U.S. Clarifies Ballast Water Convention Stance

ballast water

By MarEx 2016-09-13 19:10:41

Rear Admiral Paul Thomas, assistant commandant for prevention policy at the U.S. Coast Guard, has welcomed the news that the 2004 International Convention for the Control and Management of Ships’ Ballast Water and Sediments (Ballast Water Management Convention) has been ratified and will now enter into force in September 2017. It is an important step forward in controlling invasive species spread by ballast water and meeting the challenge of reducing the environmental footprint of international shipping, he says.

“We also understand that the announcement heightens concerns in the industry about the differences between the Ballast Water Management Convention and the U.S. ballast water regulations.” Thomas says the entry into force of the Convention will not change the U.S. Coast Guard approach to or enforcement of the U.S. ballast water regulations.

“Ships operating in U.S. waters must comply with U.S. requirements, including using one of the ballast water management practices described in 33 CFR Part 151.2025 and 2050. Therefore, ships in U.S. waters will not be subject to Port State Control verification of compliance with the Ballast Water Management Convention.

“Ships equipped with a Coast Guard approved Alternative Management System (AMS) will remain in compliance with U.S. regulation until five years after the compliance date (for an individual ship) is set. Compliance dates will be determined on a vessel-by-vessel basis after Coast Guard type approved ballast water treatment systems are commercially available. After five years, the AMS must either achieve Coast Guard type-approval, or be replaced with a type-approved system.”

The discharge standards required by U.S. regulations are the same as the standards proposed in the IMO Ballast Water Management Convention. However, there are differences found in the testing and verification protocols as well as confusion about the definition of “viable” as meaning living and non-viable as meaning dead.

U.S. type-approval testing procedures are mandatory and specify testing that is independent from manufacturers. They are also very detailed and require more testing than foreign type-approval procedures.

Currently, there are 19 ballast water treatment system manufacturers with systems approved by other administrations (AMS) that are seeking type-approval from the Coast Guard. Three of these manufacturers report they have recently completed testing with the Coast Guard independent lab. 

“On the basis of information provided from manufacturers and independent labs, we expect to receive applications for Coast Guard type-approval in the next few weeks,” says Thomas.

“In the meantime, the Coast Guard continues to work with the IMO to harmonize the international testing procedures within the Ballast Water Management Convention, known as the G8 Guidelines, with U.S. type-approval processes.” The IMO type-approval guidelines are currently under review, and recommendations for revisions are being developed for the Marine Environmental Protection Committee (MEPC 70) meeting in October 2016.

“The Coast Guard is committed to protecting our waters from invasive species and supports a strong national and international solution that does not disrupt the continuous flow of maritime trade which drives the global economy. We will continue to work with all stakeholders to encourage and facilitate Coast Guard approval of ballast water treatment systems.”