Antifouling refers to material commonly used on the hulls of ships or other marine equipment to stop sea creatures such as limpets, molluscs and algae attaching themselves and causing damage to equipment and effecting vessel performance, as well as gaining a free ride around the world's oceans.
Toxic paints(known as antifouling paints)are commonly used. One of the most common ingredient used in antifouling paint is a chemical called tributyl tin (TBT). TBTs slowly dissolves off ship hulls getting into the surrounding seawater and accumulating around harbours and along shipping lanes. This is then ingested by various marine creatures and eventually gets into the food chain.
In December 1998, the Minister for the Environment and Heritage launched Australia's Oceans Policy, the first comprehensive plan to protect and sustainably manage our oceans.
Internationally, the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) has focused attention on the impacts of Tributyltin (TBT) and other organotins. The IMO has proposed a global ban on the application of all organotins (including TBT) used as antifoulants after 1 January 2003, and a ban on the presence of organotins on vessels after 1 January 2008.
Australia's Oceans Policy proposes a ban on the application of TBT on vessels in Australia from 1 January 2006 unless the IMO ban comes into force earlier, in which case Australia will follow the IMO's timing. As well as recognising the detrimental environmental effects of TBT, Australia's Oceans Policy identifies the role that hull fouling plays in the global transport of introduced marine pests.
The Joint Standing Committee on Conservation (SCC) and Standing Committee on Fisheries and Aquaculture (SCFA) National Taskforce on the Prevention and Management of Marine Pest Incursions reported to the Australian and New Zealand Environment and Conservation Council (ANZECC) and the Ministerial Council on Forestry, Fisheries and Aquaculture (MCFFA) on 24 December 1999. The report recommends an increased focus on the prevention of hull fouling as a vector for the introduction of introduced marine pests. The report also recommends the development of a cost-effective, environmentally acceptable and safe alternative to TBT.
As there is a clear need
both nationally and internationally for effective alternatives, the Commonwealth
Government has committed funding to the Antifouling Program to assist the
development of suitable alternatives to TBT.