Late last week, the EU took decisive action regarding the ratification of the IMO Convention on the control of harmful anti-fouling systems on ships (AFS Convention). This Convention proposes to ban the application of TBT anti-fouling systems on ships from January 2003 and the existence of such components from 1 January 2008. While the first deadline depends upon the date of entry into force of the Convention, the second is seen as a definitive date.

To bring Member States in line with the Convention as soon as possible, the Commission has proposed a regulation to ban the application of TBT anti-fouling systems on EU registered ships from January 2003 and the existence of TBT on all ships (i.e. all ships entering EU ports) from 1 January 2008. 


The regulation will affect ships applying or re-applying TBT anti-fouling systems after January 2003 but will not affect those ships, which have already been coated with a TBT anti-fouling system prior to this date. However, the implementation of this regulation by port state control means that all EU registered ships will need to carry a Certificate of Compliance. This Certificate will be issued by the Recognised Organisation of the Member State and will demonstrate that a ship was coated with the TBT anti-fouling system prior to the 2003 date or that it was coated/re-coated after the 2003 date but with a non-TBT anti fouling system.


One further aspect, which the Commission has brought in line with the AFS Convention, is the possibility for the use of a sealer coat so that the current TBT anti-fouling system may be sealed with a ‘barrier’ coat, which prevents the leaching of the TBT into the environment. Ship owners are given the choice of blasting/stripping the TBT anti-fouling system off the hull entirely or using a barrier coat system. The regulation is expected to be adopted by the Council and the European Parliament before the end of the year allowing the projected entry into force for these requirements by January 2003.


In addition, the Commission adopted a Directive amending Directive 76/769/EEC, in order to extend the scope of the ban on the marketing and use in the Community of TBT anti-fouling paints used as biocides to all ships irrespective of their flag or size.  Until this decision, only vessels of less than 25 meters and plying inland waters were covered by the Directive.  The new ban will take effect within six months of 9 July 2002 throughout the EU/EEA and will apply primarily to European shipyards that will no longer be able to coat ships with TBT anti-fouling systems.


The Commission’s intention is to encourage Member States to ratify the AFS Convention so that it will enter into force as soon as possible. The AFS Convention, which has been open to signature since 1 February 2002, will enter into force 12 months after 25 states representing 25% of the world’s merchant shipping have ratified it.  Assuming that applicant countries, especially Cyprus, Malta and the Baltic States, will have to apply the regulation, 25 countries representing about 30% of the world tonnage will be ready to ratify the AFS Convention. 


INTERTANKO has already adopted a position encouraging the use of the 2003 and 2008 dates as specified in the AFS Convention regardless of its entry into force. Further information on the AFS Convention and anti-fouling systems in general can be found here.


Contact: Tim Wilkins, e-mail: