The USCG's Ballast Water Discharge Standard Regulation which came into effect on 21st June 2012, required vessels to install Coast Guard “type-approved” ballast water management systems pursuant to the implementation schedule below. According to the schedule, a vessel with a ballast water capacity of between 1500 - 5000 m3 must implement an approved ballast water management method by her first scheduled drydocking after 1st January 2014.
Table 151.2035(b)—Implementation Schedule for Approved Ballast Water Management Methods
|Date constructed||Vessel's compliance date|
|New vessels||All||On or after December 1, 2013||On delivery|
|Existing vessels||Less than 1500 m3||Before December 1, 2013||First scheduled drydocking after January 1, 2016.|
|1500-5000 m3||Before December 1, 2013||First scheduled drydocking after January 1, 2014.|
|Greater than 5000 m3||Before December 1, 2013||First scheduled drydocking after January 1, 2016.|
However, as no Coast Guard type approved system is as yet available, the USCG on 25th September 2013 issued a letter containing provisions for the Coast Guard to grant an application for an extension to the above implementation schedule. There is therefore no obligation for a vessel to install an interim ballast water management system. Instead a vessel owner or operator may submit an application to the USCG for an extension. The extension request must be filed no later than 12 months before the vessel's applicable implementation date (unless the vessel's first scheduled drydocking date is sooner) and provide documentation that despite all efforts to meet the ballast water discharge standard requirements, compliance by the date stipulated in the implementation schedule is not possible.It is open to a vessel owner, prior to the vessel's US implementation date, to fit an alternative management system (AMS). This is usually a system that has received type approval in another State which the USCG is asked to review and designate as an AMS system. If such a system is fitted, the vessel will be granted the right to use the system for five years. There is however no guarantee that the system will eventually receive US type approval and the vessel owner therefore purchases and installs an AMS system at his own risk.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) however does not automatically recognise an extension granted by the USCG. This means that a vessel could still be in non-compliance with the VGP even if an extension has been obtained from the USCG. Under pressure from the industry and the USCG, the EPA issued the following two letters at the end of last year; (i) a joint EPA/USCG letter dated 24th December 2013, and (ii) an Enforcement Response Policy dated 27th December 2013.
In the joint EPA/ USCG letter, the EPA sets out to reassure the industry that it will adopt a unified approach with the USCG to address the industry's ballast water management issues, and that it is working with the USCG to ensure the earliest availability of USCG type approved technology.
In its Enforcement Response Policy, the EPA clarifies how it will consider the grant of an extension by the USCG. The EPA states that those situations when:
the EPA will consider a violation of the 2013 VGP ballast water numeric discharge limit a low enforcement priority. The industry including the Chamber of Shipping of America find the EPA's Enforcement Response Policy above most unsatisfactory for reasons which include the following:
The uncertain state of affairs above remains very unsatisfactory for vessel owners and operators. The industry is currently considering several options to force or bring about an alignment of the EPA's position with the USCG's position.
The Club has previously published two legal briefings on Water Ballast Management and have more related items on our International Environmental Compliance Resource Page.