12/3/2015: Shedding some light on 2012 ballast water regulations

This is the second 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

The Coast Guard has been delegated the authority to establish and enforce regulations designed to prevent the introduction and spread of Aquatic Nuisance Species, or ANS, in waters of the United States through the discharge of ballast water from vessels. This authority was granted under the Nonindigenous Aquatic Nuisance Prevention and Control Act of 1990, as amended by the National Invasive Species Act of 1996, or NISA. For years, ballast water exchange at sea was an acceptable interim management practice and a logical way to reduce the risk of harmful invasions of ANS. For many reasons, however, ballast water exchange is not well-suited as the basis for the protective ballast water programmatic regimen envisioned by NISA.

Therefore, in response to Congressional mandate, the Coast Guard amended its regulations on ballast water management in March of 2012 by establishing an achievable ballast water discharge standard for the allowable concentration of living organisms in ballast water discharged from ships into waters of the United States. The rule includes requirements under both Title 33 and Title 46 of the Code of Federal Regulations, or CFR. New requirements in 33 CFR 151 subparts C and D require commercial seagoing ships operating in U.S. waters -within 12 nm of the baseline- to manage ballast water in one of the following ways:

• Use a U.S. type-approved ballast water management systems, or BWMS, to meet the ballast water discharge standard
• Temporarily use a foreign type-approved BWMS that has been accepted by the Coast Guard as an alternate management system, or AMS
• Use and discharge ballast water obtained exclusively from a U.S. public water system
• Discharge ballast water to a reception facility
• Do not discharge ballast water inside 12 nm

Phases for compliance

Double click the image above for full-size chart.

Alternate Management Systems – AMS
The Alternate Management System, or AMS, regulation was added to the Ballast Water Discharge Standard, or BWDS, Final Rule as a “bridging strategy” to allow vessels that had installed ballast water management systems in anticipation of the IMO BWM Convention coming into force to use those systems in U.S. waters. CG-OES policy letter 12-01, dated July 2012, provides instructions to BWMS manufacturers on how to submit AMS applications to the Coast Guard. This and other guidance can be found at https://homeport.uscg.mil/ballastwater.

An AMS must be installed before the vessel’s compliance date specified in the table in 33 CFR 151.1512(b) and 151.2035(b).   The vessel may use the AMS for five years after the vessel is required to comply with the BWDS in 33 CFR 151.1511 or 151.2030. Vessels employing a properly operating AMS may discharge treated ballast to U.S. waters, subject to other prohibitions (33 CFR 151.2025(e)(f) and 151.2050) . Revocation of the foreign administration issued type approval certificate will invalidate the AMS acceptance.

A BWMS is accepted as an AMS for use in U.S. waters based solely on its type approval by a foreign administration; it is not associated with U.S. Coast Guard type approval. The foreign administration must follow the type approval guidelines set forth in the BWM Convention. Many vessel owners are hesitant to install a BWMS accepted as an AMS because there is no guarantee that the BWMS will be granted U.S. type approval. Vessel owners concerned about the long-term acceptability of a BWMS in the U.S. should exert due diligence in obtaining assurances from manufacturers that they will seek and achieve type approval of their BWMS.

Extensions
The owner(s) of a vessel may apply for an extension to the original compliance date listed in the CFR only if they can document that despite all efforts, compliance with the regulations is not possible. Because the Coast Guard has not yet type-approved any BWMS (as of the time this blog is published), and because ballast water reception facilities and U.S. public water system sources are not generally available or practicable for vessel ballast operations, the Coast Guard is granting extensions to the compliance schedule for ships with drydock dates scheduled through 2016. Vessels are normally granted extensions until the date of their next scheduled drydock. Currently, over 2,000 extensions have been granted to qualifying vessels. In the future we will continue to balance the need to ensure timely compliance with the regulations and the practical realities associated with the availability of type approved systems, manufacturing, and shipyard capacity.

U.S. Coast Guard Type-Approval
The type-approval process begins when the manufacturer enters into an agreement with a Coast Guard-approved Independent Laboratory, or IL, to begin the required evaluations and testing. Early in this process, much of the work entails extensive planning and logistical arrangements. Prior to beginning actual land-based or shipboard efficacy tests, the manufacturer submits a Letter of Intent, or LOI, to the Coast Guard expressing its intention to start such testing at an IL.   As of October 2015, 30 manufacturers have filed LOIs; about half that number are at some stage of testing with one of the five approved ILs. ILs have indicated that the test facilities they use are largely booked through the end of 2015 and for most of 2016. BWMS type-approval procedures and tests are described in 46 CFR 162.060, along with requirements for approval of test organizations as ILs. The type approval process will be presented in more detail in Part 5 of this series.

Look out for the next blog that compares the U.S. ballast water regulations to the IMO Ballast Water Management Convention.

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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