The fate of the ballast water regime in the USA now hangs on the timing of the new standards and regulations to be set by the EPA and USCG
This was the main point of discussion during Riviera Maritime Media’s ’The prospects for reviving VIDA and alternative testing procedures’ webinar. This was the fifth and final webinar in Riviera Maritime Media’s Ballast Water Webinar Week, part of our ongoing multi-week series of webinars.
The answer to the fate of the ballast water regime in the USA hangs on EPA’s and the USCG’s interpretation of the Vessel Incidental Discharge Act (VIDA). The Act was promoted inside the USA and abroad as bringing US Coast Guard (USCG) ballast water treatment regulations in line with IMO requirements and creating a level playing field for owners and suppliers alike.
The change in language and the passage of VIDA through the Senate was seen as a long-term boost to the whole ballast water treatment industry by broadening the definitions and widening the number of ballast water treatment technologies, especially lower power UV systems, that could pass the USCG type-approval process.
Speaking at the webinar, International Maritime Technology Consultants president Jon Stewart explained that non-US stakeholders have to understand the nature of regulatory processes in the USA. “The process from law to regulation is a long one, an arduous one and unfortunately it is not a particularly clear one. It (the process) often becomes distressing to the regulated community, especially outside the United States.”
California State Lands Commission assistant chief, Marine Environmental Protection division Nicole Dobroski expanded on the role of the two agencies. The EPA is to set national standards of performance for discharges incidental to the normal operation of a vessel by December 2020. The standards are to be based on technology and can include numerical, best management practice or a combination of both. “After the EPA has set standards, the USCG must adopt the regulations to implement and enforce standards established by EPA,” she said. The USCG has until December 2022 to provide the policy on enforcement.
It is important to note there is no change in the status quo. “The 2013 Vessel General Permit and the existing USCG regulations remain in effect,” she said. Regarding the way forward, Ms Dobroski reiterated Mr Stewart’s remarks that there will be limited opportunities to comment. They estimated the period for comments could be as narrow as 30 days.
Control Union Certifications CUC-IL co-ordinator Cees Van Slooten took webinar attendees through the differences between the USCG version of BWMS type-approval and that of IMO. As a testing company, Control Union has vast experience of the commercial application of testing regimes. The main issue is the USCG regards non-viable as dead, while IMO interprets non-viable as unable to reproduce. Relatively low levels of UV will disrupt the cells of organisms, rendering them unable to reproduce. Higher levels of UV will kill organisms to the USCG definition but at the expense of more power, higher fuel consumption and possibly a greater impact on greenhouse gases.
“For many years IMO has accepted (MPN – most probable number) method for type-approval testing. Until now the USCG has not,” said Mr van Slooten. “The USCG will only use methods that measure if an organism is alive or dead. I would like to point out the loss of reproduction meets the same intent of the regulation. Both will stop an invasion.”
A poll on the issue of the USCG sampling ballast water for compliance purposes under the new enforcement policy, resulted in 70% of respondents voicing the expectation that ballast water would be sampled.
The final poll considered the question: Do you want MPN to be accepted by the coastguard as a type-approval test method? A resounding 87% were of the opinion that the USCG should accept MPN testing.
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Top left: International Maritime Technology Consultants’ president, Jon Stewart. Top right: Control Union Certifications CUC-IL co-ordinator Cees Van Slooten. Bottom left: California State Lands Commission assistant chief, Marine Environmental Protection division Nicole Dobroski