Coastal ships using biocidal anti-fouling paints are polluting the environment unnecessarily, according to a new report sponsored by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) Germany and the Lower Saxony environment ministry. Carried out by independent marine research institute Limnomar, the study found that certain types of coastal vessel could employ alternative anti-fouling coatings without losing any performance. Initiated last year, the study measured the degree of fouling observed on various ships treated with a wide range of biocide-free coatings (ENDS Daily 24 April 1998). The group, which has been campaigning against agents containing toxic biocides such as tributyl tin (TBT), claims the study is the first independent test of several types of paint under real-life conditions. Of the four types of coating tested, silicone-based "non-stick" paints were singled out as showing a "fairly good performance", especially for fast-moving ships where fouling organisms such as barnacles are easily washed off by currents. Self-polishing coatings, which gradually wear away, thus preventing organisms from sticking to the surface, were also identified as "prospective". For fast patrol boats moving into and out of freshwater estuaries, the report said, no anti-fouling paint was necessary at all. Although the group said it hoped that the results would contribute to a world-wide ban on TBT-containing anti-fouling paints, Burchard Watermann of Limnomar said that alternative coatings had yet to be tested on ocean-going vessels subject to harsher conditions.
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