- Domestic Vessels

10/3/2014: Coast Guard Q&A – 3rd Annual Ballast Water Management Tech North America Conference

The Coast Guard’s Environmental Standards Division provided two panelists at the 3rd Annual BWMTech North America Conference to provide Coast Guard information and answer questions on the current state of ballast water management. Maritime Commons is providing a summary of questions, asked of the Coast Guard during both of those panels, for those of you who could not attend the conference.

One of the panelists, Cmdr. Ryan Allain, chief of the Environmental Standards Division, answered questions pertaining to the background, status and policy on Coast Guard ballast water regulation.

The second panelist, Dr. Richard Everett, environmental protection specialist in the Environmental Standards Division, answered technical questions on the Coast Guard ballast water regulation.

Question: Can you address the Coast Guard’s position on the issuance of type approval certificates for a system that does not demonstrate that it meets all of the discharge limits set by the Environmental Protection Agency? Will you issue a type approval if a ship meets Coast Guard standards but not EPA’s?

Answer: Our regulations don’t specify that the effluent limitations under the vessel general permit, or VGP, have to be indicated on a type approval certificate. The case issue here might be, for instance, the total residual oxidant, or TRO, limit in the VGP of 100 micrograms or .1 milligrams per liter, which is different than the rule of thumb the International Maritime Organization, or IMO, uses which is .2 milligrams per liter. There’s nothing in the IMO convention about meeting a particular TRO limit. So this is a vessel issue with the VGP where a system that perhaps has been engineered to meet a .2 mg/L limit under the IMO now wants to come to the U.S. and we have the VGP limit that applies to vessels which is .1 mg/L.

Here is how that’s going to play out with type approval certificates. The TRO issue would be addressed in a type certificate. At this point, we don’t know whether we would issue a certificate if the system design or operation didn’t meet the U.S. limit during type approval testing. I think the thing you have to think about is that VGP limit applies to the vessel and there may be a number of different sources contributing to the TRO. One example might be a ship that has a chlorine treatment system in a sea chest to manage biofouling in ballast pipes that is also using chlorine to treat ballast water. Both of those might contribute to TRO. It’s a little tricky to say that the vessel limit somehow applies to the ballast water management system during the type approval of that system because it’s actually a ship issue. It’s certainly something that ship owners should have in mind that there are these other elements that apply.
They should keep this at the forefront of their mind when they are looking at ballast water management systems that use chlorine or other oxidants. There are not necessarily internationally accepted limits and there very well might be different limits, not only among port States but also between areas within a port State.

It remains to be seen how we will actually handle that issue and to how manufacturers will handle that issue when they apply for type approval.

Question: Can you give a little more information on the inconsistencies between foreign administrations approvals under the Resolution MEPC.174(58) Guidelines for approval of ballast water management systems, otherwise known as IMO G8 guidelines ?

Answer: When you look at how the convention is laid out, you have type approval activity going on under different administrations. I don’t know how many different countries have issued type approval certificates for ballast water management systems but probably at least a dozen or more. So you have interpretations of those guidelines by each country for what is acceptable under their type approval regimes.

Overall our process, and what we are trying to do across the testing regime, is consistent with the IMO G8 Guidelines. . We have some requirements that are more stringent; we have more emphasis on quality control and assurance built in, and we have regulations that prescribe how the type approval testing has to be carried out where guidelines are subject to interpretation.

Question: Are there any specific red flags you are seeing with this?

Answer: The main issues the Coast Guard sees are lack of independent testing; a lack of, or minimal, quality control and quality assurance; a lack of transparency and the use of testing techniques that have not been validated.

The issue of independence during testing is a big one from the Coast Guard perspective. There is a wide range of manufacturer involvement in testing. When we look across the landscape of all the different approvals under the IMO convention there is a wide range, that changes over time, and that varies between different administrations. Some administrations that originally did not have requirements now seem to be requiring independent testing with no allowed participation by the manufacturer. There is nothing in the G8 guidelines that constitutes a firm requirement for completely independent testing.

Another red flag we are seeing is quality control and quality assurance. It’s not always transparent how much of that was involved in testing.

A third red flag is transparency; the Coast Guard still doesn’t know, even with a lot of type approval applications in front of us, what the actual test requirements were. I don’t have a copy of anything that approaches our regulatory requirement from another administration that outlines the type of testing they require.

Question: Should there be movement to consider a revised G8 guidelines that make the guidelines more specific. What is the US position on this?

Answer: At this stage, the United States would welcome harmonization of the IMO process with our requirements. Not only the harmonization of what those particular test procedures are but also the legal aspect of that. The United States has requirements, not guidelines, and we would not be adverse to the IMO having the same.

Question: What does more than one failure of an AMS do from the Coast Guard’s perspective?

Answer: It raises some red flags and is definitely cause for the Coast Guard to do further investigation. The Coast Guard can remove AMS acceptance at any time if the system is found non-compliant with the conditions for approval, is unsuitable for the purpose intended, does not meet applicable laws and regulations, or cannot be maintained to operate as designed due to lack of parts or necessary support services. There would be a conversation between the Coast Guard and the vendor of that system to determine what their plans are to fix that system.

Question: Why has the Coast Guard issued extensions for such a short duration? We are trying to be in compliance and trying to be proactive. Why doesn’t the Coast Guard have the understanding that these installations are difficult? Giving someone a two-year, hard extension date is not necessarily useful because in six months or less they’re writing back for another extension.

