Anti-fouling shipping regulation strengthens marine environment protections in UK waters

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Coming into force on 10 May 2024, the regulations apply to all UK flagged ships, wherever they sail, and ships flagged to other countries while in UK or controlled waters. Photographer: LPhot Edward Jones - UK MOD © Crown copyright 2024 - News / Editorial Licence.

Ecological protections at sea are being strengthened by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) through updated regulations governing anti-fouling systems on ships. 

The new UK legislation implements an international convention prohibiting the use of cybutryne in marine paints, which has been proven harmful to marine flora and fauna, working its way into the food chain. 

Coming into force on 10 May 2024, the regulations apply to all UK flagged ships, wherever they sail, and ships flagged to other countries while in UK or controlled waters. They also maintain an existing ban on similarly harmful organotin compounds. 

The aim is to minimise or eliminate pollution from such substances in UK waters, supporting the global response to the issue. 

The obligation is being formally adopted into the Merchant Shipping (Anti-Fouling Systems) Regulations 2024 by the MCA from the International Maritime Organization’s (IMO) amended convention.  

As well as tackling this type of marine pollution, the new measures simplify regulations by bringing them into one place and make it more straightforward to keep up to date in the future. 

MCA Chief Executive Virginia McVea said:

We know these substances are proven to have harmful ecological effects, so this action is important to protect our environment.  

Through these regulations, the UK is playing its part in a global effort to safeguard marine ecosystems.

The Merchant Shipping (Anti-Fouling Systems) Regulations 2024 revoke and replace Regulation (EC) No 782/2003 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 14 April 2003 on the prohibition of organotin compounds on ships and the Merchant Shipping (Anti-Fouling Systems) Regulations 2009 (S.I. 2009/2796). 

They implement the latest version of the International Convention on the Control of Harmful Anti-fouling Systems on Ships, 2001, including amendments made by IMO Resolution MEPC.331(76). 

A consultation on the new regulations was run by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency from 13 November 2023 to 11 December 2023. 

The Environment Act 2021 places a duty on Ministers to have due regard to the environmental principles policy statement when making policy. The regulations are within scope of this duty.

Source: Maritime and Coastguard Agency

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