10/11/2018: Ballast Water Management & Technology North America conference – Recap of presentation on extensions, type approval and next steps

Continuing our coverage of September’s Ballast Water Management and Technology North America conference, staff from the Office of Operating and Environmental Standards and the Marine Safety Center gave conference attendees an update on various aspects of the Coast Guard’s ballast water program. Following is a recap of those presentations for our readers who were unable to attend.

photo of panelists giving presentations

Coast Guard staff present on various topics related to the ballast water program during September’s BWMTechNA in Florida.

Ms. Regina Bergner and Mr. Matthew Reudelhuber with the Office of Operating and Environmental Standards, and Lt. Jacob Baldassini with the Marine Safety Center, each presented on various elements of the Coast Guard’s ballast water program during a panel session at the Ballast Water Management and Technology North America conference, held in Fort Lauderdale, Sept. 25-27, 2018.

Bergner, an environmental scientist, kicked off the session with an overview of changes to the organizational structure of the Office of Operating and Environmental Standards (OES) as one way to improve the communication flow within the Coast Guard’s ballast water program. Bergner also briefly discussed the final rule, published last week, eliminating the annual reporting requirement for vessels operating exclusively in one captain of the port zone.

Bergner then reiterated that after completing extensive outreach and education with industry stakeholder groups, the Coast Guard has transitioned from implementation to compliance because of the availability of Coast Guard type approved systems.

“We view invasive species and ballast water control technologies the same as we do any other pollution prevention equipment and take a similar enforcement stance,” she said. Ship owners and operators should identify and plan for contingencies in the vessel’s ballast water management plan; the plan should outline procedures to be followed when the preferred ballast water management method is not available.

“If you have a problem and contact the Captain of the Port, the first thing they’re going to want to know is what’s in your ballast water management plan,” Bergner said. “If there are safety or operational issues, the nearest captain of the port can help you sort those out, but understand cargo operations may be delayed or the voyage deviated in order to achieve compliance.”

Editor’s note: For more on compliance, check out our recap of Cmdr. Alan Moore’s presentation during the conference’s compliance workshop.

Compliance Date Extensions

Reudelhuber discussed several key aspects of the compliance extension program, which allows the Coast Guard to extend a vessel’s compliance date. The extension program was established to assist ship owners and operators in complying with U.S. regulations; like the alternate management system program, the extensions program was established as a bridge to provide support for those vessels needing to install a BWMS when no U.S. type approved systems were available.

In 2018, fewer than 300 extensions have been granted so far, compared to around 2,000 in 2017. There are currently 10 Coast Guard type approved systems on line, and another nine under review at the Marine Safety Center. Reudelhuber said he expects the number of extensions granted will continue to decrease as more vessels install type approved systems.

graph showing ballast water extensions
Additionally, no extensions will be granted to install an AMS, nor will one be granted for vessels already equipped with an AMS. Vessels can comply with the regulations by operating the AMS for up to five years after the original or extended compliance date.

Reudelhuber said the Coast Guard has about 12,500 active extensions, two-thirds of which were granted in 2016 when no type approved systems were available. Most of these extensions will expire between 2021 and 2024, which aligns with the end of the IMO experience-building phase. Reudelhuber said most of the global fleet will likely be in compliance within the next five years.

“It’s harder to justify extensions because more compliance options are available,” Reudelhuber said. The Coast Guard noted that delay is not an acceptable compliance strategy. Only in those cases where compliance is not possible, are extensions granted. In each of those cases, the vessel’s representative is required to show that all possible steps are being taken toward compliance.

Type Approval Program

Lt. Jacob Baldassini, an engineer with the Marine Safety Center, gave attendees an overview of the Coast Guard’s type approval program, including its resources, the timeline for type approval, and program goals.

Baldassini said the MSC’s new website, launched last year, is much easier to search and has many resources to assist customers through the type approval process, such as updated FAQs, a list of approved and submitted applications, and all previous versions of amended type approval certificates.

Type Approval Timeline

The type approval timeline begins once MSC receives a complete application, according to the requirements set in the regulations.

Once the application is deemed complete, there are eight areas MSC must consider during the type approval application process: design and construction; engineering; the operation, maintenance and safety manual; the Independent Lab Test Report; land-based testing; shipboard testing; component testing; and scaling. Baldassini said MSC’s goal is to provide the applicant with initial comments for each of the eight areas within 30 days of receiving the application. These initial comments may consist of questions, requests for clarification, or a simple “nothing required.” Subsequent responses by the Independent Laboratory are replied to within the same timeline, until all issues are resolved and the type approval certificate can be issued.

Baldassini took the opportunity during his presentation to briefly explain how a ballast water management system that is not intended for installation on U.S. vessels can be issued a type approval certificate under 33 CFR 151.2025.

“Not all foreign vessels are subject to the same U.S. inspection standards [as domestic vessels], so systems that have not demonstrated compliance with those subchapters may still receive type approval,” Baldassini said. “Those systems’ certificates will state that the BWMS is not intended for installation on U.S. vessels.”

Baldassini also dispelled the persistent myth that BWM systems can be “plug and play” by stressing that it is imperative for system owners/operators to understand the system and be intimately familiar with the parameters found in the operational and maintenance safety manual, adding that all questions concerning system requirements and limitations are best addressed by the OMSM.

Baldassini concluded his portion of the presentation by stating that MSC works closely with other Coast Guard offices with responsibilities in the ballast water program to ensure alignment.

“We always look for ways to make the type approval process better, faster, and clearer,” Baldassini said. “Ultimately, it needs to be useful in the market and understood by all stakeholders – Coast Guard, ILs, and industry.”

Looking ahead

Bergner closed out the panel session with a brief synopsis of what’s next for the Coast Guard’s aquatic nuisance species program, specifically how they work with international and interagency stakeholders such as IMO, EPA, MARAD, NOAA, the U.S. Navy, and Canadian maritime agencies, among others, to develop projects that support both type approval and compliance while minimizing duplication of effort.

Some of the projects currently underway include:

• A MARAD-funded R&D project will test in water cleaning and capture technologies and develop protocols to determine how ‘clean is clean’ during biofouling removal operations.

• IMO guidelines will be presented at the Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC 73) for ballast water exchange and sediment management for nations in the Wider Caribbean Region (WCR) that are neither party to the IMO convention nor have the means to establish domestic regulations to protect their environment from invasive species (see MEPC73/INF.3). This effort is intended to provide protections for the WCR given the increase in shipping traffic through the Panama Canal.

• IMO is considering opening up the Antifouling Systems Convention to ban additional substances used in antifouling coatings. This work is expected to be taken up at the Pollution Prevention and Response (PPR) Subcommittee in February 2019.

• IMO is increasing its focus and attention on environmental issues with gray water and microplastics. At recent MEPC meetings, gray water has been the subject of various papers and proposals. A work group on plastic marine litter has been established for MEPC 73, with the goal of developing an Action Plan to address plastic litter from shipping.

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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