Recently, the US Coast Guard completed a blog series regarding ballast water. In these series, USCG focuses extensively on compliance and enforcement of the US ballast water regulations.
The blog-series consisted of five articles, each dealing with a different issue.
In the first part, USCG noted that, so far, its approach to managing invasive species is similar to previous approaches to other environmental threats.
“Combating invasive species in ballast water is a complex challenge. At the core of this issue is a real threat to our environment and economy. According to the National Ballast Information Clearinghouse, so far in 2017, almost half of ballast water discharged into the U.S. has been from overseas sources. That’s more than 122 million cubic meters of foreign ballast water,” USCG commented on its blog.
The second part addressed the matter of the shift in focus from regulatory implementation to regulatory compliance. Specifically, USCG outlines where the industry stands with respect to Type Approval, informing that so far it has approved six BWMSs whereas many are currently under review. It also highlights that it is important to recognize that all ballast water discharged in U.S. waters must be managed and reported in compliance with federal regulations. Vessel owners and operators should be aware that the Coast Guard will fully enforce all requirements.
In the third article, the Coast Guard updated on BWMS type approval program. It said that since 2015, there has been a dramatic increase in the volume of ballast water being treated before being discharged into US waters and provided a list of type approved BWMSs.
Moving on to the fourth chapter, USCG emphasized the fact that BWMS should not be “plug and play”.
The selection, installation, operation, and maintenance of a BWMS requires analyses specific to the vessel and its operating profile. For this reasonn every BWMS installation is a customized installation, and every ballast water management plan (BWMP) is a customized plan. Furthermore, a BWMS will require analyses specific to the vessel and its operating profile, USCG noted, adding that for these reason a “plug and play” BWMS is not possible.
Finishing the blog-series, the importance of Ballast Water Management Plan was mentioned. The BWMP should provide concise directions and alternate measures to be taken if a ballast water management system (BWMS) is inoperable or the vessel’s intended compliance method is unexpectedly unavailable.
USCG outlined its intention to enforce compliance with the ballast water discharge standards and expects all ballast water discharged to U.S. waters to be managed and reported in compliance with federal regulations.
Below you can find summarized the key point from the USCG’s blog series:
- The US enforces BWM compliance as a normal part of a domestic vessel inspection or Port State Control examination. Between 2012 and 2017, the Coast Guard issued nearly 700 vessel deficiencies for ballast-related incidents of non-compliance.
- Potential enforcement measures may include operational controls that restrict a vessel’s movement or cargo operations, monetary penalties, and a higher priority consideration for future examinations. There is also the possibility for prosecution if there is evidence of criminal intent.
- 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 US ballast water regulations.
- Ballast water exchange and compliance date extensions are being phased out as temporary compliance options as shipowners and operators are now able to select and install a USCG type approved BWMS.
- Fitting a BWMS to a specific vessel will require an analysis of the vessel’s engineering systems, cargo operations, and trade routes. The complexity and extent of a BWMS’s impact on vessel operations means that a plug-and-play solution is not likely to succeed.
- An inoperable BWMS will be treated like other pollution prevention equipment that fails or cannot perform its intended function. Inoperability is a compliance issue and is not a valid reason to discharge untreated ballast into US waters, nor is it grounds for granting an extension to a vessel’s compliance date.
- Planning for compliance requires planning for contingencies. The BWMP should provide contingency measures that are specific to the vessel, its operational profile, and its intended ballast water management method. This includes a description of the alternative measures to be taken if a BWMS is inoperable or the vessel’s intended compliance method is unexpectedly unavailable.