Commercial Vessel Compliance

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

Editor’s note: We hope you enjoyed Rear Adm. Nadeau’s ballast water series last week. As a bonus, Maritime Commons is providing the following summary of questions asked of Coast Guard panelists and their responses during September’s 4th Annual BWMTech North America Conference. Ms. Regina Bergner, environmental protection specialist in the Environmental Standards Division, answered questions pertaining to the background, status and policy of Coast Guard ballast water regulations. Dr. Richard Everett, environmental protection specialist in the Environmental Standards Division, answered technical questions on the Coast Guard ballast water regulation. Lt. Maria Wiener with the Marine Safety Center answered questions on BWMS type approval.

Questions about Coast Guard Policy and Compliance

Has the Coast Guard’s focus changed now that the convention has entered into force?
The Coast Guard is enforcing compliance with the U.S. ballast water management regulations. Entry into force of the IMO ballast water management convention on September 8, 2017, does not affect U.S. regulations.

How does the Coast Guard view unmanaged ballast water?
The Coast Guard is focused on compliance with our ballast water management regulations. The Coast Guard considers compliance with ballast water regulations as important as compliance with other pollution prevention requirements.

If my ballast water management system (BWMS) is inoperable, which Captain of the Port (COTP) should I notify?
The regulations state that you should notify the COTP or District Commander nearest to the location where the failure is experienced. The regulation was written that way to take into consideration any safety issues the ship may be facing due to the inoperable or malfunctioning BWMS. However, in addition to the nearest COTP, we also recommend that you notify the destination COTP because that’s who will work with you regarding your arrival.

What advice or guidance do you have for owners and operators when it comes to addressing contingencies in their BWMS plans?
It’s important to understand that the vessel’s ballast water management plan (BWMP) must specifically address how to comply with the regulations if the intended method of ballast water management is not available. The plan should include strategies available to the vessel based on its capabilities, route and voyage duration.

What can a vessel owner/operator expect if a BWMS or discharged ballast water is determined to be non-compliant?
As with other instances of noncompliance, if a vessel is discovered to be out of compliance with U.S. requirements, the COTP may impose operational controls that restrict the vessel’s movement or cargo operation, monetary penalty, and a higher priority consideration for future examinations. Restrictions in cargo operations can cost a vessel owner anywhere from $30,000 to more than $100,000 for port, agent, or pilot fees; additional fuel; cargo delays; or other penalties. There is also the potential for prosecution if criminal intent is suspected.

Is there a target percentage of arriving ships that will be inspected for compliance with the ballast water management requirements?
There is no statutory or regulatory requirement to conduct ballast water management examinations of a specific percentage of vessels arriving to U.S. ports. Port State Control examination targeting is discussed in published guidance. See the Marine Safety Manual, Volume II.

Can the Coast Guard use fines or fees to cover the cost of conducting compliance testing?
Any fines or fees collected by the Coast Guard are deposited into the general fund of the U.S. Treasury. They are not used to reimburse the Coast Guard.

How does the Coast Guard define a “clean” tank in the context of a ship using water from a U.S. Public Water System (PWS), or of a ship beginning a period of exclusive operation within a single COTP zone?
U.S. regulations require that ships using water from a PWS must have previously cleaned the ballast tanks, including removing all residual sediments. Vessel operators using water from a PWS must certify that they have previously cleaned the ballast tanks (including removing all residual sediments) in accordance with their BWMP. Tank cleaning should be documented in the ballast water record book.

How is ballast water treated if it’s being discharged to a barge that doesn’t have a treatment facility?
Under 33 CFR 151.2025(a)(5), vessels may discharge to a treatment facility. Under 151.2050(i), such facilities must have a National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit to discharge the treated ballast water.

How does the Coast Guard define “install” as stated in 33 CFR 151.2024(a)(1): “install and operate a Coast Guard approved BWMS.”
The Coast Guard considers the term ” install” to mean placing the BWMS in or on the vessel, connecting it to the ballast system, and supplying it with all of the services and conditions necessary for its proper operation in accordance with the type approval certificate and the Operation, Maintenance, and Safety Manual.

