Biofouling can introduce potentially invasive species to new environments, where they may threaten native species and cause irreversible damage to biodiversity. Once established in a new ecosystem, invasive species are extremely difficult - if not impossible - to eradicate.

As such, the new GIA seeks to accelerate the development of solutions to improve the management of marine biofouling and consequently contribute to a significant reduction in GHG emissions.

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Under the partnership, private sector companies from various industries affected by biofouling -including shipping, aquaculture, offshore oil and gas and ocean renewable energies- will work together with the GloFouling Partnerships Project, a joint initiative between the Global Environment Facility (GEF), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the IMO.

The key aims of the GIA are to leverage human, technological and financial resources; facilitate industry input into policy developments and a positive pull for reform processes; and the development and dissemination of technological solutions to improve biofouling management.

Meanwhile, the new alliance is expected to promote solutions to improve the hydrodynamic performance of ships and thereby contribute to a significant reduction of the carbon footprint of shipping. Biofouling increases the drag of ships, forcing them to burn more fuel to maintain speed.

The GIA officially launched on 8 June during an online meeting among representatives of the founding industry members as well as IMO and UNDP.

See also: Watch: Tackling invasive aquatic species

IMO Secretary-General Kitack Lim said the new alliance will, for the first time, bring together all maritime industries in finding solutions to two key environmental issues affecting our planet - protecting marine biodiversity and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Under this new initiative, these industry champions, from different sectors, are coming together to address common challenges and move towards a more sustainable use of ocean resources,

...Mr Lim said.

Four companies have become the founding members of the Global Industry Alliance for Marine Biosafety: CleanSubSea, ECOsubsea, HullWiper and Sonihull. Partners expect that more companies will join the GIA.