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Coastal and Marine Pollution


Key departmental publications, e.g. annual reports, budget papers and program guidelines are available in our online archive.

Much of the material listed on these archived web pages has been superseded, or served a particular purpose at a particular time. It may contain references to activities or policies that have no current application. Many archived documents may link to web pages that have moved or no longer exist, or may refer to other documents that are no longer available.

Code of Practice for Antifouling

Australian and New Zealand Environment and Conservation Council, 2000

Application, Maintenance, Removal and Disposal of Antifouling Paints

This Code of Practice applies to the use of all products designed to keep marine vessels and structures free of marine organisms. There are two fundamental modes of action of such products:

1. The coating releases chemicals which inhibit settlement of marine biota i.e. acts as an "antifoulant", or

2. The coating inhibits successful attachment of marine biota ie. acts as a foulant-release coating.

Typically, the inhibition of settlement is achieved by means of the leaching from the coating of toxic chemicals such as tributyltin or copper, while the inhibition of attachment is achieved through non-stick surface-bound properties associated with chemicals like silicones and PTFE's that reside in the coating. The principal intended function of all such products, where they are used, whether toxic or not, is as an additional outer coating on vessels, floating, submerged or fixed structures, serving to protect fabric and superstructure against the potentially destructive action of marine biota. It is appropriate to refer to such a product as a "marine protective coating" - MPC. The coating may contain several layers, and may also sub-serve other protective functions beyond that described above.

The leaching of tributyltin from marine paints has been associated with extensive impacts on aquatic organisms, particularly intertidal organisms such as oysters. This has resulted in restrictions on the use of tributyltin worldwide. In Australia, tributyltin can only be used on vessels that are greater than 25m in length (except where exemptions are granted for aluminium vessels) and in New Zealand tributyltin cannot be applied to any vessel. The rules for other marine structures are less clear. The Australian Navy has introduced additional voluntary restrictions on tributyltin usage, with many vessels under 40m in length being required to use copper-based materials.

All antifouling paint formulations, containing substances which could adversely affect the marine environment or agricultural and fisheries industries, must be registered with the National Registration Authority. This registration process helps to ensure that aquatic environments, or the people that work with these coatings, do not become exposed to inappropriate chemicals. It also ensures that appropriate labelling of containers occurs so that hazards to human health can be avoided.

Following is a summary of the major issues involved in protecting the environment whilst handling antifouling paints. Occupational health and safety should be a principal concern and guidelines associated with protection of human health should be adhered to. When best practice improves on the suggestions that follow, best practice should be followed.