BWMS that employ ultraviolet light as a treatment method are being designed and tested for type approval with a “dual mode” feature – that is, the unit can switch between “IMO” and “USCG” modes. In the “IMO” mode, lower intensity UV is used to render organisms nonviable, whereas in the “USCG” mode, higher intensity UV is used to kill organism. How will these systems be addressed during USCG type approval and during compliance inspections?
A dual-mode system will be evaluated for type approval in the mode that is appropriate for use in U.S. waters. All ballast discharged to U.S. waters must be treated in the mode in which it was type approved by the Coast Guard, and operations must be documented in the ballast water record book.

Where does the ETV Tech Panel evaluation of the Most Probable Number (MPN) method stand? If the Tech Panel finds an MPN method acceptable, will it be incorporated into the type approval procedure in 46 CFR 162.060? Will the discharge standard be changed? Can changes to the regulation text be done through policy or will additional regulations be developed?
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Environmental Technology Verification (ETV) program’s expert panel plans to assess a method for determining the number of viable (rather than living) organisms in treated ballast water. If a method is validated and approved by the EPA’s ETV expert panel, a revised protocol could be included in an update to the current regulations.

Questions about the Alternate Management System (AMS) Program

Is an extension possible for a shipowner if an alternate management system (AMS) ceases to work during the AMS 5-year period – particularly if this happens relatively early, before a formal plan to upgrade the AMS or install a new BWMS is identified?
Extensions are not granted for vessels with inoperable BWMS. Inoperable BWMSs will be treated like other pollution prevention equipment that fails or cannot perform its intended function as designed. An AMS installed before a vessel’s original or extended compliance date may be used for no longer than 5 years from the date the vessel would otherwise be required to comply in accordance with the implementation schedule in 33 CFR 151.2035(b).

Is an extension of the AMS period or an extension of the vessel’s compliance date possible if during the 5-year AMS period the plan to upgrade an AMS or replace it with a Coast Guard type approved BWMS is not possible because the identified BWMS manufacturer goes out of business?
Use of AMS may extend a vessel’s compliance date, but it is not a long-term compliance strategy. Ifan installed AMS is not type approved by the Coast Guard before the 5 years expires, the BWMS must be modified or replaced to meet the requirements of 33 CFR 151.2025(a)(1). Alternatively, the vessel can comply with the ballast water management requirements by one of the other methods listed under 33 CFR 151.2025.

If an AMS is subsequently type approved by the Coast Guard, can a system that was installed as an AMS prior to the type approval continue to be used as an AMS for the full 5-year period?
A BWMS installed as an AMS in accordance with 33 CFR 151.2026 may be used as an AMS for the full 5-year period after the vessel would otherwise be required to comply with the implementation schedule in 151.2035(b). If the vessel intends to use the same BWMS for compliance after the 5-year AMS period, it must be fitted prior to expiry with a type approval nameplate, in accordance with 46 CFR 162.060-22. This marking requirement also applies to an AMS that is upgraded to a type approved configuration.

Questions about the Type Approval Program

How does USCG address the issue of non-support by manufacturers during TA renewal? Many shipowners claim they are experiencing difficulty in getting manufacturers to provide parts or service.
Regulations under 46 CFR 162.060-18(d) state that the Coast Guard may suspend type approval for a system if it cannot be maintained to operate as designed, due to lack of parts or necessary support services.

Independent Laboratories (IL) that are also Class Societies are imposing class requirements on BWMS being tested for USCG type approval, meaning that a system is required to meet that Class’ specific requirements for equipment prior to going through testing. What is the Coast Guard’s position on this issue?
Manufacturers may design their systems in any way they choose, as long as they comply with the type approval regulations.

Questions about Compliance Date Extensions

Will the Coast Guard continue to grant extensions for a vessel’s compliance date?
Although the Coast Guard may still grant compliance date extensions, extensions themselves are not a strategy to meet the regulatory requirements. Extensions will only be granted for vessels that can document that, although compliance is not possible now, a strategy is in place to meet the requirements within a specific timeframe. Extension requests must also document that each of the U.S. type approved systems were evaluated as part of the vessel’s compliance strategy and other compliance methods allowed by the regulations were considered, and the application must provide an argument as to why each is not considered suitable for the vessel.

For a full recap of the Coast Guard’s participation in the conference, check out our previous Maritime Commons post:

11/21/2017: Preview of upcoming ballast water series from assistant commandant for prevention

Read our new blog series:

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


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