in Hong Kong may have found a solution to the age-old problem of
keeping a ships hull free from marine pest organisms, but
without polluting the worlds oceans.
development of biofouling communities on man-made structures is
a significant problem for all marine industries. For years, ship
owners have coated the hulls of their vessels with highly toxic
antifouling paints to prevent marine growth and ensure their vessels
travel faster and more efficiently.
of the most effective paint, based on the biocide organotin, was banned
in 2003. Remaining methods used to control biofouling are costly and
|Ships hull with
modern antifouling paint, a nest of tubeworms, and tubeworms
Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST), Prof Peiyuan
Qian has been leading a team of investigators from other Hong Kong
institutions to explore the natural antifouling substances produced
by marine organisms such as sponges and marine bacteria.
at HKUSTs Coastal Marine Laboratory, the regions largest
collection of marine bacteria has been established as part of the
research. Said Prof Qian: The collection has proved to be a
goldmine for the discovery of novel bioactive compounds for antifouling,
agents to help in the biodegradation of marine pollutants, and as
a source of marine biotoxins.
10 non-toxic compounds produced by marine microbes as natural fouling
inhibitors have been identified.
may lead to very useful non-polluting applications, said Prof
Qian. Among discoveries in the research was that highly potent antifouling
and antibiotic compounds are produced by the bacteria and fungi living
on sponges and seaweeds.
Qian: The products prevent larval settlement of fouling organisms
through a non-toxic mode so do not kill organisms but inhibit their
settlement. They are environmentally friendly.
With modern fermentation technology, we can produce these products
cost-effectively in large quantities. Unlike the production of most
bioactive compounds, we do not need to harvest the marine organisms
from the natural environment.
for patents have been made in the US and China, and contacts have
been made with shipyards and paint companies to explore commercial
development and use. The collection of marine microbes includes 16
novel bacterial species and four genera never before identified. Samples
come from the South China Sea, Yellow Sea, Caribbean, Mediterranean,
North Sea, Northwest Pacific Ocean, the deep sea and Antarctic region.
the banning of some antifouling paints, the marine coating industry
needs to find a solution right away, said Prof Qian.
has involved investigators from The Chinese University of Hong Kong,
The University of Hong Kong, and City University of Hong Kong as well
Prof Peiyuan Qian : firstname.lastname@example.org