Ballast Water Management - An Update on Requirements

portrait photo of Steve

Steven M. Lindholm, P.E., P.M.P.

On March 21st, 2018, EDT posted a blog on Ballast Water Management: History, Application, and Legislation.  The intent of the article was to provide an up-to-date synopsis of ballast water and regulations which affect the operation and equipment onboard ships.  This blog is an update to keep our readers informed of new legislation and changes in regulations.

Last year, on November 14, 2018, the United States Congress passed Senate Bill 140, the Frank LoBiondo Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2018.  Title IX of the bill is the Vessel Incidental Discharge Act of 2018 (VIDA 2018).  VIDA 2018 expands on previous legislation to improve drinking water and, for shipping, control discharges of sewage, oil, and ballast water.  From those previous legislative acts is the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Title 33, Part 151, Subpart D which codified the discharge standard for ballast water (see table 1) and approval standards for equipment to meet the discharge standard.

Figure 1 Chart

VIDA 2018 adds some more criteria to the requirements set forth in 33 CFR 151, Subpart D.  One criterion which has generated much publicity in the maritime world is a change in how organisms would be classified as ‘non-viable.’  The United States Coast Guard (USCG) recognized staining as the only acceptable means to prove an organism is not viable – staining in such a manner indicates a ‘dead’ organism.  Some treatment system manufacturers argue this was not fair; their systems could render organisms ‘sterile’ and unable to reproduce, though still ‘living.’  VIDA specifically includes language which allows these systems to be considered acceptable by the USCG, provided the manufacturer could justify the result.

Another criterion which is included in VIDA 2018 has not had the same publicity, though its implications are more important.  In VIDA 2018, two areas within the navigable waters of the United States are designated specifically – the Great Lakes System and the Pacific Region.  The discharge requirements for the Great Lakes Region was not specifically set in VIDA 2018, but left to the Great Lakes Commission to set or agree to the existing discharge standards in Table 1.  For the Pacific Region – which includes the states and waters of Alaska, Washington, Oregon, California, and Hawaii – specific discharge standards were set (see Table 2) and differ substantially from the ‘Federal’ standards.

Figure 2 Chart

These discharge standards are effectively the same as the California state interim discharge standards set by the Marine Invasive Species Act (California Public Resources Code Division 36).  The implication is, once VIDA 2018 is included in 33 CFR 151, Subpart D, ballast water management systems approved in the United States will need to meet more stringent discharge standards or be prohibited from using ballast water treatment in the Pacific Region.

VIDA 2018 also creates a program to collect and administer grants for the mitigation of invasive species.  The intent of this new fund and program is to 1) control the introduction of invasive species into coastal regions of the United States; 2) fund new means of preventing the introduction of invasive species in United States waters; and 3) develop means or procedures to eradicate invasive species in United States waters.

VIDA 2018 is a far-ranging addition to the legislative actions in the United States for the control of ship discharges.  Much of the changes to existing legislation concerns ballast water treatment technologies and discharge standards.  It will take time for these new legislative acts to be incorporated into the Federal Regulations; knowing these changes are coming before they are requirements will keep you ahead.