Commercial Vessel Compliance

Waste Reception Facilities Series Part 4: Fishing ports and Certificates of Adequacy

In the last post of our series on Waste Reception Facility regulatory requirements, the Facility Safety Branch staff discusses how MARPOL 73/78 governing waste reception facilities applies to the three different categories of commercial fishing ports.

Submitted by Galia Kaplan, Facility Safety Branch

In 1989 when developing 33 CFR 158, the Coast Guard estimated that Annex V of MARPOL 73/78 (regulations for the prevention of pollution by garbage from ships) would apply to about 9 million ships, including privately owned recreational craft utilizing more than 10,000 ports and terminals in the United States. Because of the large numbers of ports or terminals to which Annex V applies, Congress did not require the Coast Guard to issue Certificates of Adequacy (COAs) to ports or terminals handling MARPOL 73/78 Annex V wastes. However, in drafting 33 CFR 158 regulations, the Coast Guard exercised its discretionary authority and limited the number of those ports or terminals required to obtain a COA. This decision balanced the Coast Guard’s commitment to fulfill its international and domestic obligations under MARPOL 73/78 and the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships (APPS) against the potential burden on the public and Coast Guard resources, if all ports or terminals were required to apply for COAs.

When considering fishing ports, only those that land over 500,000 pounds of commercial fish products per year are required to apply for a COA for garbage (33 CFR 158.135.(c) (2)). Commercial fishing facilities receive a substantial number of fishing vessels that generate thousands of metric tons of plastics per year, including nets and net fragments as garbage, and it is important to ensure these facilities provide adequate reception facilities for this type of waste.

The threshold figure of 500,000 pounds was obtained through consultations with the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), which indicated commercial fishing facilities receiving greater than this quantity of fish annually service a majority of commercial fishing vessels. This cutoff was based upon the best information available in 1989 when the regulation was published and still holds true based on current data.

Some ports historically land over 500,000 pounds per year, which provides consistent data for future predictions of ports requiring a COA. However, it is difficult to make the same confident predictions for ports or terminals that do not have the same consistent historical catches.

Ports or terminals with fluctuations in landings over the past six years (2013-2018 inclusive) can be categorized into three groups, reflected in the table below.

Final determination of Groups 2 and 3 should be reached through discussions between the fishing port or terminal and the COTP. Any deviations from the 33 CFR 158 requirements must be captured in a waiver letter signed by the COTP (see Blog 3 of 4 of this series concerning Waivers and Alternatives).

Regardless of the need to obtain and maintain a COA, fishing ports and terminals are still required to provide waste reception facilities for garbage that meets the criteria of adequacy in 33 CFR 158 Subpart D; each COTP has the authority to conduct inspections of ports and terminals required to have reception facilities. This means that the Coast Guard has the authority to ensure ports/terminals comply with 33 CFR 158 regulations relating to reception facilities for garbage, even if the port/terminal is not required to have a COA.  

The enforcement options available to the COTP range from denying ships access to any fishing port or any other port, terminal, dock or recreational marina that is required to provide receptions facilities for garbage, whether they have a COA or not. COTPs may also issue civil penalties up to $14,190 for each false statement or representation and $74,552 for any MARPOL violation.

Readers may contact Galia Kaplan at 202-372-1145 galia.kaplan@uscg.mil 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 Facility Series Part 3: Waivers and alternatives

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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