Quantifying the total wetted surface area of the world fleet: a first step in determining the potential extent of ships' biofouling.
Ships' hulls can transport aquatic nuisance species, but there is little quantitative information about the magnitude of vessel biofouling on a global or regional scale. There does not exist a robust method to estimate the wetted surface area (WSA) of a particular fleet of ships, especially across the diversity of possible vessel types. An estimate of the total WSA of ship arrivals into a port or region is essential to determine the potential scope of biofouling and to inform management strategies to reduce the future invasions. Multiple statistical models were developed so commonly available ships' parameters could be used to estimate the WSA for a given set of fleet data. Using individual ship characteristics and publicly available data from ˜120,000 active commercial ships in the world fleet, the method results in a total global minimum WSA estimate of approximately 325×106m2. The size of the global fleet employed here is greater than the commonly cited vessel number of approximately 80,000-90,000, as we include ships <100 gross tons. Over 190,000 vessels were initially identified, representing a WSA of 571×106m2, but active status of only 120,000 vessels could be confirmed. Reliable data were unavailable on the operating status of many additional and especially smaller vessels. This approach, along with a contemporary and comprehensive estimate of global WSA, when combined with knowledge of the different operational profiles of ships that may reduce biofouling (port residence times, steaming speeds, extent of antifouling coatings, cleaning frequency, etc.), can inform current numerical models and risk assessments of bioinvasions.