Answer: When the Coast Guard got the first batch of requests for extensions we had an extensive discussion about what the length of time should be. We considered pushing it out to the next dry dock period and the availability of ballast water technology. When the Coast Guard made our decision, about a year ago, we had two letters of intent that had been submitted, so we anticipated that we would have type approved systems by early 2015. We did not want to grant extensions for a long period of time when we anticipated there would be type approved systems available on the market in the near future. We know that there will be issues that ship owners will face, when a system becomes available, such as scheduling to get the new system installed, and all the other factors that go along with installing a new system, so we anticipate having to reissue some extensions based on ship owners coming back and saying that a particular system won’t work on their vessel or that they want a particular system but can’t get it installed until a certain date when it becomes available.

The overall intent behind the two-year extension timeframe was to keep attention focused on the fact that the Coast Guard wants type approved systems available sooner rather than later. The Coast Guard wants ship owners to work with vendors and monitor where they are in the type approval process and we feel the two-year extension meets that intent.

Question: If it came to the Coast Guard’s attention that a manufacturer with an AMS acceptance was not taking steps to type approval, what ramifications are possible? How do you see the Coast Guard getting involved in this? How do stakeholders collect this information?

Answer: When the Coast Guard issues AMS acceptance letters, the Coast Guard’s expectation is that the vendor is going to move forward with type approval. The Coast Guard issues that acceptance with the understanding that the vendor will be working with an independent lab to begin the type approval process.

AMS acceptance can be revoked if the Coast Guard finds out that a vendor is not making concerted efforts toward fulfilling the type approval requirements. This is not occurring now, nor are there plans to do this in the immediate future, but AMS revocation could be a possibility.

Question: What is the Coast Guard policy for ensuring consistency among the independent laboratories? What is the difference between independent laboratories, or ILs, and testing facilities? What are the challenges that are coming up?

Answer: The IL is responsible for ensuring that testing amongst the various subcontracted facilities is high quality. The Coast Guard requires that ILs have rigorous quality practices in place. That gets looked at in identifying qualified ILs. Everyone realizes these are early days in a complicated process. A lot of questions come up in how to actually implement these requirements, particularly in different geographic areas. We have a lot of discussions between the Coast Guard and ILs in how to address these issues. The Coast Guard has an open dialogue with ILs and expects the ILs to ensure consistency.

Question: Does the Coast Guard reserve the right to audit Independent Laboratories, or ILs?

Answer: Yes, the Coast Guard has the option of conducting audits. The Coast Guard reviews the application for acceptance as an IL. During that review process, before approval of the organization as an IL, the Coast Guard looks at all submitted information. There is a determination, which is made public, by the Coast Guard when an applicant makes the qualification of being recognized as an IL. There is no specific sequence of audits yet. The Coast Guard did visit some ILs recently to look at how they carry out their testing procedures.

Question: There are provisions where a lab is unable, or it is impractical to test, to use an equivalent stringency. Who makes that equivalency determination? Because a certification division within the Coast Guard cannot be experts in everything they are served by ILs?

Answer: There is a provision in Coast Guard regulation, in 46 CFR 162.060 section -10(b)(1), about type approval and test inspection when it is not practical, or applicable, to a ballast water management system or the circumstances under which it is being tested. This is a broad area but there are specific requirements to be able to get an alternative approved.

First, make the request for approval of the alternative to the Coast Guard, not to the independent laboratory, or IL. If you find a circumstance where you think you’ll need an alternative test evaluation, or inspection, you need to submit that 10(b)(1) request, way in advance. In other words, you don’t want to be in the position of doing that after the fact. The Coast Guard does not have all of the expertise in-house to evaluate the huge array of potential alternatives that exists out there. We will be looking at input from ILs, because they have expertise in this, as well as other entities with specific expertise in those special circumstances. In many cases it will take some time to evaluate a request and make a determination.

It is the Coast Guard, not the IL, who makes the determination regarding the acceptability of an alternative under the -10(b)(1) provision.
This need for an early submission also applies to anyone who wants to use existing data. The IL is the first to look at existing data and evaluate whether it meets the Coast Guard’s requirements. If that existing data was generated in a way that differs from the Coast Guard requirements, you don’t want to find that out at the last minute.

Question: These ballast water systems sometimes don’t easily fit in ships so a lot of creativity has been put forth on how to install them in existing ships. Is the Coast Guard going to limit the type approval for a system that was tested in one configuration on a ship to the same configuration requirement for any installation?

Answer: The type approval is for the system and it may have specific conditions regarding how that system needs to be installed. Any such conditions will be listed on the type approval certificate. The Coast Guard is not going to specify all aspects of how a system can be installed on a ship, but if configuration conditions are on the type approval, those will need to be met. The Coast Guard works with class and your class will determine installation specifics.

The system that gets type approved will have parameters and engineering design requirements for it to be able to operate effectively as designed. If rearranging the configuration of different components compromises the systems ability to meet those design requirements then that will be a problem. That would essentially be the system not operating in accordance with the certificate. You are going to have to make sure that the installation allows the system to operate in accordance with the certificate.

Question: Is an Independent Laboratory report ever available to the public?

Answer: As with all government documents, it is available under the Freedom of Information Act. It will be an official government document. There may be certain pieces of information, in a type approval application or test report, which are deemed confidential for business purposes. Those can be redacted. At this point, we do not have a plan to post test reports on a public webpage. Certainly, you will know there is a test report when you look in CGMIX which is a website where you can see what the type approved systems are for all type approved equipment.

For additional information about the Coast Guard’s ballast water management program, please see our web page .

For additional questions, please contact the Coast Guard at: environmental_standards@uscg.mil

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.