The USCG has published a bulletin detailing the circumstances under which it will consider extending the 1 April 2021 deadline for ballast water treatment compliance
Given the hard line the US Coast Guard (USCG) takes on ballast water treatment matters, such as its stance over VIDA and its refusal to recognise alternative forms of testing, it is a surprise the USCG has issued a statement offering to relax, in the right curcumstances, the 1 April 2021 drydock deadline for ballast water treatment compliance.
The Marine Safety Information Bulletin 14-20 COVID-19: Ballast Water Management (BWM) Extensions has been issued to clarify the USCG’s position where circumstances mean it is not possible to complete the necessary work and inspections. The Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic has created conditions which make installing ballast water treatment systems difficult. The USCG recognises these condition as:
In a statement, the USCG reports “The Coast Guard is adjusting its extension policy, as shown below, for those vessels impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic with BWTS compliance dates before 1 April 2021.”
The conditions for applying for an extension are not too onerous. “There is no need to provide any supporting documentation, however vessel owner or operator will need to identify the vessels in order for the Coast Guard to adjust the necessary documentation,” continues the statement. But shipowners and operators are warned the extension only refers to circumstances related to Covid-19 coronavirus. “It should be understood that this is not an interim extension, and additional time to accommodate operational or regulatory schedules should not be expected.”
This is taken to mean a shipowner or operator cannot pull a vessel out of a forthcoming drydock to take advantage of market conditions and then claim the Covid-19 coronavirus extension. This might be tempting for those operating large tankers, where spot rates are currently over US$200,000/day for VLCCs and even storage rates are in excess of US$50,000/day.
There is even the possibility of the USCG extending the waiver beyond 12 months. That would require a higher level of proof, including third-party documentation from the BWTS manufacturer or drydock of the difficulty of completing the installation due to the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic and evidence, such as a work plan, showing work that has been completed and a schedule for completion.
The USCG is now operating remotely, so applications for extensions cannot be made in person. All applications for extensions have to be scanned and sent by email to: Environmental_Standards@uscg.mil for review.