Commercial Vessel Compliance

6/19/2018: Posidonia 2018 – Role of the Regulator

In part two of our series covering Coast Guard participation at Posidonia this month, Rear Adm. John Nadeau, assistant commandant for prevention policy, continues his discussion at the Hellenic Marine Environment Protection Association’s (HELMEPA) conference on air emissions, shifting to the role of the regulator in the fast-past and ever-changing global maritime shipping industry, all in the context of ballast water management regulations. This post provides a condensed version of Nadeau’s remarks for the benefit of our readers who were unable to attend the conference.

Photo of Rear Adm. John Nadeau, assistant commandant for prevention policy, Ms. Ch. Prekezes, HELMEPA Executive Coordinator, and Mr. D. Mitsatsos, HELMEPA Director General

(Left) Rear Adm. John Nadeau, assistant commandant for prevention policy, Ms. Ch. Prekezes, HELMEPA Executive Coordinator, and Mr. D. Mitsatsos, HELMEPA Director General

Role of the Regulator

“People often ask me what I think the role of the regulator is in the maritime shipping industry. In my honest opinion, regulators must always be mindful of the need to facilitate commerce, and do our best not to impede it. Regulations are in response to mandates from our publicly elected officials, international obligations, and demands from industry and the public. They provide the certainty needed for investment and innovation, and level the playing field to promote fair competition and free market solutions.

Regulators must work in coordination with industry, academia and science, interagency partners, and public and international counterparts to develop risk-based performance standards that provide industry flexibility in compliance strategies. Regulators must focus on practical implementation and measured enforcement, particularly for new regulations. Regulators must have a fully informed common sense approach to development and implementation to manage risk in an increasingly complex Marine Transportation System.

I’d like to shift gears a little and offer a couple brief comments on ballast water management regulations.

The transfer of invasive species through untreated ballast water is a serious environmental issue, and enforcement of ballast water regulations continues to be an area of intense focus for us.

We have shifted our focus towards enforcement, and vessel owners and operators must focus on compliance. In the past, we were more generous about issuing extensions because we were aware that the availability of these systems was limited. However, we now have 7 type approved systems, with more on the way, that we believe address a range of vessel needs and operations. For that reason, the issuance of extensions will be much more limited to only those cases where despite the best efforts of the owner or operator, compliance is not yet possible but a strategy has been developed to meet the requirements. Extension requests must demonstrate that the owner or operator has thoroughly evaluated the existing type approved systems and other compliance methods and found them to be inadequate.

In 2017, Port State Control examiners documented 220 ballast water management deficiencies. Most were related to incomplete record keeping, lack of a sufficient ballast water management plan, or discharge of untreated ballast water. In 17 cases, we issued operational controls restricting vessel movement.

To help you navigate this issue, we recently published a number of guidance documents: First, a new NVIC (01-18) that provides our latest guidance to industry to include limited extensions to compliance dates. Second, we published a policy letter that provides courses of action when a vessel bound for the U.S. has an inoperable system. Finally, we posted a piece on extensions on our Maritime Commons blog. I encourage you to follow our Maritime Commons blog, our staff there is really committed to getting this information out to you.

We are fully aware that ballast water management has been and will continue to be a tough pill to swallow. However, we have tried to maintain flexibility while ensuring compliance with the regulations, and we will continue to do so.

In closing, shipping is without doubt the most efficient means of moving food, energy supply, and goods and products between regions, people, and markets around the globe. Shipping will continue to be the most reliable and efficient means of transporting goods and our challenge is ensuring the safety of this ever-growing Marine Transportation System in an age of rapidly changing technology.

In light of this, I believe this trend of increasing focus on environmental standards is not going to subside anytime soon. We have been working on reducing air emissions and managing ballast water for three decades, but we are not done. Increasing stakeholder expectations will continue to place pressure on flag states and the maritime industry to reduce the environmental footprint of shipping.

We should all recall that the cornerstone of environmental compliance is a good safety management system. There must be procedures, planning, and training in place to ensure success and compliance.

The U.S. Coast Guard remains committed to working with all member states at the IMO. We firmly believe that this global industry requires the kind of certainty, consistency and efficiency that can only be delivered through international regulation. We will continue to look to and leverage the IMO to address safety, security and environmental protection. And we will continue to look for opportunities to open windows within the regulatory regime to allow for efficiencies, flexibility, and innovation.

Thank you for your time today. I look forward to talking with you.”

Editor’s note: In part three of our series tomorrow, Nadeau talks further about ballast water management regulations, and then closes with a discussion on global trends and the impacts to the Marine Transportation System.

Read the other posts in our Posidonia 2018 series.


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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