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Maritime Industry Worries Michigan Ballast Permit May Impede Shipping

Doubts over the effectiveness of a new clean water permit for ballast water in Michigan may prompt other states to put off implementation of similar ballast water handling requirements. Other Midwest Great Lakes states will likely take a wait and see attitude before pushing forward with their own programs. Beyond this, industry observers also feel that the initiative may harm the shipping industry.

However, U.S. Coast Guard officials have cautioned that the impact on shipping may be tempered by the fact that few vessels departing and/or arriving at Michigan ports will be subject to the permit's ballast water treatment requirements.

Before implemented, the treatment technology must be approved by the Coast Guard. Although the Coast Guard has the ultimate authority to develop the protocol for new technologies, these protocols are still in the development stage. Until then, no vessels will install the required equipment as specified by the Michigan permit. Given these impediments, there is little chance that the technologies will be in place by the deadline set for January of 2007. A 2005 Michigan state law, Public Act 33, mandates that all oceangoing vessels must obtain a permit from DEQ by January 2007 in order to conduct port operations in Michigan.

The issue of aquatic invasive species and what to do about them is one of the top priorities for Great Lakes states. Michigan’s efforts are reflective of their concerns that EPA and other federal agencies were not doing enough. Shipping industry officials say that the Michigan Permit program will hurt state exports; a claim that coast Guard officials says is largely a non-issue because ships entering Michigan water rarely discharge ballast because they are usually discharging.