Commercial Vessel Compliance

4/3/2017: Connecticut Maritime Association’s 2017 Shipping Conference – Remarks from Jeffrey Lantz, Office of Regs & Standards

Editor’s note: In March, senior Coast Guard leaders had the opportunity to give remarks on various topics during the Connecticut Maritime Association’s Shipping 2017 conference and expo in Stamford, Connecticut.

For those of you who were unable to attend, Maritime Commons is providing a condensed version of each set of remarks in a four-part series. These remarks are not ‘as delivered’ but provide a condensed version of the panel highlights in the ‘panel-conversational’ style.

Continuing with the series, next up are remarks by Mr. Jeffrey Lantz, Director of Commercial Regulations and Standards. In his remarks, Lantz provides thoughts on US ballast water regulations, compliance with MARPOL Annex I and VI, and touches on a new program, QUALSHIP 21 E-Zero, designed to recognize excellence in industry environmental stewardship.

Mr. Lantz’s remarks were part of a panel discussion titled, “Compliance vs. Non-Compliance in a Distressed Shipping Market: Subject experts on the range of issues facing owners/operators today,” and moderated by Michael F. Minogue, President and CEO of ECM Maritime Services, LLC.

Good morning. It’s great to be here and I thank CMA for the invitation to participate. Today, I’ve been asked to talk about compliance with the US ballast water regulations. Like my colleague and good friend Katy Ware who just finished talking about the International Ballast Water Convention as well as other topics, I will also briefly address other US environmental compliance issues. I’ll finish up by asking us to consider consistent worldwide compliance with environmental requirements.

US Ballast water regulations

As I’m sure most everyone knows, USCG ballast water regulations, which contained a discharge standard, were promulgated on March 23, 2012. The regulations require ballast water to be treated before it can be discharged in US waters. Incidentally, the discharge standard is the same as the IMO BWM Convention discharge standard. And like the IMO, the treatment system must be type approved, but for the US, it must be USCG type approved.

The regulations also contain two other important provisions. They permit the use of an AMS (alternate management systems; i.e. IMO approved systems) for five years after a ship’s compliance date and, perhaps most critical, they provide for compliance date extensions if it is not possible for a ship to comply with the discharge standard requirements, which generally means that there is no USCG type approved system available or suitable for the ship.

On December 2, 2016, we granted our first type approval for a ballast water treatment system, which was followed by the approval of two more. Currently a fourth system is in the final stages of review and should be completed shortly. We also understand our labs are very busy with testing for other systems to receive type approval.

Prior to any treatment systems being type approved, compliance date extensions were routinely granted and a new compliance date was based on the ship’s next regularly scheduled drydock.

Now that we have type approved systems, it is no longer automatically considered that a ship cannot comply with the discharge standard. Additional justification and reasons need to be provided, which we need to consider before granting an extension.

We announced this change to our extension policy on March 6th, and made it available to the industry and public through a Marine Safety Information Bulletin as well as an announcement on our Maritime Commons blog. Hopefully, most have seen these two announcements.

When considering extension requests, we will be paying particular attention to how the ship owner/operator matches the ship’s operating profile to those of the Coast Guard type approved systems in order to achieve compliance with the regulations. We fully understand that no single system is appropriate for every ship; however, we do expect owners and operators to take advantage of engineering and operational solutions in order to install an approved system. And when engineering and operational provisions are employed, we will consider extending the compliance date based on a good detailed installation plan. However, if it is not reasonable to install a type approved system, we want to see an analysis and strategy of how the owner/operator intends to achieve compliance at a future date before we consider granting an extension.

To date, we’ve received over 13,600 requests for extensions, of which we’ve granted over 11,500 and denied over 300. However, the vast majority of the extensions were based on no type approve system being available. Since the availability of type approved systems and our new extension policy, we’ve granted 97 extensions but have denied 244 requests. Most of the denials were because the requests did not include a detailed analysis for obtaining future compliance and we expect most will be resubmitted to include that analysis.

In revising our extension policy we [recognized] the need to provide reasonable flexibility to ship owners and operators but we also need to incentivize steady progress to protect US waters from invasive species introduced through ballast water.

In addition to revising our extension policy, we are also ramping up our enforcement posture to ensure compliance with the regulations. We have been working with our field offices to better educate and inform them of the BWMS regulatory requirements and we are in the process of developing formal enforcement guidance. To date, most of the compliance issues that we have identified include:

  • Expired extension letters
  • Inoperable AMS
  • Operating past compliance date with no extension or AMS
  • Discharging untreated BW in US waters


Recently, we have taken action to require ships to use their installed AMS, or in some cases, leave port in order to conduct deep ocean exchange. We’ve also taken penalty action against at least two ships that pumped out untreated, un-exchanged BW with no extension or AMS. In one case we are pursuing a civil penalty.

