Ballast water - USCG warns of compliance requirements

Dec 01 2017

Between 2012 and 2017, the US Coast Guard issued nearly 700 vessel deficiencies for ballast-related incidents of non-compliance.

The penalties for these deficiencies varied based on the circumstances and range from a simple ‘Letter of Warning’ to civil penalties, the USCG said in an industry blog.


The USCG is enforcing compliance. Vessel operators must manage expectations. A number of factors should now be obvious to operators as they work to comply with US ballast water management requirements, Rear Adm John Nadeau, assistant commandant for prevention policy, wrote.


Most vessels are now past their original compliance date, as stated in the 2012 regulations. Vessels operating in US waters should follow a ballast water management plan (BWMP) that is specific to the vessel and that identifies how it will comply with the ballast water regulations.


Operators should not expect to receive a last minute compliance extension, and they should not expect to discharge untreated ballast water in US waters. Operators should be aware that potential enforcement measures may include operational controls that restrict the vessel’s movement or cargo operations, monetary penalties, and a higher priority consideration for future examinations. There is also the potential for prosecution if there is evidence of criminal intent, Rear Adm Nadeau warned.


Ballast water exchange and compliance date extensions are being phased out as temporary compliance options. In addition, use of an Alternate Management System (AMS) is a temporary bridging strategy until the system receives USCG type approval, and a type approved ballast water management system (BWMS) is installed, or another approved method is available for the vessel, such as taking on water from a US Public Water System or discharging ballast water to a reception facility.


Extensions are not a strategy to meet the regulatory requirements and will now only be granted for vessels that can document that compliance is not possible now and a strategy is in place to meet the requirements within a specific time frame. Extension requests must also document that each of the US type approved systems and other approved methods were evaluated as part of the vessel’s compliance strategy.


By this week, the USCG had type approved six systems. “We have additional type approval applications under review, and more than 20 manufacturers are conducting type approval testing for their BWMS models. Extensions are no longer necessary for most vessels because operators are now able to select and install a USCG type approved BWMS,” he commented.


In lieu of installing a treatment system, the following management options are still available to comply with US regulations:


1. Retain ballast water on board while in US waters (within 12 nautical miles).

2. Discharge to a facility onshore or to another vessel for purpose of treatment.

3. Use only water from a US Public Water System.


Although the IMO’s Ballast Water Management Convention entered into force on 8th September, 2017, the MEPC agreed that the compliance schedule for some vessels will be extended through September, 2024. As a result, some crews may be tempted to not use the vessel’s BWMS on a regular basis and only discover problems with it as they enter US waters.


“I strongly encourage vessels to operate their BWMS regularly to ensure the crew is trained and proficient, and the systems remain operational. This approach is the best way to ensure the BWMS is fully operational when you need it,” he stressed.


An inoperable BWMS will be treated like other pollution prevention equipment that fails or cannot perform its intended function, as designed. Inoperability is a compliance issue. It is not a valid reason to discharge unmanaged ballast to US waters, nor is it grounds for an extension to a vessel’s compliance date.


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