Mar 26, 2012

U.S. Coast Guard Issues Ballast Water Rule

Ships now required to install onboard ballast water management systems

After nearly two decades of waiting, the U.S. Coast Guard finally released new requirements for treating ballast water discharges from vessels in order to reduce the risk of aquatic nuisance species from entering U.S. waters, damaging the environment and causing billions in economic losses.  Under existing rules, shippers must exchange ballast at sea or flush the tanks with salt water if empty. Now, for the first time, ships will be required to install onboard ballast water management systems instead. 

The new rule is consistent with an International Maritime Organization standard established in 2004, though the Coast Guard stated it “fully intends to issue a later rule that will establish a more stringent phase-two discharge standard.”  Seven states have adopted IMO’s standard.  California and New York set standards that are 100 times more stringent, but New York earlier this year agreed to suspend the effective date of its rule. 

Separate from the Coast Guard standard is the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s effort to revise the Vessel General Permit, covering all incidental water discharges from ships, including ballast water, which it intends to put into effect in 2013.  These rules are expected to create huge demand for ballast water treatment equipment in the next several years.