USCG addresses BWMS testing and receives further applications

Aug 02 2019

The US Coast Guard (USCG) has circulated a draft policy letter on the implementation of new non-viable-organism testing protocols for ballast water management systems (BWMS), as required by the passage of the new US Vessel Incidental Discharge Act (VIDA).

The non-viable method is based on a determination of whether aquatic organisms in ballast water can reproduce after treatment, which is already used to satisfy IMO standards for BWMS performance worldwide.

The unique USCG standard - called ‘vital stain’ - requires test labs to certify that a BWMS renders organisms incapable of visible movement after treatment (and therefore ‘dead’). Some critics of this standard maintained that non-moving was not necessarily equivalent to non-living; others have suggested that reproductive viability is a better measurement of an organism's invasive potential.

VIDA requires the USCG to adopt non-viable type approval testing procedures, which the agency has long opposed. In a policy note published last week on VIDA's implementation, the USCG said that it was not currently aware of any suitable protocols for non-viable testing, and it asked industry to submit proposals instead.

"At the time of this publication, the Coast Guard does not know of any type-approval testing protocols for BWMS that render nonviable organisms in ballast water that are based on best available science. Therefore, this policy letter establishes the process developed by the Coast Guard for accepting type-approval testing protocols," the USCG's Office of Operating and Environmental Standards (OES) said in the letter.

The office will review industry proposals with an emphasis on peer-reviewed supporting documentation and the validation of proposed protocols, since VIDA requires the USCG to base its decisions on the best available science. "Independently peer-reviewed scientific reports and publications that address the issue of evaluating [viability] in samples of treated ballast water will present the strongest case," the letter affirmed.

A public comment period for the policy letter is now open, and comments must be submitted by 30th September, 2019.

Meanwhile, the USCG’s Marine Safety Center (MSC) has received its 28th and 29th application for BWMS type approval.

These applications were received from Evoqua Water Technologies for the SeaCURE BWMS and from BAWAT for its Ballast Water Management System Mk2.


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