USCG Fines Bulker for Untreated Ballast Discharge
On August 16, the U.S. Coast Guard fined the newly built bulker ANSAC Moon Bear a penalty of $5,000 for discharging untreated ballast water into the Willamette River in Portland, Oregon.
USCG inspectors from Marine Safety Unit Portland found evidence of an unauthorized, untreated discharge when they examined the Bear's log books. The shipowner was given the option of paying the $5,000 fine prior to departure or guaranteeing a bond of $38,175, the maximum penalty amount. The owner paid the fine and the vessel departed shortly thereafter, with little disruption to her schedule.
“Marine Safety Unit Portland effectively identified and enforced the U.S. Ballast Water regulations that visiting vessels are required to meet,” said Capt. Thomas Griffitts, commanding officer of MSU Portland. “These regulations are essential to protecting our marine environment as untreated ballast water may pose serious ecological, economic, and health problems due to the multitude of marine species carried in ships’ ballast water.”
The Coast Guard has repeatedly warned vessel operators that American ballast water regulations differ from IMO requirements, and that they are already entering into effect. Depending upon each vessel's date of construction and survey schedule, IMO BWMS requirements will not go into effect until as late as 2024.
As with future IMO requirements, each ship’s U.S. BWMS compliance date differs based on its drydocking schedule and its ballast capacity. The Coast Guard has begun to issue its own U.S.-specific type approvals for BWMS, and four approved systems are now on the market, with more expected soon. Until recently, the USCG provided extensions on compliance dates with relative ease, but now that more approved options are available it is strengthening its criteria.
The fine for the Bear is not the first Coast Guard enforcement action related to BWMS. In February, the Coast Guard cited the bulker Vega Mars for discharging ballast without the use of a BWMS at the port of Tacoma, Washington. “These efforts are in line with the recent approval of four different ballast water management systems," said Capt. Joe Raymond, commanding officer of Coast Guard Sector Pugent Sound.