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9/13/2016: IMO ballast water convention – A note from Rear Adm. Thomas

From the desk of Rear Adm. Paul Thomas, assistant commandant for prevention policy

The International Maritime Organization (IMO) has announced that the International Convention for the Control and Management of Ships’ Ballast Water and Sediments (BWM Convention) has been ratified and will now enter into force in September 2017. The U.S. Coast Guard welcomes this news as an important step forward in controlling invasive species spread by ballast water and meeting the challenge of reducing the environmental footprint of international shipping.

We also understand that the announcement heightens concerns in the industry about the differences between the BMW Convention and the U.S. ballast water regulations. In previous posts I have explained in detail how and why the U.S regulations differ from the BWM Convention. We’ve also explained how compliance dates and the extension process are managed while we are working hard on U.S. type approval of ballast water treatment systems. The entry into force of the BWM 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 BWM 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.

Currently, there are 19 BWMS 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.

In the meantime, the Coast Guard continues to work with the IMO to harmonize the international testing procedures within the BWM 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.

Editor’s note: For additional information, please view previous blog posts on this topic.

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