Consultation launched into draft regulations to ban harmful contaminant in anti-fouling systems

The Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) is seeking views on draft regulations to ban a harmful contaminant used in anti-fouling systems, and further boost a commitment to protection of the marine environment.

A consultation will be launched today, to ask for feedback on the draft Merchant Shipping (Anti-Fouling Systems) Regulations 2024 which consolidate existing regulations and ban the use of cybutryne in UK waters, a biocide harmful to marine life, in anti-fouling systems. It will run for four weeks, from today until 11 December, as the MCA looks to bring the regulations into force early next year.

The International Convention on the Control of Harmful Anti-Fouling Systems on Ships (AFS Convention), which came into force in September 2008, prohibits the use of harmful organotin compounds in anti-fouling paints used on ships. The Convention defines ‘anti-fouling systems’ as ‘a coating, paint, surface treatment, surface or device that is used on a ship to control or prevent attachment of unwanted organisms’.

The new regulations will bring the UK in line with the International AFS Convention, which banned the use of cybutryne in anti-fouling systems for new ships on 1 January 2023.

The proposed regulations, which would come into force early next year in the UK, would see ships unable to use products containing the harmful substance in UK waters, although ship owners will have 60 months from the last anti-fouling application to ensure their ship complies.

It is anticipated that most ships will not be impacted, as both the European Union and the UK banned the manufacture and sale of cybutryne in anti-fouling systems in 2017. The United States of America have also banned cybutryne and therefore the draft regulations will only impact ships that have their anti-fouling systems applied in other countries.

Megan Cousins-Booth, policy lead for anti-fouling systems at the MCA, said: “The MCA is committed to minimising the impact of shipping on the marine environment and these draft regulations would ensure the UK continues to prevent the use of cybutryne in anti-fouling systems long into the future.

“The evidence shows that cybutryne leaches into the environment as the anti-fouling system naturally degrades and can be toxic to a variety of marine organisms, so it is vital that changes are made to protect our waters.

“We are consulting for just four weeks as it is important there is no delay to these regulations coming in, the industry are aware it is coming.”

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