USCG provides an update on its Alternate Management Systems (AMS) program

Date: 23/08/2016
Author: Jacqueline Tan

The latest USCG's Marine Safety Information Bulletin OES-MSIB No. 010/16 dated 13th July 2016  is available at https://homeport.uscg.mil/mycg/portal/ep/home.do.

In the absence of a USCG approved BWM system to date, the USCG under its AMS program has been accepting AMS deemed to be as effective as Ballast Water Exchange, fitted by a vessel before the vessel's compliance date, as temporary compliance. A number of questions however remained unanswered including the AMS status for a BWM system fitted after a vessel receives an extension on its compliance date, and what would happen to the whole AMS program once a USCG approved system(s) become(s) widely available.

In MSIB No. 010/16, the USCG now clarifies as below:-

  1. An AMS approved system can be employed for up to a maximum of five years after the vessel's compliance date, unless the type approval of the AMS is revoked by approving authority in the interim.
  2. A vessel is not required to be fitted with an AMS. To comply, a vessel can instead apply for an extension of its compliance date or employ other BWM methods of compliance available such as use water from a US public water supply. If an extension has been obtained by a vessel, the vessel can choose not to use the AMS but simply to operate under the terms of the extension. If the vessel obtains an extension to its compliance date and fits an AMS before the expiry of the extension, the AMS fitted may be used for a maximum of five years from the vessel's extended compliance date; 
  3. If a foreign approved BWMS has not been approved by the Coast Guard as an AMS, the vessel will need to obtain an extension or use one of the other approved methods of compliance;
  4. If after installation, a foreign approved system's approval or it's AMS acceptance expires, the vessel may continue to use the system, but not if the system's approval or its AMS acceptance is revoked. 
  5.  If a vessel has contracted to fit an AMS but before the same is fitted, a USCG type approved BWM system becomes available, the vessel may still install the AMS and the AMS may be used for up to five years beyond the vessel's compliance date.

In addition to the above clarification, the Coast Guard also provides guidance on documentation relating to the AMS which the vessel needs to carry on board and the reporting procedures when the AMS is not operating properly, etc. As the vessel may be subject to inspection by Coast Guard Marine Inspectors and PSC Officers at any time whilst the vessel is in US waters, Members are reminded to ensure that the vessel retains all relevant AMS documentation onboard so that the same can be made available for review by Coast Guard Officials upon request.

Other publications by the UK P&I Club on BWM regulations and issues may be found here.

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