Commercial Vessel Compliance

Waste Reception Facility Series Part 3: Waivers and alternatives

In Part 3 of our series on Waste Reception Facility regulatory requirements, the Facility Safety Branch staff discusses waivers and alternatives, which allow the ports/terminals and the Captains of the Port to identify alternative means of ensuring they meet the intent of MARPOL 73/78.

Submitted by Galia Kaplan, Facility Safety Branch

Waivers and alternatives

As no two ports/terminals are the same, waivers and alternatives (33 CFR 158.150) allow the ports/terminals and the Captains of the Port (COTP) to identify alternative means of ensuring they meet the intent of MARPOL 73/78, which is to reduce accidental and operational pollution from ships.

The alternatives need to meet the intent of MARPOL, which means that while ports/terminals can submit a waiver request, the alternative solution can be implemented by the ship and not necessarily the port/terminal requesting the waiver.  This opens up a large range of solutions, including, for example, waiving the requirement for a port/terminal to provide reception facilities because the ships calling at the port/terminal have agreed to discharge their waste in another port. This could be a practical solution for small neighboring islands or remote locations with limited waste management/reception infrastructure. Consider this example:

A port on a small island may be issued a waiver because all ships calling at their port also call into the port of the larger neighboring island with the infrastructure needed to receive and manage the collected waste. To obtain a waiver, the person in charge of the port/terminal must show that the ocean-going ships using the port or terminal can use the proposed alternative without undue delay and without hampering their ability to comply with the discharge requirements of MARPOL 73/78. The best evidence of this could be a letter attesting to this fact from the operators of the ocean-going ships and from the person in charge of the port or terminal providing the reception facilities.  This letter would be submitted with the waiver request and reviewed by the responsible COTP.

The Coast Guard is obligated under MARPOL 73/78 to ensure adequate reception facilities are available. In applying for a waiver, the port or terminal must identify an adequate alternative for addressing the ship’s waste reception needs. Coast Guard Captains of the Port and ports/terminals persons-in-charge both commonly misinterpret the regulations to mean that a requirement can be waived, with no need of providing an alternative solution. This is incorrect. Under 33 CFR 158.150, a waiver cannot be issued if no alternative is provided, hence the use of the term waivers AND alternatives.

A port/terminal person in charge can submit a waiver request and proposed alternative for any part of the 33 CFR 158 regulations they can demonstrate as being unreasonable or impractical for their operations. If accepted, the COTP will draft a written waiver stating each alternative that applies and the requirement for which the alternative is substituted.

The person in charge of the port/terminal shall ensure that each waiver issued by the COTP is attached to the Certificate of Adequacy (COA). A COA without its waiver(s) will render the COA invalid.  As noted above, a COA must be issued to a port/terminal even if all criteria have been waived as a result of COTP approved alternatives.

Facility inspectors should verify, during the course of their inspection, that all documentation that constitute a valid COA (Application(s), Waiver(s)and the COA form issued by the Coast Guard) are presented to them as one packet and the information contained within is still applicable.

The Coast Guard has kept the regulatory requirement for a waiver simple to encourage its use when appropriate. It is a very useful tool available to both the COTPs and persons in charge of the port/terminal to ensure the adequacy of reception facilities, compliance with MARPOL 73/78, and as a way of tracking all ports/terminals who are required to have and been issued a COA.

Readers may contact Galia Kaplan at 202-372-1145 with any questions or comments.

Check out the other blogs in this series:
Waste Reception Facility Series Part 1: Documentation
Waste Reception Facility Series Part 2: Services provided by 3rd party contractors
Waste Reception Facilities Series Part 4: Fishing ports and Certificates of Adequacy

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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