Commercial Vessel Compliance

12/1/2017: Ballast Water Series Part 5 – Contingency planning for ballast water management


From the desk of Rear Adm. John Nadeau, assistant commandant for prevention policy

Earlier in this series, I discussed the Coast Guard’s intention to enforce compliance with the ballast water discharge standards similar to how we enforce regulations restricting the discharge of oil and sewage. We expect all ballast water discharged to U.S. waters to be managed and reported in compliance with federal regulations. As with other environmental laws and regulations, planning for compliance requires planning for contingencies. For ballast water, contingency planning should be included in the vessel-specific ballast water management plan (BWMP).

The BWMP should provide succinct directions and alternate measures to be taken if a ballast water management system (BWMS) is inoperable or the vessel’s intended compliance method is unexpectedly unavailable. In a recent issue of NAMEPA magazine, Rear Adm. Paul Thomas discussed the requirements for and importance of BWMPs. I encourage you to review the information presented there.

The BWMP should provide contingency measures that are specific to the vessel, its operational profile, and its intended ballast water management method. The BWMP should also outline the procedure for consulting with the Captain of the Port (COTP) and reporting to the National Ballast Information Clearinghouse (NBIC).

If a BWMS stops operating properly during a voyage, or the intended management method is unexpectedly unavailable, regulations in 33CFR151.1515 and 2040 require that the vessel owner or operator inform the nearest COTP as soon as practicable. Although it is not required by the regulations, I recommend that the vessel owner or operator also contact the destination COTP as soon as practicable to identify options for compliance with the ballast water regulations.

If a vessel representative contacts the COTP regarding a vessel in U.S. waters with unmanaged ballast water or an inoperable BWMS, the first question the COTP might ask is, “What does your BWMP direct you to do?” The second question may be, “How do you plan to comply with the regulations?” Additional information the COTP may request includes the length of time the system has been inoperable, the suspected cause of failure, repairs already completed, a schedule for proposed corrective action, and other operational data. The COTP will use this information to confirm the BWMS meets the “unexpectedly unavailable” threshold under 33CFR151.2040(b). Specifically, the COTP needs to determine if attempts to repair the BWMS are supported by communications with the manufacturer and other compliant ballast water management methods are available.

As with other instances of potential noncompliance, if a vessel is discovered to not be in compliance with the regulations, the COTP may impose operational controls that restrict the vessel’s movement or cargo operations, a monetary penalty, and a higher priority consideration for future examinations. Restrictions in cargo operations can be significant and include port, agent or pilot fees, additional fuel costs, and cargo delays. There is also the potential for prosecution if there is evidence of criminal intent.

As I wrap up this five-part series, let me close by stating that compliance is now possible, and expected. The Coast Guard has transitioned from program implementation to compliance and enforcement. Just as we worked to address previous environmental threats in the past, the Coast Guard will continue to work with industry to achieve compliance and protect the environment from threats posed by invasive species. As always, we welcome and look forward to your feedback.

Editor’s Note: We hope you’ve enjoyed Rear Adm. Nadeau’s ballast water series. Links to the other four blogs in the series are pasted below.

11/30/2017: Ballast Water Series Part 4 – The “plug and play” ballast water management system
11/29/2017: Ballast Water Series Part 3 – Coast Guard BWMS type approval program update
11/28/2017: Ballast Water Series Part 2 – The Coast Guard’s focus on compliance
11/27/2017: New ballast water series from Coast Guard’s assistant commandant for prevention policy

12/5/2017: Summary of Q&A with USCG panelists during BWMTechnology North America

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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