Commercial Vessel Compliance

10/2/2014: Coast Guard remarks- 3rd Annual Ballast Water Management Tech North America Conference

The Coast Guard Office of Environmental Standards provided two keynote speakers at the 3rd Annual BWMTech North America Conference to provide Coast Guard information and updates on the current state of ballast water management. Maritime Commons is providing a summary of Coast Guard remarks for those of you who could not attend the conference. Look tomorrow’s question and answer session blog post from a Q&A session held at the conference!

Cmdr. Ryan Allain, chief of the environmental standards division, provided a brief update and background.

The Coast Guard’s ballast water discharge standard applies to vessels equipped with ballast water tanks and operate in waters of the U.S. The rule does not apply to: non-seagoing vessels; sea-going vessels that do not operate outside the exclusive economic zone and are less than 1,600 gross register tons or 3,000 ITC; and, vessels that operate exclusively in one captain of the port zone.

Deadlines for existing vessels

Those new vessels, with a keel laying date after December 1, 2013 are required to comply with the regulations upon delivery.

The implementation dates for existing vessels are based upon a vessel’s ballast water capacity. Vessels are required to comply at their first scheduled drydocking after:

January 1, 2016 for vessels with ballast water less than 1,500 cubic meters
January 1, 2014 for vessels with ballast water between 1,500 to 5,000 cubic meters
January 1, 2016 for vessels with ballast water over 5,000 cubic meters

“We are in the implementation phase of the regulation. If you have a vessel that has a ballast water capacity of 1500-5,000 cubic meters, your compliance date is the first dry docking after January 2014,” said Allain. “If you have a dry dock coming up, you need to be making plans for how you will comply with regulations. There are several ways you can do that”

Compliance options:

• Do not discharge ballast water within 12 nautical miles of the United States
• Install a Coast Guard approved ballast water management system
• Discharge to a facility onshore or other vessel, for purposes of treatment
• Use only water from a U.S. public water system

Temporary compliance options

• Install an alternate management system which is a temporary designation, given to a ballast water treatment system, which can be used on a ship for up to five years after the ship’s implementation date
• Receive an extension for the ship’s implementation date

How to get type approval for a ballast water treatment system

A ballast water treatment system manufacturer may use existing test information, used for type approval testing done in accordance with the Ballast Water Management Convention’s G8 guidelines to support a Coast Guard type approval submission. Existing data supplied to the Coast Guard must meet or exceed the requirements contained in the Coast Guard’s type approval requirements. Existing data must be submitted to an Independent Laboratory approved by the Coast Guard for testing and evaluating ballast water management systems.

Regulatory requirements

“Coast Guard type approval regulations have little tolerance for interpretation or compromise. We have to follow the regulations as they’re prescribed but there is an option for the Coast Guard to consider alternatives,” said Allain. “If a specific evaluation or required test that is indicated in the Coast Guard’s type approval regulations is not practicable or applicable for that ballast water treatment system, the vendor can come to the Coast Guard and request approval of an alternative. The request for an alternative has to demonstrate that it is equal to or exceeds the Coast Guard requirements.”

Allain outlined four principles required for a Coast Guard type approval:

• An independent lab or the ship’s crew must operate equipment during testing; in other words, the manufacturer cannot have any operational role during type approval testing
• Requirements for type approval are specified in regulation
• Requirements include a comprehensive assessment to include an evaluation of biological efficacy and engineering performance
• Type approval is only approved for technology that is ‘market-ready’ meaning no adjustments to the design or construction are needed during the final testing

Alternative Management System, or AMS

AMS is the Coast Guard’s temporary acceptance of a treatment system that has been approved by a foreign administration in accordance with the Ballast Water Management Convention.

Once AMS acceptance is granted to a system, that system is deemed to be at least as effective as a ballast water exchange.

The Coast Guard does not require installation of AMS. There are other compliance options like getting an extension from the Coast Guard.

Status update on AMS and type approval

“We have 45 AMS acceptances out there. The Coast Guard expectation is that if you have an AMS acceptance that you have started your type approval program. We want to hear details on where you are at in your type approval program,” said Allain. “We want to know where you are at with this. I think it would be very beneficial for all of us.”

While going through AMS reviews, the Coast Guard sees a lot of inconsistencies in testing that was done to achieve foreign administration type approval.

“We notice lack of quality assurance and quality control; and use of testing procedures that weren’t independently validated.

At this time, the Coast Guard has not received any formal application for type approval,” said Allain. “We are aware that there is testing going on but we are not aware of where exactly most vendors are in the process and what their timelines are for completing the testing process and sending a type approval application to the Coast Guard.”

Comparison of AMS and type approval

They are separate programs; AMS acceptance is a determination made by the Coast Guard that a system is at least as effective to ballast water exchange. AMS determination by the Coast Guard is not an approval program and AMS acceptance is not a requirement for Coast Guard type approval.

Allain offered advice regarding an abundance of misleading advertisements by ballast water treatment system manufacturers whose systems have received AMS acceptance.

“I’ve seen ballast water treatment systems marketed, in literature and at conferences, with Coast Guard approval symbols on them, but they are not approved, they were accepted as an AMS, a temporary acceptance while the manufacturer works on receiving Coast Guard type approval. My advice to ship owners is that when you are looking at these systems, make sure you are dealing with fact and not fiction,” said Allain.


The Coast Guard’s policy has been in place for about a year. The basis for an extension is that a Coast Guard type approved ballast water management system, shore reception facilities, U.S. public water supplies or retention in U.S. waters are not available or practical. Extensions are issued for a minimum time to apply a ballast water management system. To date, the Coast Guard has granted 260 extensions.

Coast Guard operating and environmental standards policy letter 13-01 provides policy requirements for an extension.

“Right now, we have extensions that have been issued for vessels who had a dry dock in 2014 and were given a compliance date of January 2016. If you’ve got a vessel with a compliance date of 2015, with a dry dock in 2015, those vessels are currently getting an extension until January 1st of 2017,” said Allain. “I anticipate that once we get a Coast Guard type approved system, you will see much more rigor and analysis applied to our evaluation of an extension request. There will be a lot of dialogue between the ship owner requesting the extension and the Coast Guard and EPA about why a particular type approved system won’t work for your vessel.”

CG and Environmental Protection Agency extensions

When the Coast Guard gets an extension request from a ship owner, they compare dry dock dates that are in the request to what was submitted to the EPA in the Vessel General Permit notice of intent.

“We want to make sure that the information is consistent before we issue an extension. If there are discrepancies, you are going to have a delay in getting an extension,” said Allain.

Rumor control

Allain took the opportunity to address rumors that have made it to Coast Guard Headquarters over the past few years.

The Coast Guard:
• Is not changing implementation dates contained in the final rule
• Is not removing any systems from the AMS acceptance list
• Does not have preference for any type of treatment system technology
• Does not need Environmental Technology Verification Program shipboard testing protocols to type approve ballast water treatment systems
• Will not wait to issue a type approval certificate if an application demonstrates that all criteria for type approval have been met

Allain asked attendees of the ballast water conference, specifically manufacturers and independent laboratories, where they are at in the process of completing Coast Guard type approval testing.

“The Coast Guard published this ballast water final rule in 2012 and we’d like to know where manufacturers are at with the type approval process,” said Allain.

This blog is not a replacement or substitute for the formal posting of regulations and updates or existing processes for receiving formal feedback of the same. Links provided on this blog will direct the reader to official source documents, such as the Federal Register, Homeport and the Code of Federal Regulations. These documents remain the official source for regulatory information published by the Coast Guard.

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