New ballast water regulations looming
April 16, 2012
On March 23,
the U.S. Coast Guard published new ballast water regulations that go into
effect on June 21. It is a complicated regulation, so here are some of the highlights:
- Preamble – The Coast Guard
explains that a ballast-water exchange method “is not well suited” as the basis
for the program required by the National Invasive Species Act, in part because
studies have shown that in some vessels a large number of invasive species may
remain after ballast water exchange. Further justification is provided for the Coast
Guard’s requiring approved Ballast Water Management Systems (BWMS) to be
installed on vessels.
- Applicability – Generally,
the regulations apply to all non-recreational vessels with ballast tanks,
operating in U.S. waters. There are exemptions from certain sections for
certain vessels. For example, a vessel operating in one Captain of the Port
(COTP) Zone is exempt from ballast water management, reporting and record-keeping
requirements. Keep in mind that if a vessel makes such a claim for these
exemptions, the Coast Guard may place a restrictive endorsement on the vessel’s
certificate of inspection (COI) restricting it to one COTP Zone. Some vessels are
only exempt from the ballast water management requirements but not the other
requirements, such as record-keeping and reporting requirements.
- Ballast Water Management –
There are a number of options for managing ballast water included in this
section ranging from installing a Ballast Water Management System (BWMS), which
is a Coast Guard approved piece of equipment, or using a public water system,
to name two. However, it makes the public water option more difficult than
before by requiring prior tank cleaning as well as documentation and receipts
as proof. There is a phase-in schedule for vessels required to install the new
equipment based upon their next drydock after a given date.
- Ballast Water Management
Plans and Training – 33CFR 151.2050 applies to all vessels equipped with
ballast tanks and requires a vessel-specific ballast water management plan and
training for crews.
- Port State Control –
Regarding foreign flag vessels, the preamble mentions that port state control
officers will serve as the final enforcement check of BWMS.
- EPA Vessel General Permit
(VGP) – The preamble mentions that the new EPA VGP is out for comment and that
when it is finalized, the ballast water requirements contained in the VGP may
differ from the Coast Guard’s regulation. Attention will have to be paid to
- Penalties – Finally, the
regulation states that any person who violates this subpart is liable for a
civil penalty not to exceed $35,000, and each day constitutes a separate
violation. Additionally, a person who knowingly violates the regulations of
this subpart is guilty of a class C felony.
is a great deal of information in the new regulation and I encourage you to
take the time to read through it.