12/2/2015: Ballast water series from the Coast Guard’s Assistant Commandant for Prevention Policy

This is the first post in a six-part series of blogs on Maritime Commons to provide updates and information about the Coast Guard’s ballast water regulations and implementation.

I look forward to sharing this information with you as we work hard to protect the environment while ensuring the safety and security of the marine transportation system.

From the desk of Rear Adm. Paul Thomas, assistant commandant for prevention policy

This blog series on Maritime Commons will provide information and updates for both those who are new to the subject of ballast water management and the more experienced maritime professionals. My staff recently participated in the 4th Annual Ballast Water Management Technology North America Conference, where they had comprehensive discussions with manufacturers, vessel owners and operators, independent labs and other stakeholders about all aspects of U.S. regulations and implementation of the ballast water program. During this conference, and several other recent engagements with the maritime industry, we noted several repeated areas of concern and confusion which prompted me to publish this series on Maritime Commons.

Over this six-part series I will provide basic details and clarify confusion about the U.S. ballast water regulations published in 2012, compare U.S. regulations and the International Maritime Organization ballast water Convention, summarize the Coast Guard type-approval process, discuss type-approval challenges, provide an overview of ballast water treatment systems technologies and other relevant topics.

First, I would like to highlight a few realities associated with addressing this complex issue. Innovative methods and technologies to effectively reduce the risks of harmful aquatic invasive species have advanced dramatically in the past decade. Despite these advances, many significant challenges remain unresolved. Multiple treatment systems must be developed to fit the variety of worldwide ships operating within diverse environments. Each environment contains diverse organisms that are transient by nature and react differently to various treatment methods at any given time. While these challenges remain, we are leveraging outside technical expertise to build a comprehensive and practical environmental testing and verification program. We are engaging with environmental stakeholders, non-governmental organizations and industry in the U.S. and international communities to ensure that all ballast water treatment initiatives align with Coast Guard requirements as much as practicable, and we continue to communicate with maritime stakeholders to identify and address compliance hurdles.

With the help of other federal agencies, ballast water manufacturers, ship owners, class societies and various industry stakeholders, the Coast Guard has undertaken substantial work to implement the 2012 ballast regulations.

Accomplishments to date include:

  • Implementation and administration of accepting alternative management systems – over 50 have been accepted;
  • Review and approval of independent laboratories, or IL, to conduct testing on Coast Guard’s behalf and submit type approval packages for approval – five ILs have been approved;
  • More than 30 letters of intent have been submitted to the Coast Guard indicating manufacturer intentions to test ballast water treatment systems;
  • Review and response to policy questions regarding design and testing of ballast water management systems during conceptual pre-approval stages;
  • Issuance of letters for more than 2,000 vessel extensions to compliance dates;
  • Engagement with interagency and international experts and stakeholders to evaluate implementation policies, including providing input to the IMO Convention G8 guidelines;
  • Publication of a marine safety information bulletin clarifying the definition of “first scheduled dry dock” and an update to the extension policy that extends vessel compliance dates until the next scheduled dry dock.

I hope you’ll find this series informative and useful. Although the path to type-approval that we have laid out will not be an easy one, the Coast Guard believes that it is achievable and realistic.

Outside of this six-part series, you can find ballast water management program guidance and updates on the Marine Safety Center’s website under ‘Ballast Water Management.’

Read the 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: Ballast water – 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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