We are committed to smooth implementation of the BWM regulations and to finding reasonable and practical solutions to facilitate compliance. We encourage ship owner and operators to proactively engage their flag state, class society as well as treatment system manufacturers as they work to develop compliance strategies and avoid delays, detention or eligibility to trade in US waters. We also encourage them to engage with the Coast Guard if they have questions or issues regarding compliance with the regulations.

Compliance – Annex I and Annex VI

While ballast water compliance may be perhaps the most acute issue facing the industry today, especially with the impending entry into force of the IMO BW Convention, we can’t ignore compliance issues with other environmental requirements. For instance, looking at MARPOL Annex VI, last year we issued 71 deficiencies to ships. Many of these involved the incinerator, but others included:

  • Improper bunker delivery notes
  • Operating in the ECA on non-compliant fuel, including changeover to ECA compliant fuel not completed prior to entering the ECA
  • IAPP Certificate – missing, surveys not up to date, missing engine inspection record
  • Failure to submit FONARs


Since 2012 and the entry into force of the US ECA, we’ve detained 11 ships. We’ve also issued 12 civil penalties in the last three years. Considering that we conduct approximately 9,300 PSC exams each year, I think everyone would agree, these are relatively small numbers of non-compliances. In fact they are so small, it makes us wonder if we may need to reevaluate how we conduct our Annex VI examinations, perhaps to more robustly verify ECA compliant fuel is truly being used as noted in the ship’s logs.

Unfortunately, the story for MARPOL Annex I is not quite as positive. During 2016, we identified over 330 deficiencies; however this is a significant reduction (over 30 percent) from past years. This resulted in 9 ships being detained and a number of fines being levied. The primary reasons were because of problems with the oil discharge equipment; i.e. piping, pumps, separators and 15 ppm meters, with the second most common being issues with the logs and records.

We’re still having cause for making criminal referrals to DoJ [Dept. of Justice], which is disheartening. Right now it appears the number of criminal referrals last year, four, is the lowest in years, but I don’t want to be too optimistic because sometimes it takes time for these to materialize. Currently, there are 10 shipping companies, involving 142 ships, in an Environmental Compliance Program, which resulted from criminal referrals and we expect this to grow as a result of recent judgments.

Compliance – 30,000 foot level

So far I’ve provided some detailed information regarding compliance in the US concerning MARPOL Annexes I and VI and US BW regulations. I want to elevate the discussion a bit and ask all of us to collectively consider environmental compliance in a broader context. Environmental concerns are significant today and will only increase in the future, both nationally and internationally. There must be consistent worldwide compliance and enforcement. If we don’t, our stewardship of the environment is threatened and there will not be a level playing field for the industry with consequences of regulatory uncertainty and imbalance in market forces.

I suppose that one way to try and enforce consistent compliance is by significantly ramping up PSC activities, but let’s face it, no PSC regime in the world has the resources to examine all ships all of the time, and even if they could, it would be extremely costly and disruptive. Alternatively, I suggest considering the concept of real time monitoring and reporting. Real time information on regulated operational discharges, if made available to flag and port states, would enhance compliance while allowing enforcement efforts to focus on those that do not provide the information.

There are other advantages. It could help pave the way to implement condition based compliance verification program, which would be even less costly and disruptive to the industry. In addition it would help the maritime industry tell what I believe is generally a good story about the industry’s stewardship of the environment.

The issue of consistent worldwide compliance will become more urgent with the impending 2020 global sulfur cap. This has been raised at IMO, by both countries as well as industry members. We all need to consider this issue and contribute to this important discussion at IMO.


Lastly, as the regulatory agency for the US, we are always looking for ways to incentivize, recognize and reward environmental compliance and good behavior. To that end, this year the Coast Guard is initiating an addition to our QUALSHIP 21 program that spotlights environmental compliance, performance and stewardship. We call it “QUALSHIP 21 E-Zero.” Under this initiative, we will additionally recognize QUALSHIP 21 ships that, for three years, have zero environmental detentions worldwide and zero environmental deficiencies in the US. Ships will be recognized with a certificate as well as being identified on both the Coast Guard and EQUASIS websites. It will also reduce impact of PSC exams on tank ships and we are also looking at ways to do this for other types of ships. We’re excited about this initiative and really hope it is well received within the industry.

Thank you very much.

If you’d like to continue this discussion on Maritime Commons, leave questions or thoughts in the comments below or tweet them to @maritimecommons using #USCGCMA2017

In addition to this post, please be sure to view the entire series from the Connecticut Shipping Association Shipping 2017 conference.


 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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