After more than ten years of lobbying by WWF, shipping states within the UN’s International Maritime Organization (IMO) have ratified legislation that bans the use of tributyltin (TBT) in anti-fouling systems of ships.
TBT is an organic compound often used as an additive in many marine anti-fouling paints, which kills algal and barnacle growth and anything else that attaches to ships. The problem is that the chemical is highly toxic to many marine organisms. Even at low concentrations it causes deformations in oysters and genital changes in snails. The decline of commercial oysters along the Atlantic coast of France and the UK in the 1970s is attributed to TBT contamination.
“This [the ban] is a tremendous victory for the marine environment, but one that is long overdue,” said Dr Simon Walmsley, Head of WWF-UK’s Marine Programme.
“It has been over forty years since TBT’s negative impacts were first identified and seven years since legislation to ban TBT was agreed, yet we have only now achieved a global ban.”
Panama, which flags one of the world’s biggest shipping fleets, helped bring about the ban. A total of 25 states representing 25 per cent of world shipping tonnage had to ratify the IMO’s anti-fouling systems convention to bring the ban into force globally.
The global ban will be introduced in 12 months time. Any vessel still using anti-fouling paints which contain TBT will have to use a safer alternative.
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