodiversity, as well as marine-based industries including ports, marinas, fishing, and tourism.”

Further information is available at and anyone who sees a suspicious marine organism should report it immediately to Biosecurity Queensland on 13 25 23.

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Media contact: DAF Media,