Antifouling paint product regulations set to change significantly over the next few years

Regulations that pass or fail DIY antifouling paint products for the European market will be changing significantly over the next three to five years.

The established view that boat owners can use antifouling paints in a responsible way, following the label instructions and wearing appropriate protective clothing – such as gloves – is being challenged, and manufacturers need evidence to support this position.

The implications for boat owners are significant, with potential restrictions of antifoulings to professional use only and revised products for the DIY sector which have limited product performance or life time. This will increase costs to the boat owner and potentially threaten UK waters with an increase in the translocation of invasive species due to a lack of effective fouling control.

Gareth Prowse, UK regulatory affairs manager, with responsibility for AkzoNobel’s brand International Paint, said: ‘it could mean that tried-and-tested biocide antifouling products are not re-registered. We’re coming to the point where each of the active ingredients we use will or will not be approved for use in our products.’

Duty of care

Gareth continued: ‘Over the years, we’ve seen an increasingly conservative approach to risk assessments where there is uncertainty of data about the actual impact on the environment or individuals using the product. This is a very sensible approach: paint manufacturers and regulators alike have a duty of care to protect those that use antifouling paints and the environment, but recently it’s becoming so conservative that the assumptions within the risk assessment may not reflect actual practice. For example, it’s expected that individuals will not take care of themselves.

‘We believe that antifouling paints have been used safely and effectively by experienced boat owners for many years.’

Gareth said the battle to show that regulators can trust DIY users has ‘to some extent already been lost’ as this is ‘opinion, not fact’.

He added: ‘Now the presumption is that people don’t wear gloves or protective clothing. For us to pass the recommended EU risk assessments, we have to either scale back the active ingredients, which will affect the product’s performance, or provide proof of careful use.’

Gareth, who is also chairman of the British Coatings Federation (BCF) Marine Coatings Group, said: ‘The BCF are trying to generate data to better understand how people use these products and what protective equipment they do use when painting.’

The online ‘DIY Use of Antifouling Paints in the UK’ survey will run until 30 November 2015 at

Responses will form the basis for a report from the BCF, providing an overall picture of the DIY application of AF paints in the UK. This will then be used as a basis for determining what further support activity is required.

Gareth added: ‘Our concern is that we could end up withdrawing products that can be and are used safely because of the risk assessment being too conservative due to a lack of data, rather than genuine risk.’

International Paint is expecting the final biocides to be approved at the end of this year or early next year. The new product regulations will come in over the next three to five years.

Royal Yachting Association cruising manager Stuart Carruthers said: ‘Member states are currently conducting a review of the biocides that are covered by the Biocides Regulation of 2012. We acknowledge that it is important to keep the list of regulated biocides under review, but we would be concerned should the review result in any proposal to ban the use of, or weaken, antifouling paint on recreational craft, which could undermine efforts to combat the threat of invasive non-native species.’

‘Totally different’

David Ashley, director of Nanotech SST, believes recent developments with nanoscience will solve the problems with antifouling: ‘We’ve been involved in a four-year trial with a completely new type of antifouling. It’s totally environmentally friendly and essentially silicone based, and it works in a completely different way from conventional antifouling.

‘The growth is just unable to adhere to the surface. It’s easy to apply – it can go on hard antifouling gelcoat and there’s a trial under way in New Zealand to see how it works on aluminium boats.’

It is primarily designed for powerboats as sailboats may be unable to accomplish the speed required for the water flow to clear the debris. A trial involving a Swordsman 37 powerboat in Port Solent is still working well after three years and seven months.

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Nanotech Antifouling’s debut at the Southampton Boat Show received a ‘good response’ although David acknowledged ‘it’s a bit pricey right now’ at around £500 a litre – but a litre is promised to go a long way.

He said: ‘You need between 30g and 50g per square metre. A litre would do somewhere around a 30ft boat.’

Once the product can be produced in greater volume it will bring the price down.

David added: ‘I believe that in the States this year, copper antifouling is going to be banned. We’re among the many companies that have been searching for a solution.’


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