U.S. Coast Guard Calls for Industry Proposals for BWMS Testing


Published Jul 31, 2019 9:28 PM by The Maritime Executive

The U.S. Coast Guard has released a draft policy letter on the implementation of new nonviable-organism testing protocols for ballast water management systems, as required by the passage of the Vessel Incidental Discharge Act (VIDA). 

The "nonviable" method is based on a determination of whether aquatic organisms in ballast water can reproduce after treatment, and it is already used to satisfy IMO standards for BWMS performance worldwide. The unique U.S. Coast Guard standard - called "vital stain" - requires test labs to certify that a BWMS renders organisms incapable of visible movement after treatment (and therefore "dead"). Some critics of the Coast Guard standard maintained that non-moving was not necessarily equivalent to non-living; others have suggested that reproductive viability is a better measurement of an organism's invasive potential.

VIDA requires the Coast Guard to adopt nonviable type approval testing procedures, which the agency has long opposed. In a policy letter published last week on VIDA's implementation, the USCG said that it was not currently aware of any suitable protocols for nonviable testing, and it asked industry to submit proposals instead. 

"At the time of this publication, the Coast Guard does not know of any type-approval testing protocols for BWMS that render nonviable organisms in ballast water that are based on best available science. Therefore, this policy letter establishes the process developed by the Coast Guard for accepting type-approval testing protocols," the USCG's Office of Operating and Environmental Standards (OES) wrote. 

The office will review industry proposals with an emphasis on peer-reviewed supporting documentation and the validation of proposed protocols, since VIDA requires the USCG to base its decisions on the best available science. "Independently peer-reviewed scientific reports and publications that address the issue of evaluating [viability] in samples of treated ballast water will present the strongest case," the office wrote. 

The public comment period for the policy letter is now open, and comments must be submitted by September 30, 2019. Interested parties may comment on the letter by visiting http://www.regulations.gov and searching for docket number USCG-2019-0477. Following its review of proposed protocols, the Coast Guard will publish them online (if any are accepted).