What is Biofouling and How Can We Stop It?

As a marine operator, you know how important it is to protect your vessels and equipment against the constant threat of biofouling. But what exactly is biofouling? And how can we stop it? Fortunately, there are steps that you can take to stop this phenomenon from occurring, saving you money and time in the long run! In this article, Aronfeld Trial Lawyers will cover biofouling and discuss various prevention strategies, so your vessels and marine assets remain pristine.

However, first, let’s understand what biofouling is.

What Is Biofouling?

Biofouling is the accumulation of aquatic organisms (algae, barnacles, and mussels) on submerged surfaces, such as ship hulls and underwater equipment. This accumulation of organisms can lead to decreased performance of the vessel or apparatus, increased drag on the vessel from biofouling-induced hull fouling, blockages in pipes, and obstructions of propellers. It can also cause reduced fuel efficiency due to increased friction.

The biofouling process starts when primary colonizers, which include diatoms and bacteria, attach themselves to a surface. As they develop and feed, they attract secondary colonizers such as protozoa and microalgae. These secondary colonizers further create the rough surface ideal for biofouling formation.

Favorable Conditions For Biofouling

Certain conditions create an environment conducive to biofouling. These conditions include:

-warm water temperatures

-Low-energy environments

-High nutrient concentrations

Effects Of Biofouling

Biofouling can adversely affect the performance of marine assets and negatively impact the environment. Here is an outline of possible effects.

Increased Operational Expenses

As mentioned earlier, biofouling can potentially increase the operational costs of vessels and underwater assets through the following:

-It can increase drag on a ship’s hull, thus increasing fuel consumption to compensate for the increased resistance.

-Fouling pipes and other underwater equipment can lead to blockages, resulting in decreased performance and costly repairs.

Environmental Impact

Biofilm formation contributes to the pollution of water bodies, including rivers, lakes, and seawater. When pollutants such as heavy metals are present in the water, biofilms can accelerate their uptake into the food chain when marine creatures such as fish and crustaceans feed on biofilm-covered surfaces.

How Can We Stop Biofouling?

Now that you understand biofouling and its implications, let’s discuss ways to reduce or prevent it.

Physical Removal

This is probably the most commonly used method of biofouling prevention. It involves cleaning the hulls of ships and other submerged surfaces regularly to remove any organisms that have attached themselves. This process should be done regularly to keep the surfaces free from biofouling.

Antifouling Marine Paint

Copper-containing marine paints effectively reduce biofouling on marine vessels. The paint works by releasing copper ions that can kill or inhibit the growth of organisms, thus preventing them from attaching to the surface. However, you should take caution when using copper-containing paints as they can be toxic to some aquatic species.


Sensitive marine devices such as sensors and underwater cameras can also be affected by biofouling. To prevent this, these devices have special wipers or brushes to wipe off fouling organisms from the surface of these devices.

Copper Tapes

Some devices, like water quality probes, are designed with plastic or metallic housings, making them prone to biofouling. To prevent this, you can use copper tapes to cover the plastic or metallic housings of the devices. The copper content in the tape works by releasing copper ions that can kill or inhibit the growth of organisms.

C-Spray Solution

The c-Spray solution is a nano polymer spray that you can use to coat underwater surfaces. This spray forms a slick, protective layer on the surface, thus preventing organisms from attaching to it.

UV Radiations

Certain wavelengths of ultraviolet light are effective in cleaning surfaces prone to biofouling. This method is energy-efficient, safe, and can be used in areas that are difficult to access.

Electrolytic System

Mounting an electrolytic system in the sea chest or strainer of a sea vessel can reduce biofouling on the ship’s surface. When a direct current is passed through the copper anode, it releases copper ions, thus inhibiting the growth of organisms on the ship’s piping.

These are just a few methods to reduce biofouling. As technology advances, more efficient and cost-effective methods for controlling biofouling will be developed.

Biofouling can affect the performance of marine assets and harm the environment. Several methods can help prevent biofouling, including physical removal, antifouling marine paint, wipers, copper tapes, c-Spray solution, and UV radiation. By understanding these techniques and taking proactive steps to prevent biofouling, you can reduce its harmful effects.