This post kicks off our coverage of the Coast Guard’s participation at the Ballast Water Management and Technology North America conference in Florida last week. Maritime Commons will post recaps of each of the presentations for the benefit of our readers who were unable to attend.
Staff from the offices of Commercial Vessel Compliance, Operating and Environmental Standards, and the Marine Safety Center presented on various aspects of the Coast Guard’s ballast water management program before an audience of over 140 maritime industry professionals at the Ballast Water Management and Technology North America conference in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., Sept. 25-27, 2018.
Cdr. Alan Moore, with the Office of Commercial Vessel Compliance, provided keynote remarks on Coast Guard ballast water management regulations, how to achieve compliance, and enforcement aspects. Moore, who is the chief of the Port State Control Division, began his remarks by reminding attendees of the Coast Guard’s key guidance documents: Policy Letter 18-02, “Guidelines for Evaluating Potential Courses of Action When a Vessel Bound for a Port in the United States has an Inoperable Ballast Water Management (BWM) System,” and Navigation and Vessel Inspection Circular 01-18, “Ballast Water Management For Control of Non-Indigenous Species in Waters of the United States.”
Moore also noted that accurate ballast water reporting via the National Ballast Water Information Clearinghouse website is integral for verifying compliance, and he highlighted the resources available through the NBIC website such as forms and reporting requirements. Although NBIC manages the information, Moore reminded attendees that operational issues should be reported to the local captain of the port, which maintains a 24/7 command center.
Port State Compliance Options
There are four main options for owners/operators to comply with U.S. regulations: No discharge of ballast water within U.S. waters; use of a Coast Guard type approved BWM system; discharge to an onshore facility or to another vessel for treatment; or exclusive use of water from a U.S. public water system. Owners/operators may also employ one of two temporary compliance options: use of an alternative management system, for a period not to exceed five years; and/or request of a compliance date extension.
Of these four main options, Moore said that most owners/operators are pursuing installation of a Coast Guard type approved system, but many are currently operating with an AMS and/or a compliance date extension.
“The regulations still give a lot of flexibility for compliance whether Coast Guard type approved, interim AMS and/or compliance date extension or other BWM methods,” Moore said. “Regarding the latter, ballast water management method options vary port-to-port based on resource availability and other factors, all of which are considerations for the ship owner/operator to consider when referring to their ballast water management plan.”
Port State Control Examinations
Moore stressed that from the Port State Control point of view, BWMS operational performance and compliance with standards is treated the same as other shipboard systems and discharges.
“There may be a misconception that the Coast Guard jumps straight into detailed ballast water management system inspections and operational tests aboard foreign ships during Port State Control exams,” Moore said. “This approach is more commensurate with Flag state inspections since the Coast Guard is the issuer of the certificate of inspection, but when a ship is due for a PSC exam, international procedures call for first verifying survey certificates, records, logs, and conducting a cursory walk through to see if there are any obvious issues. If we see something, we proceed with conducting a more detailed inspection per IMO procedures for Port State Control.”
Moore also stressed that a key component of compliance is operating in accordance with the vessel’s safety management system. As the ISM code states, if there’s a correlation with a safety management system issue, it could be an ISM-related deficiency or detainable deficiency.
Moore said from a Port State Control perspective, if the Coast Guard identifies an issue, the Port State Control officers will discuss the issue with the master. Depending on the severity, options may include issuing a deficiency, such as requiring repairs prior to departure or return to U.S. waters. “If it’s something more serious that threatens the vessel, the crew or the marine environment, we can escalate it to a detainable deficiency,” he added.
For a complete breakdown of the top deficiencies, resulting operational controls, and enforcement actions, review the 2017 Port State Control Annual Report.
Inoperable BWMS – Investigations and Enforcement
Moore said if issues are encountered before entering U.S. waters, owners/operators should follow their ballast water management and contingency plans and give prompt notice to the cognizant captain of the port or district commander. This also can also be annotated in the Notice and Arrival, especially if deemed a hazardous condition (e.g., safety/stability related). The captain of the port will assess the ship’s BWMS contingency plan and/or repair proposal in the same manner as when a ship experiences operational issues en route to a U.S. port (e.g., navigation safety, propulsion or cargo equipment related). Due to a multitude of variables, courses of action may vary vessel-by-vessel and port to port.
“Contingency and repair proposals are reviewed thoroughly in an expedient manner, so the more effort and details that go into preparing them, the more successful the outcome will be in support of safe and efficient cargo operations,” Moore said.
Further, Moore noted that if the vessel will cross multiple captain of the port zones with an inoperable BWMS, it is recommended that the owner/operator contact the captain of the port at the final destination for any additional guidance specific to that geographic location.
Rights of Appeal
Moore then discussed the rights of appeal process an owner/operator should follow if, as the result of a PSC exam, the owner/operator disagrees with the marine inspector’s or captain of the port’s decision to issue a deficiency or detention. In those instances, owners/operators should follow the guidance found on the back of the PSC form.
“It’s important to point out that before submitting a formal appeal, the regulations state the owner/operator may ask the captain of the port to reconsider their decision,” Moore said. “If it is beneficial to discuss the circumstances, I encourage the company to take the time to meet with the captain of the port, if possible. If there is still a disagreement, the owner/operator may continue pursuing the appeal process by submitting in writing as stated in 46 CFR Subpart 1.03 – Rights of Appeal.
Moore concluded his presentation by highlighting some of the key points of the NVIC 01-18:
• Unmanaged ballast water discharge is prohibited in the U.S. unless there is a safety or stability issue.
• Crew training and familiarity is crucial for BWMS operations and aligns with ISM and SMS requirements.
• Owners/operators should test their BWMS frequently to ensure it is reliable before operating in U.S. waters and beyond.
• A properly functioning BWMS is integral to efficient cargo operations and necessary to avoid potential delays and should be treated like any other vital shipboard system.
• Contact the nearest captain of the port when unexpected operational/technical issues arise that affect the operability of the BWMS. It is also recommended that the destination captain of the port be contacted.
“Treating the BWMS with the same importance as all vital shipboard systems will enable the ship to arrive and conduct efficient cargo operations,” Moore said. “Maintaining regular communications and coordination with all PSC safety net stakeholders is important, especially when operational or technical issues arise. This leads to efficient and effective coordination for resolving any issues encountered.”
For a breakdown of all captain of the port and officer in charge, marine inspector (OCMI) zones, contact information, locations, and unit directories, visit the newly revamped Homeport.
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.