Commercial Vessel Compliance

6/20/2018: Posidonia 2018 – Ballast water management regulations, global trends in the 21st Century

In part three of our Posidonia series, we share a condensed version of Rear Adm. John Nadeau’s remarks given during a conference jointly sponsored by the American Hellenic Chamber of Commerce, North American Marine Environment Protection Association (NAMEPA), and the International Propeller Club in Port of Piraeus. 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. Nadeau’s remarks below begin with a discussion on extensions, but for general information about ballast water management and type approval, we invite you to read our original six-part ballast water series from 2015 and our more recent five-part series from 2017. Links to both series are at the end of this post.

Photo of Rear Adm. Nadeau

Ballast Water Management Regulations

“A request for a ballast water management system compliance extension must explicitly state and provide evidence that one of the five accepted methods spelled out in the regulations, including installation of a type approved system, is not possible before compliance date. As a refresher, those five methods are:

1. Installing and using a Coast Guard type approved ballast water management system to meet discharge standards
2. Temporary use of an Alternate Management System
3. Use of water from a U.S. public water system
4. Discharge of ballast water to an appropriate reception facility
5. Discharge of ballast water more than 12 nautical miles from shore

As I have previously stated, the Coast Guard is increasing its focus on enforcement and compliance. We recognize there are some problems with supplies, support, training, system malfunctions, and maintenance requirements. But, we are actively enforcing the requirement. Every domestic and Port State Control exam assesses compliance, and failure of the exam may result in penalties. Marine inspectors will verify crew knowledge of the equipment, examine the condition of the equipment, and review documentation and the type approval certificate.

I cannot emphasize enough the importance for owners and operators to review and update their ballast water management plan routinely. Exchange and AMS are being phased out as compliance options and you must understand the other options, train your crews, and incorporate ballast water management into your safety management system.

Your ship-specific ballast water management plan should include training, safety and documentation procedures, contingency plans if the system is rendered inoperable, detailed fouling maintenance and sediment removal procedures, and procedures for coordinating your strategy and any problems with the Captain of the Port. The plan should also identify your designated officer in charge of ballast water management.

We realize there are requirements from multiple U.S. agencies and states that cover ballast water management. The Coast Guard recognizes that a common-sense solution is needed, but in the meantime, let me summarize the different requirements and how they intersect.

The Clean Water Act requires all regulated discharges to meet effluent limitations. Clean Water Act permits, either individual or general, are good for five years. Given the large number of potential sources of vessels, EPA made the decision to use general permits. The 2013 Vessel General Permit (VGP) includes numeric ballast water discharge limits consistent with Coast Guard regulations and the IMO convention.

We coordinate with and have a 2011 memorandum of understanding with the EPA. The Clean Water Act does not allow EPA to offer extensions to compliance dates. However, EPA treats vessels with Coast Guard extensions as a low enforcement priority. Coast Guard rules do not apply to crude oil tankers in coastwise trade, but these are subject to the VGP.

Some U.S. states have ballast water requirements either in regulations or in the VGP. The National Invasive Species Act and Clean Water Act do not give the Coast Guard authority to preempt states. States can also add requirements to the VGP by certification letters to EPA. The bottom line is that vessels that have reached compliance date will not be allowed to discharge unmanaged ballast water in U.S. waters.

Global Trends in the 21st Century

I’d like to take a few moments now to look ahead at how global trends will affect the maritime industry. There are limitless opportunities out there, but with that comes risk and vulnerabilities, particularly when it comes to technology – like AI, blockchain technology, nanotechnology, drones, and autonomy. We need to be responsible stewards.

We must also consider the complexities of the global environment we operate in – physical, social, economic, and political changes that although may not be imminent, are worth watching. Rising seas, more sudden and extreme weather and the stress these will have on the water and food supply. The UN predicts that half of the world’s population will face water shortages due to population growth and the resulting increase in consumption. Potential increases in the spread of infectious diseases and the role port states will have to play in providing treatment.

The Coast Guard, and all of you, must strive for safety, security, and stewardship in the global maritime commons. We need effective, relevant governance that involves port, coastal, and flag states, maritime industry, and other stakeholders.

My predecessor, Rear Adm. Paul Thomas, described these impacts on the Marine Transportation System as the Triple Challenge. First, the increased demands on finite, aging infrastructure creates operational risks that must be managed through improved mariner situational awareness and enhanced navigation. Second, this is happening as we see a growing desire from domestic and international regulators and non-governmental organizations to decrease shipping’s environmental footprint. Last, technology introduces threats and vulnerabilities from cyber-based systems and automation and new strategies are needed to ensure safety and security.

We can’t be defeated by failure of imagination. We must all embrace a willingness to take risks, dream, and innovate. To meet the challenges of the 21st Century, we need effective governance.

Thank you.”

Editor’s note: Tomorrow, in the final post in our Posidonia 2018 series, we share a condensed version of remarks by Rear Adm. Nadeau to a group of young maritime professionals and junior seafarers on the next chapter of shipping and the impacts of digitalization and the role of safety management systems.

Read the other posts in our Posidonia 2018 series.

2017 five-part ballast water series:

Part 5: Contingency planning for ballast water management
Part 4: The “plug and play” ballast water management system
Part 3: Coast Guard BWMS type approval program update
Part 2: The Coast Guard’s focus on compliance
Part 1: New ballast water series from Coast Guard’s assistant commandant for prevention policy

2015 six-part ballast water series:

Part 1: Ballast water series from the Assistant Commandant for Prevention Policy
Part 2: Shedding some light on 2012 ballast water regulations
Part 3: Ballast water – U.S. Regulations compared to International Convention
Part 4: Living vs. viable
Part 5: Ballast water type approval process
Part 6: Ballast water type approval challenges for industry

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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