The Federal Government has adopted the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) guidelines to prevent the menace caused by ship biofouling in waterways.
Dr Bashir Jamoh, the Director-General, the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), said this at NIMASA and the Maritime Technology Cooperation Centres (MTCC) Africa Biofouling Management Training on Monday in Lagos.
The training on transfer of enviromentally sound technologies (Test Biofouling) projects for partnering countries had the theme: ‘The Place of Technology in the Management of Marine Biofouling.
Biofouling is the accumulation of microorganisms, plants, algae, or small animals on wet surfaces that have a mechanical function, causing structural or other functional deficiencies.
IMO guidelines for the control and management of ship’s biofouling is an international instrument aimed at addressing and maintaining the efficiency, safety and environmental sustainability of maritime operations as well as prevent the spread of invasive species in waterways.
According to Jamoh, biofouling poses a huge threat to Nigeria’s transition to the Blue Economy due to its environmental burdens.
He listed such burden as low productivity, biodiversity, lower resilience to climate change and economic burdens (financial loss due to low productivity), huge prevention and control cost, among others.
Jamoh added that biofouling increases the hydrodynamic drag of ships which results in increased fuel consumption, reduced speed and maneuverability.
“Shipping is at the crux of global trading and the economy with about 90 per cent of world trade and commerce is facilitated through shipping.
“Studies, however, revealed that ships serve as channel for transportation of harmful non-indigenous Invasive Aquatic Species (IAS).
“These organisms attached themselves to the outer surface and niche areas of a ship, and then translocated from one ecoregion to another.
“The process by which these organisms attached themselves to the ship and other surfaces is referred to as biofouling,” he said.
He noted that Nigeria’s economy relies heavily on international trade with shipping being a key component of import and export activities.
This, he said, had inevitably exposed the nation to threats of the IAS transfer into our territorial waters.
Jamoh added that technological advancements had led to some innovative solutions by experts to aid the control and mitigate the impact of biofouling.
He, however, said that some of these technologies exhibit complexity in the course of their application.
“This workshop on test biofouling project is an initiative of IMO in close partnership with the MTCC to assist developing countries advance their knowledge about and facilitate the implementation of IMO Biofouling Guidelines owing to the complexity of biofouling management and the technologies available.
“This session will involve showcasing the newest technologies, their application including cost-effective practices and related benefits for the environment and efficiency of shipping,” he said.
He stressed that the importance of protecting and conserving the seas, oceans and their inhabitants cannot be overemphasised.
Also, Ms Lydia Ngugi, Head MTCC Africa, said the aim and mandate of the MTCC was to build capacity for climate change mitigation in the shipping and maritime industry in Africa.
“We are here to deliberate and have technical workshop on the test biofouling programme that they are running in conjunction with partnering countries and Nigeria is one of them. We have representatives from Comoros and Somalia.
“With regards to technology, IMO has in place the biofouling guidelines and its aim is to ensure that there is sustainable development world over especially in the shipping industry and this is linked to the United Nations Development Goals.
“With regards to the scope, we all know that a healthy ocean is good for the entire environment as well as the shipping industry,” Ngugi said.
Dr Jose Matheickal, Director, Department of Partnerships and Projects, IMO, said Nigeria had contributed significantly to IMO’s previous policies.
Matheickal also urged Nigeria to follow suit with biofouling guidelines.
“The event is very meaningful and serves as a platform for information sharing and there is the need for collaboration and coordination from stakeholders,” he said.
Commenting, Ms Funmi Folorunso, the President, African Shipowners Association, urged all the stakeholders to take biofouling very serious.
Folorunso noted that biofouling works against shipowners that fly African flags, stressing that the outcome of the meeting would centre on ways to mitigate its effect.
Dr Oma Ofodile, Deputy Director, Marine Environment Management Department, NIMASA and MTCC Africa Focal Point, urged all participants not to be left behind on the IMO call for zero emissions by 2050.
“NIMASA has done a lot to reduce emissions and the training is one of the ways to close the gap of emission from vessels,” Ofodile said.